“Enriching mathematics and science learning through an interdisciplinary approach”

This ARC Discovery Project, is a response to a widely recognised need for significant innovation in early mathematics and  science learning.  Despite rapidly  increasing  technologies  and  curriculum  reform,  a  growing  number  of  students  fail  to acquire the  essential  quantitative and  scientific  skills required  for  work  and  life. Consequently, it is critical that change is built upon sound, current research that provides direction for effecting positive change and relevancy. The research takes an inquiry based approach examining classroom practice and the relationship between STEM disciplines, rather than separate entities, to support student reasoning and collaborative problem solving skills. A core focus of this project is around understanding how to make Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Education (STEME) more innovative and engaging for teacher, students and industry. This STEME research program seeks to create greater links between the education system, policy makers, international partners such as the University of Manchester and the STEM research community for improving student learning with the broader goal of achieving social, environmental and economic sustainability.

The project aims to

  • Identify and capitalise on  young  children’s  potential  for  developing  rich,  coherent mathematical  and scientific  knowledge.
  • Document children’s  development  of  core  structural  ideas  and  relationships  that  are  common  to mathematical  and  scientific  learning    (including  the  use of  pattern  and  structure  in  measurement  and data  modelling)  in  the early  years of  schooling.
  • Develop and  evaluate  educational  approaches and  assessment  instruments  that  support  children’s mathematical  and  scientific  development through  empirical  evaluation  of  an  innovative  program.
  • Demonstrate how  an interdisciplinary  approach (mathematics  and science) to  the  quantitative sciences  can  be  prioritised  and  integrated  within  existing practices  and curricula at national  and international  level.

Significance and innovation

This  project is significant and innovative  in  that  it:

  • Applies a structural  approach currently proving  successful  in  early  mathematics  learning  to  both mathematical  and scientific  domains through  novel  experiences  in  data  modelling,  measuring  and problem  solving,  thereby  laying an  important  foundation  for  strengthening  our  nation’s  capacity  in the  quantitative  sciences;
  • Develops a new  integrated  research  framework that  centres  on  structural  development  with  specific discipline  applications  (mathematics  and  science) to  inform learning  programs  for  young  children;
  • Provides insights  into,  and fosters  young  children’s  learning  under  stimulating,  authentic   conditions with  a  focus  on improving learning for all students, including those who  are gifted  or  prone  to  experiencing  learning  difficulties
  • Demonstrates the effectiveness  and  feasibility  of  an innovative  program  to  meet  the  mathematics and  science  education professional learning  needs  of  early  childhood  and  primary  education teachers
  • Provides a new  strategy  to support  the  aims  of  Australian  Government  National  Research Priorities in  numeracy and  international  calls  for  reform  in  early  childhood  and  primary  mathematics  and science  education.