4 Benefits of a Cross-Curricular Math Environment

by Sara Vazquez Shaw

For those heaven-kissed few of us, mathematics and all that comes with it happen easily. Solving lengthy algebraic problems involving letters, numbers, and exponents? No big deal. For the vast majority of students, however, maths can be a difficult beast to tame. It may be helpful to take a wider approach to the study of maths, or what's known as a cross-curricular approach. This approach uses concepts learned in other disciplines to help a student fully understand the subject he or she is tackling.

If you're still at a loss as to what this technique involves or why it's useful, read on. There are many benefits to learning in a cross-curricular math environment.

1. There are virtually no rules

When it comes to cross-curricular learning, there are really no limits to what subjects can be brought together, so long as the result is the same: mastery of the chosen material. Maths involves much more than simply solving equations. For example: geometry uses imagery to teach its concepts, while algebra employs reasoning skills. Students can benefit from techniques brought in from other disciplines, like history and science, to help them master math concepts.

2. It integrates other ways students learn

Those students who require a little extra help understanding math concepts may find they benefit from learning in a cross-curricular environment. Using a visual device to illustrate certain numerical concepts is useful, especially for students struggling with abstract learning. At its most basic level, an abacus (that old-school apparatus where wooden notches are slid along a bar to represent addition and subtraction), helps turn something theoretical into something tangible. Working visuals like pie charts and graphs into lessons on percentages can really make a difference for those students who best learn visually.

3. It can easily incorporate other spaces

Teachers employing a cross-curricular approach to maths instruction may find integrating new environments helps acquaint students with new concepts. The study and theory of music is very rooted in maths, so when studying fractions, a student may better understand fractions by learning about what ¾ time means in music. Much of physical education training is based on timed outcomes and counting, so feel free to incorporate a gym. (Additionally, this encourages physical activity among students).

4. It may make math more relevant

When academic subjects are integrated, it is easier to see how they support each other and how their concepts can be utilised practically in the real world. Students often complain about maths theories in particular being useless in their day-to-day lives. Cross-curricular learning, since it's linking math to other subjects, may in turn help them better relate math to the outside world and everyday activities, like paying for groceries at the supermarket.

Teachers nationwide seem to be pushing STEM (the study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Tackling the "M" on its own in the classroom may prove daunting for many students. However, integrating other disciplines like history and English into the maths curriculum may have long-lasting benefits.