Why is it important to integrate Math With Other Subjects?

Integrating mathematics with other subjects is an approach that is vastly different from the way that curriculum has previously been delivered in U.S schools. Due to the poor performance of U.S students on international assessments such as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the entire U.S approach to mathematics education has come into question. One method to help improve students’ mathematical performance is to change the approach and integrate mathematics with other academic subjects.

The integration of academic subjects is not a new concept; it has been around for over a century because there are many benefits. The integration of math into other subjects makes students think about the “real world” which is a goal of the NCTM standards. It also makes students start to think about why things happen, giving them a practical approach to learning and using mathematics. This integration also helps answer the common question posed by many students “When are we ever going to use this.” Integration allows students to see the usefulness and importance of mathematics which therefore enables them to develop new understandings and skills.

Another advantage to integrating math with other subjects is a rise in test scores. Some state tests are being designed to reflect an integrated curriculum. In Connecticut, students take the CAPT (Connecticut Academic Performance Test) while in high school. While traditional assessments determine what students know, the CAPT test was intended to determine what students can do with that knowledge. The objective of the test is for students to be able to apply what they have learned to other situations.

Another reason to consider the integration of curriculum is because it is the way people learn. Current brain research points out that the human brain looks for patterns and interconnections as its way of making sense of things. Unfortunately, in many schools students learn one subject in one classroom and then move on to the next classroom for the next subject. By delivering the curriculum in this format, subjects lack coherence and therefore students become disconnected and disengaged. Educators presume that students will miraculously make the associations between subjects by themselves and will see how the subjects “fit” together and into the real world. With an integrated curriculum, teachers do not need to guess about whether the connections have been made by students, the connections will be clear.

Integrating mathematics into the curriculum can be a challenge for many teachers. It takes a great amount of time and teamwork but the benefits outweigh any possible disadvantages. Integration of subjects gives meaningful contexts for students rather than having them learn in isolation. As a result, this relevance of information better prepares all students.

Teaching mathematics in isolation does students a disservice. One goal of mathematics teachers is to produce a mathematically literate nation where people can use the concepts from this subject to solve real-life problems. When mathematics is connected with other subjects, students can develop the intellectual scaffolding they need that will aid them and the nation for the future.

Mathematical assessments should be more than just tests at the end of every chapter. Assessments should inform and guide teachers and enhance student learning. They should give students the opportunity to communicate mathematically and apply their knowledge. PBAs do this by providing an open-ended curriculum and can more accurately assess the skills of a diverse group of students. PBAs are a way for students to use their expertise and knowledge to “tie everything together” because the goal of acquiring knowledge should be its application.