Celebrate Women’s History Month with STEM Stories

The STEM Stories website features a growing collection of digital resources that highlight the lives and work of individuals involved in STEM fields (mainly women). It combines compelling personal stories and multimedia to interest intermediate and middle school students in STEM subjects and careers.

From the In the Spotlight menu, you’ll meet 10 present-day women who are featured in depth, with interviews, photo albums and more.  They include dolphin communication researcher Diana Reiss, atmospheric chemist Susan Solomon, biologist and astronaut Millie Hughes-Fulford, and robotics engineer Heather Knight. (Heather helped work on the Rube Goldberg machine sequence for the OK-Go music video This Too Shall Pass).  On the Clips tab, the database includes short videos that introduce individuals working in varied STEM careers.  The Profiles tab lets you search biographies about women working in STEM fields throughout history.  Some include photo albums, such as Mary Pennington, Rachel Carson, and Virginia Apgar. (Tip:  double-click on images to see a larger view).

The project team, headed by Lois McLean and Rick Tessman (McLean Media) created STEM Stories with girls in mind, drawing on design ideas from an after-school club for at-risk middle and high school girls. In a 2010 pilot, more than 200 students (Grades 4–7) in Nevada County, California, used the site in classroom activities. In one school, fourth- and seventh-grade students worked in pairs to create pop-up books based on featured individuals. Survey results found no major differences between the responses of boys and girls. In fact, teachers reported that students did not even comment on or question the site’s emphasis on women. And, although the website focuses on personal stories, most students also reported learning something new about science and engineering.

STEM Stories was funded through a grant from the NSF’s Research on Gender in Science in Engineering Program (#HRD-0734004). New content is being added every month, including more current and historical photos, profiles, videos, and interactives.

To introduce your students to the STEM Stories site, try these activities:

STEM Stories Treasure Hunt

STEM Stories Crossword Puzzle

STEM Stories Lesson Ideas


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 4/19/2012.

Decimals—Adding and Subtracting

Do you find that your middle school students still become confused with decimals? Not unusual! The resources here offer support in explaining the concepts underpinning addition and subtraction of decimals, in particular, place value. They also include demonstrations of addition and subtraction and opportunities for practice. The goal for students, as stated in NCTM’s Focal Points, is to develop fluency with computing, solving problems, and making reasonable estimates. I hope these resources will visually and interactively engage your students, helping them toward that goal. 

If you have found other digital resources that have helped your own teaching of this topic, please take a moment to share with your colleagues. Just leave a comment below! 

Builder Ted
This interactive game deals with place value in decimals, necessary to understanding addition and subtraction. In the game scenario, students help Builder Ted by placing numbered bricks on a ladder in numerical order. At the first level of difficulty, all numbers are positive, but the two higher levels include negative numbers as well. If a number is placed incorrectly, all the bricks immediately fall and the player begins again.  

Place Value
The user can type in any number, such as 3601.076, or let the computer choose a number. As the student passes the mouse over each digit in the number, its place value is shown. Also, how to say the number is given, plus a short exercise asking the student to identify the digit in, say, the thousandth position.

Fractions, Decimals, and Percentages
Especially appropriate for tutoring or even review, the site introduces decimals (reading, writing, and comparing) and then offers examples and practice in operating with decimals.

Base Block Decimals
With this virtual manipulative, students can explore the meaning of place value and grouping as they add and subtract decimals. The base blocks can represent negative as well as positive numbers with one to four decimal places. Students exchange and group the blocks as needed to solve the problems created by either the student or the computer. All material is available in Spanish and French as well as English, including instructions for using the manipulative, information about bases and place value, and suggested questions for classroom use.

Decimals
This site offers bare-bones explanations of decimal topics and interactive practice. In the long list of topics are adding and subtracting decimals as well as adding and subtracting money. The computer sets the problem and gives immediate feedback to the student’s response. The bottom of each lesson page contains timed exercises.


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 11/29/2011.