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Importance of Math and Science for Elementary Students

Establishing a solid foundation in math and science is crucial for young learners. In addition to the inherent pleasure students can find exploring these subjects and the self-confidence built by mastery, this essential academic preparation opens doors to financial literacy, critical thinking and healthy decision-making.

Moreover, these skills correlate to the health of the nation’s economy, which relies on a workforce proficient in math and science. Given that U.S. students lag far behind other countries in math and science, schools must address this disparity in early learning.

Elementary students benefit from quality math and science education across a variety of measures, and the impact of that enrichment is demonstrated both in terms of subject-specific and general learning. Math and science learning in early childhood correlate over the long term with school readiness and academic achievement. It also brings the effects of wonder and engagement with the world, such as marveling over the enormity of a dinosaur or learning to comprehend the physics of flight.

Graduates of the University of North Carolina Pembroke’s online Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) with a Specialization in Elementary Education program possess the insight to emphasize the value of math and science in elementary education and build vital foundations in these subjects.

Building on Prior Learning

Math concepts often build on earlier skills, observable through two distinct pathways. In the first case, early skills often reappear later as subroutine components to accomplish more complicated skills. It is hardly news that arithmetic underpins algebra. In the second case, known as “transfer of learning,” understanding a given principle can make it easier to learn a different principle.

Transfer of learning has been demonstrated repeatedly in early childhood education studies. For example, understanding numbers on a number line makes learning simple addition easier. Early mastery of a mathematical skill sets the stage for incorporating that knowledge competently later, as process and theory expand into more complex arenas. Helping students build these skills early on will help their math comprehension and overall academic performance in the long term.

Science Learning Applies to Everyday Life

Likewise, early science education equips students with fundamental skills to navigate the subject throughout school and beyond. According to the U.S. Department of Education, young people should be “prepared to bring knowledge and skill to solve problems, make sense of information, and know how to gather and evaluate evidence to make decisions.”

Skills in measurement and comparison not only contribute to science literacy but also build capacity across the curriculum. Process skills like observing, investigating, describing, predicting and experimenting are vital to scientific thinking and contribute broadly to academic achievement. What students learn in the classroom has applications in the garage, the garden, the kitchen and the rest of the physical world.

These subjects also lend themselves to new forms of investigation in the classroom. Project-based learning allows students to solve problems, work cooperatively, experiment and explore. Hands-on learning connects theory and practice while reinforcing practical applications. Elementary students will build and refine these skills as they continue their education and topics and methods become increasingly sophisticated. The curiosity and creativity they develop will help sustain attention, grit and perseverance to attend to problems and work out solutions.

Learning to Cultivate Understanding

Young learners have vast curiosity and countless questions about the world and how it works. Math and science education provides a framework for finding answers. Math models phenomena and relationships in our observable environment while articulating concepts from the intuitive to the obscure. Science directs our attention to the quality and interaction of the things around us.

Understanding those relationships has applications in the arts, policy and civic life. Preparing students to understand math and science gives them tools to understand, analyze and impact the communities where they live.

Elementary Teachers Play a Key Role in Building STEM Proficiencies

Teachers of elementary students help shape the attitudes those students will carry forward into their math and science education, and those teachers can cultivate a love of these subjects while pre-empting beliefs that math is hard or not everyone can do science.

Teacher quality is a key factor influencing student learning. Students’ mathematics and science achievements depend partially on their access to high-quality education in those areas. Teachers interested in the subject can learn more through the Elementary Science and Elementary Mathematics courses in the UNC Pembroke online M.A.T. – Elementary Education program.

Learn more about UNC Pembroke’s online Master of Arts in Teaching with a Specialization in Elementary Education program.

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