The September STEMchat on Back-to-School STEM was sponsored by Texas Instruments. Our chat was so full of awesome that it’s going to take two posts to summarize it! Also, we trended on Twitter. There’s just too much to fit in, so consider this part one. Part two will follow soon.
We started off talking about getting back into the school routine. Parent-tested back-to-school tips included a lot of sleep suggestions, like trying to get in the school cycle of early to bed and early to rise and establishing a morning routine a week or so prior to school. Teens and tweens need at least 9 hours of sleep each night for proper brain development, but school ans sports schedules in middle and high school can make this challenging or even impossible (says this mom of a swimmer who has to be in the pool at 6 AM).
Setting up a study space was also a common answer. I suspect the children of STEMchat families don’t experience a whole lot of “summer slide” because our participants are generally eager to point out the math and science that surrounds us no matter the time of year.
We moved on to discussing tools that help students succeed in school.
Of course, the internet and the wealth of resources it makes available was a top answer. Some schools have dedicated online learning centers. These may provide access to otherwise pricey databases (homeschoolers, look into this through your local public school). One parent has an all-in-one printer and other school supplies in/near her kitchen basically turning the room into Homework Central when it’s not being used for meals. Ultimately, the best tools are the ones kids will use, even if it’s a fun beanbag chair to chill in and read.
It seems paper notecards are mostly a thing of the past, but online flashcards (one parent recommended Quizlet) are popular and are easy to share. By high school, a computer or tablet is necessary, as is a scientific calculator. Sometimes these are necessities by middle school 6 or 7th grade, but according to our STEMchatters, even kids in early elementary school are being assigned homework with an online component, so this may be a moving target.
|Thanks to Texas Instruments for helping keep STEMchat sustainable!|
Graphing calculators can be used on ACT, SAT & AP exams. TI’s calculator comparison chart also shows which calculators are allowed on exams, like the SAT, ACT and AP exams.
Next, we talked about resources and teaching methods that can help students better grasp math and science concepts.
Hands-on experiences are a hands-down favorite with the STEMchat crowd. The opportunity to apply skills to real world activities was also key. (The July #STEMchat summary is rich with ideas for Citizen Science projects which do just that).
Teacher tutoring is helpful and gets kids in the habit of asking for help. Some high schools have peer tutoring centers which may be less intimidating than approaching teachers. Game design was mentioned as a great way to get kids excited about STEM, both in content and in code. Simple activities at home like cooking, playing games can reinforce STEM in action. One parent noted the impact of a teacher’s experience level. Ideally teachers are continuously striving be their best and open to adopting new technologies. Texas instruments has a free #MathNspired resource center offers lessons to help educators expand knowledge
Kids learn differently. Some of our chatters are fans of Howard Gardner and his theory of multiple intelligences.
Khan Academy is helpful is a notable resource and one parent has a child who’s a dedicated fan of Art Benjamin’s Mathemagics TED Talk, which I’ve embedded below.
Some schools use AVID to help students.
You can also check out videos on our @TeacherTube for help.
Favorite STEM apps (some of which are also available for Android)
- Motion Math
- Kid Science
- Math Bingo
- Operation Math
- TI-Nspire Apps for iPad
- Shelly Kramer shared her favorite STEM apps for kids in a guest post last year.
Museums are great places to learn, explore and get hands-on experiences. Not surprisingly, the Museum of Math in NYC has a lot of fans in the #STEMchat crowd..
Let’s not forget books (even though in our tech-oriented discussion nobody shared favorite STEM titles.
We also hit on every parent’s sore spot–homework. Our crowd shared these homework survival tips:
- Keep an open line of communication between parents and teachers to help your students succeed on homework and tests.
- If your child is doing something you didn’t do/can’t remember, don’t be afraid to admit and try to (re)learn it along with them!
- Make sure your child learns to ask teachers for extra help.
- Get a tutor; this can also help reduce homework battles and preserve egos or family relationships.
- To help with math and science homework try watching our lessons on @TeacherTube.
- Set priorities – have student tackle the hard stuff first when he have more energy.
- Start homework early enough so they can call someone if they get stuck.
- Tutor not in the budget? Take advantage of Skype and Facetime with a peer or find a family friend with passion to help out.
- Study groups can be helpful. Those who got it could help those who didn’t.
- Students learn really well when they explain to others. Getting kids to ask for help is especially important with gifted kids. They hate asking.
- Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology College has a free homework help line staffed by top-notch STEM students. Phone lines and online chat are open! Click the link or call 1-877-ASK-ROSE (1-877-275-7673).
- Harvey Mudd College (one of the Claremont Colleges) also offers homework help in math and science for grades 4-12.
Stayed tuned for Part 2 of our Back-to-School STEM with Texas Instruments in which we discuss critical STEM skills, how to keep girls interested in STEM and STEM in Hollywood!