We need to be clear on some terms. What constitutes a “math and science resource?” This might be seen as a gross generalization, but here’s our working definition:
Anything that acts to stimulate the imagination as related to technology and causes the student to consider the underlying scientific and mathematical concepts of the presentation material is a good math and science resource. In the best of all worlds, this consideration is then personalized and the student takes the initiative in pursuing further information.
The general response to this definition is something like: “Well, that works fine for the basic science. But what about the mathematics involved?” That leads to our second assumption and definition:
Math is the language of science. If you’ve kindled the interest in one, you’ve laid groundwork for the other. At some point in the further pursuit of information, the student will be sufficiently exposed to both elements because one tends to require the other.
So the trick to kindling this level of “personalized interest” will lie in the means of presentation.
The resource materials need to be “appropriate” on two levels: age appropriate and learning style appropriate. I personally favor letting the age appropriateness of the material find its own level. In any group of students, there will be fast learners and slow learners; more abstract thinkers and less abstract thinkers. Experience tells me that this distinction is *usually* based on age. But perhaps a better term would be “mental or intellectual maturity.” If it’s too far over their heads or beneath their abilities, they’ll filter it out. That’s beyond the control of the presenters and will sort itself out.
Learning style, on the other hand, can be catered to. There are generally considered to be three “styles” of learning: Visual, Auditory, and Tactile/Kinesthetic. All this implies is that there are three preferred (not necessarily mutually exclusive) ways by which students tend to assimilate knowledge:
- By seeing the information
- By hearing the information
- By touching or moving with the information
If students can hold something in their hands to look at and perform an activity with it during or following a verbal presentation, their chances of retaining information about that subject are increased. But that’s not to say no learning takes place if the information is only seen, or only heard or only touched. It merely predicts the learning process will be more successful when all three elements are combined.
The Aerospace Educational Development Program (AEDP) has attempted to combine elements of each of these learning styles into its on-line material. The General Astronomy Education Page provides hot-linked material that is visual and sometimes auditory. The Animated Astronomy Education Page provides hot-linked material that is moving and often of a multi-media basis. The Scale Model Communication Satellite provides something that the student can actively assemble, hold in their hands and actually see the various components of the space craft. Additional materials are currently being developed and added to the site.
[The second of two articles discussing the availability of math and science materials on the Internet.]