As I was working in the Grade 4 classroom a few weeks ago, my eye was drawn to three large castles that were sitting on the floor. These castles were part of a medieval unit that the students were completing. They all took on a different form, though they contained the same components. They were made of boxes and tubes and paper and tape (lots of tape) and were painted all sorts of colours.
Now you may be wondering what this has to do with Math so I will explain.
When I was looking at the castles I could not help but think how math could be integrated into the unit. The castles were made up of a collection of 3D shapes which could be measured for surface area and volume. Details and decoration took the form of two dimensional shapes that could be measured. There were patterns in the shape of flags. I also thought that plans could be drawn ahead of the construction that required the use of ratio and geometry. This list goes on.
I thinking about these connections, I realized how often we teach math in isolation form other aspects of the curriculum. Although we connect it to "real world" applications, it is not often that math is integrated into other subjects. There are only so many hours in a school day and a lot to cover. Why not combine some subjects? Integration of math into other subjects also provides students with different entry points into topics. Although the measurement of 3D objects may be overwhelming on its own for one student, she may get right into building the castle and not realize until later that she has been measuring 3D shapes through the process.
I admit that I am working from a P/J perspective on this, but as intermediate classes are moving towards a homeroom model for all subjects I think it would be possible for more integration even at this level. There is no right way to integrate, and it may not always work, but I think it is worth a try.
Thanks for reading!