Byline: Selina Vasquez-Mireles and Sandra West
The word integration has many different meanings. Integration in science typically means making connections among the science disciplines. For example, teachers can discuss the human circulatory system when teaching about typical biology concepts and physics concepts, such as laminar flow. Integration of science and math usually means using math to teach science. For instance, the use of
v = d/t
in physics or balancing chemical equations in chemistry is viewed as integrating math.
We are calling the connections between science and math correlations as proposed by West and Tooke (2001) who suggest that teaching certain concepts in one discipline can enhance the understanding of specific concepts in the other discipline. However, the notion of correlation expands integration to create a lesson in which concepts from both disciplines are almost equally taught. An observer would not be able to classify the correlated lesson as either science or math; whereas an observer of an integrated science lesson recognizes it as science that incorporates traditionally integrated science and math activities and uses math as a tool. Thus, a correlated science lesson is characterized as an integrated science lesson in that it may incorporate traditionally integrated activities and use math as a tool. However, a correlated math-science lesson also
has the pertinent math and science objectives aligned with state standards; and,
teaches parallel science and math ideas equally (e.g., zero and no acceleration in science are parallel to zero and no slope in math).
In this article we provide suggestions for correlating science and math in the classroom.
Reviewing the literature
The practice of linking science and math curricula to improve students' performance is a popular notion that intuitively seems appropriate and effective. A review of literature, however, provides limited evidence about the effectiveness of connecting math and science instruction. Nevertheless, both the National Science Education Standards (NRC 1996) and the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM 2000) recommend integration of science and math curricula. [See Table 7.1 of the National Science Education Standards (p. 219), which provides examples of math that students should use and understand for grades 9-12.]
We have been able to find only one study that focused on the incorporation of math content into a science class. Judson and Sawada (2000) reported statistically significant higher math scores, but there was no difference in science performance. Also noteworthy is that Judson and Sawada incorporated math into a science class. We could find no studies targeting the inclusion of science content into a math class and no research on the effectiveness of a true correlated course where neither math nor science dominates.
Process and content are intimately linked in both science and math. Similar to the research on the integration of content,...