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STEAM Education camp connects mathematics and computing to everyday life situations

August 16, 2022
BY GERRY RUCCHIN

A science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics (STEAM) education maker camp is showing students how math and computing are all around us and how they affect our daily lives as well as culture.

This week, grades 4-8 students are at the Faculty of Education to develop this deeper understanding of math and they’ll learn to tie it to their culture, Marja Bertrand, a SSHRC funded PhD candidate in Curriculum Studies and Senior Research Associate on a SSHRC funded project on Computational Participation in Math, said.

Students are learning numerous skills during the camp. First, they are learning to work together while reflecting on discussion questions. Second, they are learning and creating geometric art and connecting them to computations, symbols and images that are related to their culture and real-life situations.

“Students talk to other students about what they created and then they take what they made physically and move it to the digital field of coding and patterns,” Bertrand said. “One student commented about a three-dimension dream space which they had designed on a computer said, ‘I like it when I write code for the objects I design to move, act and interact with each other so the objects are not just sitting still there.’”

Using Scratch – a free coding and programming software – students turn their physical creation into a digital one. Students create animation through code by dragging and dropping blocks. For example, students could construct a physical or visual square, and through coding in Scratch, they make a design showing a digital geometric spiral or other aesthetically pleasing design, Bertrand said.

While math is the focus for the week, Bertrand said students are developing additional science, technology, engineering, and art skills, including those related to architecture as they are seeing mathematics of how buildings are designed and constructed. More importantly, the camp’s facilitators want participants to see math differently.

“Some students have a negative connotation towards mathematics,” Bertrand said. “It’s common for students to say, ‘I’m not really good at math.’

The SSHRC funded project led by Professor Immaculate Namukasa and Professor George Gadanidis aims “to break that mentality and help K-12 students see how math is engaging, beautiful and connected to everything.”


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