STEM is a sequential learning process that assists students and teachers in the learning and teaching of skills needed to succeed in today's digital world.
The most common understanding of the term STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
STEM can be a confusing title because it does not explain the learning sequence that is needed to deliver the best outcomes.
There are other skills or knowledge areas that are also needed, including
To understand why STEM is so important and to achieve the best outcomes, the following is the recommended learning sequence:-
Arithmetic skills for counting and calculating, which form the foundations of STEM and problem solving.
Numerical Exercises and Tasks lead to the concept of formulas e.g. calculating the area of a rectangle, the formula explains how to perform numerical calculations to get the area or achieve the end result.
Shows how formulas can be created and used to identify efficient ways for calculating answers e.g. the area of a "L" block of land can be calculated in 5 different ways.
Formulas can also be used to create "models" of behaviour of the physical world e.g. the amount of water needed for irrigation, or the use of a combination of a savings program and loan calculator to buy something.
Scientists study the natural phenomena and create formulas to explain or predict the behaviour of light, sound, chemical properties, electricity, plant growth, the universe, etc.
Engineers use a combination of mathematics and scientific formula to design and build equipment and systems in a safe and reliable way at the lowest reasonable cost to improve the quality of life.
Doctors use mathematics and science to understand the human body to diagnose and prevent disease, and to develop cures and procedures to aid recovery.
Engineers often discover or find good solutions that use a combination of mathematics, scientific models and manufacturing processes to achieve certain goals e.g. Fibre Optic Technology is the combination of lasers (powerful light sources that can be turned on and off very fast), glass tubes (to guide and contain the light), optical converters (to convert the light pulses into electrical signals) and mathematics to optimise the performance and reduce cost.
Students can be introduced to the concept of technology by getting them to select the best method to achieve something, examples that may be used are:-
Digital Technology was created in the 16th century, however it was the recent development of transistor technology and a logic design technology that enabled digital technology to become more useful.
Computational skills are an important part of engineering, and also enhance the learning and understanding of arithmetic, maths and science.
Computational skills are developed as the student progresses and can create more complex or realistic solutions.
The four basic computational skills (essential skills for "digital natives") consist of:-
The concept of using a number of simple commands to create more complex operations. This includes the concepts of which instructions to use and what the order or sequencing of the instructions is required to achieve a desired outcome. Students need to understand how to string together different types of operations, to achieve a desired result. e.g. move forward, jump over, turn right or left, pick up, add, subtract, multiply, divide, input, output, etc.
The concept and use of the "test" instruction to modify the results or perform a different operation based on the values of the input data. Students need to understand which test to use, how many tests are needed and when to perform a test.
The test instruction is the basic building block of the “intelligence” of a computer or application.
The concept and use of a loop to repeat a number of operations to achieve something
e.g. A 10 cm square can be drawn by repeating the following 4 times,
"draw a line 10 cm long, then turn 90 degrees to the right".
The concept and use of subroutines to simplify the design and implementation of an application.
A subroutine consists of a set of instructions that calculates the values, implements features or services that are used repeatedly in a program or application. e.g. printing, getting a command or data, calculating the square root of a number, etc. Students need to understand how to send a value or values to a subroutine and how a subroutine can send or "return" a value or values to the main program or application.
Skills in sequencing commands and performing tests are also useful in mathematics, planning talks, and conducting experiments.