The main objective of the project is to stimulate integrated STEM education, in which mathematical concepts and skills are tackled within an authentic learning context. Therefore, an integrated STEM methodology is developed and illustrated with 20 good practices, which were designed together with primary school teachers. The partnership consists of primary schools and universities from Finland, Sweden, Portugal, Spain and Belgium.
Stem4math started in September 2016, and the research that took place followed the steps of “design-based research” as described by McKenney & Reeves (2012). Based on a needs analysis in each partner country and a literature study on integrated STEM education, a “stem4math methodology” was developed during the first partner meeting (November 8-11, Kortrijk, Belgium).
The STEM4Math methodology is used as a guideline for the development of activities. One of the main tasks in the project was collecting, exchanging, creating and optimising STEM activities for the age groups 9-12 and 6-8. These activities were developed by each partner, in such a way that we have a total of 10 STEM activities with a focus on the implementation of maths for each age group.
The draft of the activities for the age group 9-12 needed to be finished in English by the end of the second partner meeting (May 18-20, 2017, Viseu, Portugal). The activities developed were then discussed and evaluated among the partners.
The next step in the process was the translation and testing of the activities. Each activity needed to be tested twice by two pilot teachers (from different countries). During the period June 2017 to November 2017 the ten activities for the age group 9-12 were tested by more than 20 pilot teachers among the different partner countries.
During a joint-staff training event (November 28-December 2, Segovia, Spain) more than 20 pilot teachers from the different partner countries came together to exchange their experiences and give feedback in focus groups. Based upon the feedback during the focus group in Spain, the partners optimised these activities, so that they could be published on the Web platform. The process was used to develop the ten activities for the age group 6-8.
From 22 to 26 January 2019, pilot teachers who tested the activities for the age group 6-8 met in Brugge (Belgium) to discuss the activities and give suggestions for optimisation. Based upon this feedback, the partnership finalised the activities and published them on www.stem4math.eu.
Country: Belgium, Finland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden
Coordinator: Vives University college www.vives.be
Target groups: primary school students, researchers, teachers, trainee teachers
Topic: Biology, Engineering, Maths, Physics, Technology, Education
Start year: 2016
End year: 2019
Contact person: Kristof Van De Keere, kristof.vandekeere (at) vives.be
STEM4Math aims at making Maths concepts less abstract by using STEM contexts
Since there is a shortage of individuals with higher educated in STEM all over Europe, and society requires general STEM literacy, more attention should be paid to this issue from early school years on. Consequently, in many EU-countries STEM is prioritised in the educational agenda. Although many European nations have an increased focus on STEM education in primary schools, the nature of such learning experiences and how these might be integrated within the curriculum remain open to debate. There is a threshold amongst teachers for really using STEM didactics in the classroom.
Some European projects have already focused on specific aspects of STEM, e.g. inquiry-based science education, but the integrated aspect and its possibilities often remain neglected. Furthermore, the potential for STEM integration in advancing maths learning is still less apparent than for science, technology or engineering. The reasons for this are the difficulties of contextualising maths contents and enabling them to encompass real-world problem-based learning. Nevertheless, this is important, as in contemporary classrooms mathematics mostly remains abstract and insufficiently connected to the real world, and as a consequence, it is often not easily understood by pupils.
Indeed, studies have shown that an interdisciplinary approach fosters positive attitudes, motivation and problem-solving skills as well as the learning of concepts (Van Houte et al., 2013; Cotabish et al. 2013). Moreover, positive attitudes result in increased interest in STEM disciplines and a growth of competence in an ever-changing globalised world (Moore et al., 2014). Without doubt, STEM skills are important for children to obtain 21st century skills.
As a result, in this project, we put forward an approach to integrated STEM education and its value for maths learning. This is not an isolated problem, since all partners experience the same issue. So it certainly needs to be tackled on an international level, and therefore this partnership worked on the following outcomes:
- a didactical model will be designed in order to implement integrated STEM didactics
- 20 good practices based on an interdisciplinary learning approach will be developed. A difference will be made between two age groups, as children in the last years of primary school are in particular vulnerable to a decline in their positive attitude to STEM (De Meyere, 2013). Therefore, in the project 10 STEM good practices will be developed for 9-12-year-olds, and subsequently, 10 for the age group 6-8
- Two international joint staff training events will be organised amongst teachers who tested the activities
- National training events for teachers organised by the partners
- Design-based educational research in which the activities are test by pilot teachers and the effectiveness of the activities will be measured through questionnaires and interviews with teachers and students.