by Claire Miller
High school math students are commonly asked to type formulas into their graphing calculators to create lines and shapes on the X-Y axes.
But creating graphs on a calculator can take on a whole new meaning when students are doing so as part of a class project to design a new company’s logo.
Twenty-two math and science teachers from Banneker High School in College Park, Ga., came to Georgia State University June 6-10 for a workshop on implementing problem-based learning (PBL) – an instructional method that presents students with a real-world scenario, such as designing a logo, and asking them to identify and solve the problem at hand.
College of Education Associate Professor Christine Thomas and Assistant Professor Kadir Demir, along with COE doctoral student Uma Subramanian and Aruna Kailasa, chemistry teacher at Benjamin E. Mays High School in Atlanta, led the workshop, which engaged the teachers in math and science-related problems and facilitated their creations of scenarios to use in their classrooms.
“We want to better engage our students in the lessons we’re teaching,” said Bonita Bright, who teaches ninth grade biology at Banneker. “The cases we’ve worked with this week allow us to do just that.”
The workshop was part of the Collaborative for Mathematics and Science Achievement (CMASA), a partnership between Georgia State University’s Colleges of Education and Arts and Sciences and Banneker High School to incorporate problem-based learning in high school math and science classrooms. CMASA is funded by the Teacher Quality Grant Program.
Though the teachers who attended the workshop represented two different subject areas, the problem-based learning model encourages faculty from different departments to work together to keep students engaged in the material they’re learning.
“This collaboration among the mathematics and science teachers evolved as a result of teacher insight about the need for an interdisciplinary approach to enhance student learning in both content areas,” Thomas said. “The PBL model provides a valuable and rich context for interdisciplinary teaching and learning and in the process encourages collaboration among teachers.”
And teachers like Caryl Moreland, who teaches ninth grade math at Banneker, hope that implementing problem-based learning in their classrooms will help their students take ownership of the material they’re learning.
“Students will retain the information better this way,” Moreland said. “And we’re very excited about that.”