Baseball and hot dogs, Romeo and Juliet, math and science—some things are just meant to go together. It’s not always easy to help students develop a love for the “hard”
subjects, but when you can find the hook that pulls them into the fascinating world of math and science, it is a thing of beauty.


Real World vs. School World

You can help kids push their thinking by giving them alternative ways to express what they’ve mastered based on their interests. I do a lot of project-based learning in my classroom. One potential real-world challenge I asked them to research was to find a way to relocate the Statue of Liberty because of rising ocean levels. In this cross-curricular project, they had to do a marketing presentation, a budget proposal, and a CAD drawing and scale model of the new base. It made for a very compelling learning experience.


Girls and STEM

Middle school can be the pivotal point for girls in math and science. In my classroom, I have posters of female scientists, mathematicians, and inventors. The robotics team I mentor consistently has a larger female than male presence, and one of the highlights of my career was when a female member of the team received a full academic scholarship to the University of Alabama for engineering. She attributed her desire to become a mechanical engineer to my math class and the robotics team!


Make a Game of Test Prep

When state testing is right around the corner, consider turning test review into a game. My sixth graders hosted a Hunger Games–themed math review for the fifth graders one year, complete with the iconic cornucopia from the movie. They were responsible for planning the review activities, meeting the fifth-grade teachers, and working the event. Fun was had by all!


3 More Ways to Keep It Real

▶ Teach kids how to frame deep and thoughtful questions. Remind them that many mathematicians and scientists spend their whole lives attempting to answer one question.

▶ For problem- or project-based learning, set the rubric height at a B+ and have students figure out what else they must do to earn an A. 

▶ Help kids understand that the engineering design process is fluid, not strictly step by step. Many iterations may be involved until the final product or procedure is refined.



Click Here to Subscribe to Scholastic Teacher Magazine

Photo: Courtesy of Stacey Burt