The place and importance of Mathematics in STEM Education
STEM education has attracted the attention of educators all over the world in recent years. Since the 21st century is an age of information and technology, new career needs arise every day in the business world. These emerging career definitions also change the expectations of the business world from education and training institutions.
Today, individuals should equip themselves in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. To meet this demand of the business world, many educational institutions, especially the Ministry of National Education of the countries, have focused on the STEM education-training approach. The basic philosophy of STEM education is to realize the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics simultaneously and in an interrelated way within the context of education and training activity.
Since ancient civilizations, mathematics has been one of the most important components of education. Although the nature of mathematics knowledge has changed compared to the past, it easily continues this feature today. While theoretical mathematics knowledge was at the forefront in the past, applied mathematics knowledge has become an important need in the fields of engineering, design, finance, informatics, and similar fields today.
Mathematical modeling that can be applied to problems is very important for STEM. Students grow up as individuals who can produce solutions to real-life problems. They have the equipment required by them and the age of technology.
What is Mathematical Modeling?
Mathematical modeling is the process of analyzing a real-life situation by transferring it to mathematics. In the mathematical modeling process, it is possible to use and develop present mathematical models and, in some cases, to make new models. For this reason, mathematical modeling activities are seen as the most suitable and rich learning environments for learning and teaching mathematics with real-life application areas.
Mathematical Modeling in transition to STEM Education
Today, mathematical modeling is not only used in mathematics. It is also used in technology, architecture, economics, engineering, medicine, and many other fields. The use of mathematical modeling in different areas clearly reveals the importance of this concept in STEM. Mathematical modeling is a discipline-oriented STEM application. Because it requires meaningful learning, group work, and focuses on 21st-century skills. On the other hand, each discipline requires a lot of mathematics within itself. Integrated STEM projects and applications also require mathematical modeling. The success of a comprehensive STEM project depends on how closely it is with mathematical models.
For these reasons, mathematics acts as a glue among other STEM disciplines. As a result, mathematics has an important place in the STEM approach and applied mathematics knowledge becomes more valuable.
Mathematical Modeling Activities
Mathematical modeling activities consisting of concepts belonging to different disciplines, which are indispensable for the transition to STEM education, are an open-ended, interdisciplinary problem-solving activity that encourages students to create models to solve complex real-life problems. With these activities, students clearly document their thought processes, take into account the limitations, and use their science and mathematics knowledge in the problem-solving process. It enables students to use mathematics in the STEM field in a flexible, creative, and powerful way.
About the author: The author is Hatice Günay. She is a math teacher and a Scientix Ambassador. She teaches mathematics at a secondary school affiliated with the Ministry of National Education in Izmir/Turkey.