For 150 years, mathematics instruction in schools have changed very little. Textbooks, desks in rows, the instructor going through examples on the board, and the student slogging through 20 or more sums at his or her desk. Sadly, at most schools, this is still the norm.
However, here at THS, we have already begun the work ushering Math education into the 21st century, using a new and exciting approach. Math is changing from being taught as a subject silo, to become a discipline that is integrated across the entire curriculum.
Math at THS is not just Math
In the 2016-17 academic year, the school’s Math, Arts, Media Technology, and Science coordinators at THS came together to form the STEAM Team. STEAM is an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue and critical thinking.
The STEAM team meet monthly to plan school-wide, interdisciplinary learning activities. From these co-curricular meetings came the evolution of the annual school Math Night to STEAM Night this year. Another outcome was the creation of the Full STEAM Ahead (FSA) program. The program supports primary and middle school students who are advanced in their mathematics learning and gives them the opportunity to work with the application of STEAM concepts. The team’s goal is to continue to create programs and activities that engages all students in a STEAM curriculum.
To facilitate the STEAM team’s goal, we have three STEAM-based learning centers used by all grades:
The Black Dolphin is a unique, dynamic platform to access and study Hong Kong’s marine environment. For example, studies are currently being planned to collect and analyze data related to the corals found in the waters of Hong Kong.
What better place to study and grow corals than at our newly opened Marine Science Center (MSC) located at The Grove campus.
At the Foundry, students have an opportunity to explore and learn using computer applications, engineering and design. For some of our middle school students, we have combined their math and science time. During that time they planned and designed a hydroponic garden system in the Foundry with an eventual goal to sell herbs and vegetables in Ap Lei Chau.
In addition to immersive learning spaces, we also use highly effective teaching methods backed by years of proven success at THS. For example, our secondary students have had amazing successes in the school’s Project Based Learning (PBL) program. THS’s brand of PBL combines an inquiry-led teaching and learning approach with social action. As we expand the PBL mindset to our STEAM courses, we will have many authentic opportunities to apply math in projects where students will be able to relate to in the real world.
Currently, students in the High School are creating their own inquiry questions on marine science in Hong Kong. Students with the best questions will get to have their own research tanks at the Marine Science Center to conduct their own experiments. The data that they collect during these experiments will be analyzed using concepts learned in their math class.
Yesterday’s math classes will not prepare students for tomorrow’s jobs
One of the fasting-growing employment sectors as well as some of the highest-rewarded jobs are in STEAM occupations. No matter what your child’s job future, he or she will require computing skills, and knowledge of how to use the latest computer applications. In this increasingly digital world, the majority of college graduates will also need to know enough math to analyze and interpret the vast seas of data and statistics collected. Currently, even in fields such as real estate, hospitality, restaurant operations, public policy, environmental protection, and history, employees require mathematical skills to analyze data. When our students begin graduating from college, STEAM jobs may be the majority of all new employment opportunities.
The STEAM team and the math instructors at THS are working to develop projects which will challenge students to solve real-world mathematical problems using an interdisciplinary STEAM approach. The learning outcomes derived from such STEAM projects will enable students to develop critical and creative thinking, as well as problem-solving skills which will better prepare students for their future.