Mathematics in STEAM education is challenging in the way that it is undeniably important to student development yet also most difficult to get students to engage with. The idea behind STEAM education is to highlight the importance of science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics and encourage the teaching of those subject areas to be much more integrated. Out of these fields, mathematics is one of the most established academic subjects. However, it is still vital to emphasize the importance of mathematics throughout education and life as a whole.
So what is STEAM education, why is mathematics so important, and how should mathematics be viewed in a wider STEAM context? Read on to find out more or jump to our education solutions page for further insights into improving student outcomes.
STEAM education is a concept that emerged out of STEM education, which stood for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The ‘A’ in STEAM added the arts to the mix, but both concepts are fundamentally based around the idea of highlighting subjects that are important for developing the transferable skills employers look for.
Both STEAM education and STEM education initiatives agree that mathematics is one area that is vital to childhood development and later education. In this article, we take a closer look at what mathematics is, assess its overall importance, and evaluate its relationship with the other four STEAM education fields.
What is Mathematics?
Mathematics is one of the most established academic subjects globally and one of the hardest to define succinctly. The Cambridge Dictionary describes mathematics as:
“The study of numbers, shapes, and space using reason and usually a special system of symbols and rules for organizing them.”
Some definitions break mathematics down into four distinct areas, which are as follows:
- Number Theory – Arithmetic and the study of numbers or integers.
- Algebra – Order theory and the study of structure.
- Geometry – The study of shapes, sizes, angles, distance and space.
- Mathematical Analysis – The study of continuous change and limits.
Regardless of the precise definition you opt for, the most important thing to know is that mathematics is more than simply the study of numbers. It is also the study of ideas like structure, order, space, and change.
The Importance of Mathematics
Mathematics is an important academic subject because it teaches essential life skills, such as the ability to carry out arithmetic and an understanding of shapes, angles, and distances. One of the major benefits in comparison to many other academic subjects is that its concepts are also more universal, crossing over to different languages easily.
The field of mathematics can also be used to teach students the importance of truth, the value of identifying patterns and trends, the purpose of structure, and the need to use logic and reasoning. These kinds of skills and abilities are transferable to other areas too, and so can be crucial for cognitive development on a more general level.
It is also critical to understand that some of the importance of mathematics is connected to its value within the workforce, making it useful for professional development. As an example, mathematics is a vital part of fields like accounting and finance, medicine, IT, and any field where statistics and numerical data play a key role.
Mathematics in STEAM Education
Mathematics can be a daunting subject for many students, and it has historically been taught in a traditional way, which does not suit all learning styles. This can make it difficult for some students to engage fully, which can lead to a lack of understanding about some of the essential mathematical concepts that later lessons are built upon.
One of the ideas that has been recommended to improve learning outcomes is to try to teach mathematics by framing some of the traditional math problems in a more integrated way, which allows students to connect the concepts to real-life situations. This is relatively simple with areas like physics and engineering, where mathematics play a key role already, but it can also be done with the remaining STEAM education fields as well.
For instance, mathematics has increasingly become integrated with technology through things like computer databases and spreadsheets. In fact, computers have actually played a key role in proving that some long-standing mathematical concepts hold true. Moreover, mathematics can also be integrated with the liberal arts, with psychology, in particular, being a good example of this, as it is a subject area that utilizes statistics and data samples.
Mathematics has long been considered one of the core academic subjects, so its inclusion within the concept of STEAM education is perhaps not surprising. However, one of the STEAM concept’s major priorities is to promote integration, which is really the key takeaway for teachers and academic institutions.
To improve student engagement and overall learning outcomes, it can be advantageous to apply mathematical concepts to real-world situations so that students find math problems easier to identify with. Fortunately, there is significant cross-over potential with science, technology, engineering, and the arts, making this an achievable aim.
Thank you for reading. This article was the final installment in our series on STEAM education in which we covered an introduction to the framework as well as each of the core subjects – science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics. If you enjoyed this series, please visit the ViewSonic education solutions page for more valuable insights into education and the modern classroom.