Teachers learn new ways of
melding math, science
By Loretta Fulton
Abilene Reporter-News Staff Writer
Rosemary Abila just thought she was munching on a crisp,
In reality, she was learning math and science. She hopes
her fifth-grade students at Dyess Elementary School will be
just as fooled next fall when they are introduced to the
teaching tools Abila is learning during a seminar at Abilene
Thanks to a $75,000 Eisenhower Higher Education Grant
that two ACU professors received, 19 area teachers are
taking part in the three-week session free of charge.
The emphasis of the class is on integrating math and
science instruction because both subjects can be taught
through the inquiry or hands-on approach, rather than a
lecture method, said Patricia Hernandez, ACU biology
professor and one of the seminar leaders.
"It's a new trend," Hernandez said. "They lend themselves
to each other so well."
On one class day, Hernandez brought carrots, lima beans,
kernels of corn and other plants for demonstration. As they
chowed down on carrots, the teachers learned they were
gnawing through the outer cortex en route to the central
But that was only the science part of the lesson.
"Where's the math?" asked Lymeda Singleton, an ACU math
professor and seminar co-leader.
The teacher-students quickly figured out how to teach
radius, circumference, diameter and conversions from one
measuring unit to another by use of a single carrot slice.
The melding of science and math suddenly was crystal
"When you're doing one, you can really do both at the
same time," Abila said.
That will be especially helpful for teachers who teach
more than one subject or those who coordinate their lessons
with other teachers. From one carrot slice, students could
learn math, science, reading, writing, problem solving and
even art, which is appealing to teachers strapped for
"What we're looking for is one activity that covers a
bunch of things," said Jimmie Bell, a sixth-grade math
teacher from Colorado City.
One reason the teachers are eager to spend part of their
summer in school is that science will be added to the
fifth-grade Texas Assessment of Academic Skills test in
2003. Currently, science isn't included until the eighth
The teachers are getting a head start by learning to
teach through the inquiry method in hopes that children will
grasp science and math more quickly. The inquiry approach
allows children to figure things out for themselves rather
than telling them how it's done, said Colorado City's
Math already is tested in grades three through eight,
Bell said, but the new TAAS test in 2003 is expected to be
much harder than the current one.
The teachers agreed that they don't like placing so much
emphasis on the TAAS test, but that it's inevitable. They
noted that passing the test is required for earning a high
school diploma and that schools are ranked by results.
"When you get in the classroom, you teach the TAAS," said
Lana Montgomery, a resource teacher at Madison Middle School
Montgomery said the integration of math and science is a
natural way to make both subjects more interesting and
easier to learn. Students can create graphs that show plant
growth and learn to estimate the growth rate.
Madison teachers already use a team-teaching approach,
Montgomery said, that allows students to apply different
disciplines to one topic. For example, they might employ
math to determine how many kilometers it is from one country
to another, while at the same time they're learning about
the culture of each country.
Even though she's already using the integrated method,
Montgomery said it's imperative to keep abreast of the new
techniques to do her job well.
"The only way I can do that is to keep learning," she
Contact learning writer Loretta Fulton at 676-6778 or
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