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Engineering Applications for Middle School Mathematics Education: Supporting an Inquiry-Based Classroom Environment


"Engineering faculty at the University of Alabama at Birmingham are participating in a middle school mathematics partnership, involving nine school districts (administrators, teachers, parents) and higher education faculty at two universities, and the Mathematics Education Collaborative (MEC). The partnership promotes inquiry-based learning curricula modeled after the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Principles and Standards for School Mathematics. The engineering faculty contribution to the partnership lies in the connection of mathematics to real world applications and to users of mathematics within the framework of an inquiry-based middle school mathematics classroom. The engineering faculty have surveyed many existing science and engineering based problems and activities, both to determine what is available and how our local teachers might use them. A number of resources exist that provide real world examples applicable to middle school mathematics. In some cases these activities are presented in a format that is difficult for teachers to adapt to an inquiry-based pedagogy in a mathematics classroom. Resources are also available that provide applicationoriented problems in the form of word problems. These resources provide students with a connection to real world applications in their everyday lives and are supportive of inquiry-based practices. However, our local teachers wanted students to become more engaged in the problems by discovering how the mathematics is used to help solve critical problems in applications of interest. Engineering research and development relies on mathematics and covers many areas of interest for middle school students. Although many wonderful resources are available that provide educators with a connection between engineering, science, mathematics, and real world applications, there is a need for development in support of inquiry-based engineering application tasks for the middle school mathematics classroom. In this paper, available resources for engineering applications in middle school classrooms, inquiry-based pedagogy, and the need for engineering applications supporting inquiry-based mathematics education are presented. Development of the first new application task in this effort and feedback from middle school mathematics teachers are also briefly discussed."