skills, and habits of mind are most important, how they relate to and build on one another, and how and when (i.e., at what age) they should be introduced to students. In fact, it seems that no one has attempted to specify age-appropriate learning progressions in a rigorous or systematic way; this lack of specificity or consensus on learning outcomes and progressions goes a long way toward explaining the variability and unevenness in the curricula.

Curriculum Connections

Although there are a number of natural connections between engineering and the three other STEM subjects, existing curricula in K–12 engineering education do not fully explore them. For example, scientific investigation and engineering design are closely related activities that can be mutually reinforcing. Most curricula include some instances in which this connection is exploited (e.g., using scientific inquiry to generate data that can inform engineering design decisions or using engineering design to provide contextualized opportunities for science learning), but the connection is not systematically emphasized to improve learning in both domains. One option, which was evident in several of the curricula we reviewed, is to use engineering as a pedagogical strategy for science laboratory activities.

Similarly, mathematical analysis and modeling are essential to engineering design, but very few curricula or professional development initiatives reviewed by the committee used mathematics in ways that support modeling and analysis. The committee believes that K–12 engineering can contribute to improvements in students’ performance and understanding of certain mathematical concepts and skills.


RECOMMENDATION 3. The National Science Foundation and/or U.S. Department of Education should fund research to determine how science inquiry and mathematical reasoning can be connected to engineering design in K–12 curricula and teacher professional development. The research should cover the following specific areas:

  • the most important concepts, skills, and habits of mind in science and mathematics that can be taught effectively using an engineering design approach;

  • the circumstances under which students learn important science and mathematics concepts, skills, and habits of mind through an



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement