When academics started using the term STEM I hopped on the bandwagon so fast I could have left my shoes behind in the process. My own teaching has always used science as the application of abstract concepts in my math classes. I’ve been lucky enough to teach students in both math and science for many years so I have been able to make the transition back and forth long before the term STEM became a buzzword. Studying Newton’s Laws is a great time to review y=mx+b with middle school students! I found that population genetics is a perfect opportunity to review basic algebra concepts. As my students have completed Inq-ITS virtual labs, I have been impressed with the mathematics and computation thinking required of students and the scaffolding that is provided.
With the Inq-ITS virtual lab, Density, the mathematics is quite apparent, but even in other areas students are asked to delve into analysis of numerical data that they would not otherwise encounter. It is imperative that middle school students grasp the relationship between mass and kinetic energy. With Inq-ITS Free Fall: Energy virtual lab students are able to drop balls of different masses from various heights and in the process they graph the changes to the kinetic energy.
The Inq-ITS virtual labs can be used to take an individual investigation a step further. Students can manipulate the mass and height in the Inq-ITS virtual lab and record the kinetic energy. Then, the students can use that information to calculate the velocity and graph their data either by hand or on the computer. The teacher can assign the virtual lab to students and monitor student progress. If a student writes an untestable hypothesis, the teacher can assist them right away. As a teacher, there are few things as sad as looking at a beautiful hand-written lab report, reading the first sentence, and having to tell the student that their hypothesis is not testable and they need to start their lab report over. By using Inq-ITS a teacher can know right away whether their students are creating a testable hypothesis.
With the virtual lab Forces & Motion, students investigate how forces impact the motion of a sled as it slides down a ramp. Students are able to manipulate the size of the sled, the height of the tower, the friction of the ramp itself, and even the gravity. There are a number of opportunities to take this virtual lab a step further and have students do their own calculations, create tables, and graph their data. Inq-ITS labs are a great opportunity to help students bridge the gap between science and math.