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Engineering in K–12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects
FIGURE 4-1 A beads-and-threads model of K–12 engineering curricula.
cific attributes of engineering design, such as analysis, constraints, modeling, optimization, and systems. The sections below describe of how these threads play out in the curricula.
The Mathematics Thread
We defined mathematics as patterns and relationships among quantities, numbers, and shapes. Specific branches of mathematics include arithmetic, geometry, algebra, trigonometry, and calculus. Our analysis suggests that mathematics is a thin thread running through the beads in most of the K–12 engineering curricula.3 The thinness of the thread reflects the limited role of mathematics in the objectives, learning activities, and assessment tools of the curricula.
The mathematics used in the curricular materials reviewed by the committee involved mostly gathering, organizing, analyzing, interpreting, and presenting data. For example, in the “A World in Motion” curriculum, students build and test small vehicles (e.g., gliders, motorized cars, balloon-
A separate analysis of curriculum, assessment, and professional development materials for three Project Lead the Way courses found explicit integration of mathematics “was apparent, but weakly so” (Prevost et al., 2009).