Engaging Minds in Science and Math Classrooms: The Surprising Power of Joy

Engaging Minds in Science and Math Classrooms: The Surprising Power of Joy

Engaging Minds in Science and Math Classrooms: The Surprising Power of Joy

Engaging Minds in Science and Math Classrooms: The Surprising Power of Joy


"We decide, every day, whether we are going to turn students on or off to science and mathematics in our classrooms."

Daily decisions about how to incorporate creativity, choice, and autonomy--integral components of engagement--can build students' self-efficacy, keep them motivated, and strengthen their identities as scientists and mathematicians. In this book, Eric Brunsell and Michelle A. Fleming show you how to apply the joyful learning framework introduced in Engaging Minds in the Classroom to instruction in science and mathematics.

Acknowledging that many students--particularly girls and students of color--do not see themselves as mathematicians and scientists, the authors provide a series of suggested activities that are aligned with standards and high expectations to engage and motivate all learners. Given the current focus on encouraging students to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) studies, this book is a welcome addition to every teacher's reference collection.

Eric Brunsell is a former high school science teacher and is now associate professor of science education at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

Michelle A. Fleming is a former elementary and middle school teacher and is now assistant professor of science and mathematics education at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.


Joy is one of those words that is hard to define, although we know it when we see it. Joy is a word heard occasionally in television commercials, but generally not in the course of our daily conversations. With the current emphasis on standardized testing, data, and accountability, joy is rarely part of the professional discourse in schools. But it is important, and joy in learning even more so. From kindergarten until graduation from high school, a child in the United States spends more than 11,000 hours in school. Over the same timespan, the average teacher will have spent more than 15,000 hours teaching. Can you imagine how dismal this would be if joy were completely absent from the classroom environment?

Thankfully, joy is not absent from our schools. We all have had joyful moments, as teachers and as students—magical times where things click, where you are in the zone, times where big smiles and excited chatter reveal an “aha!” moment of understanding. Eric fondly remembers his own experience as a student in a middle school science class, where the smallest person in class lifted the heaviest load using a pulley system and in which he learned about energy and power by sprinting up the stadium steps. Mr. Davis, the teacher, presented challenges to his students, who were expected to work together to figure out how to apply the science. Michelle sentimentally recalls her 9th grade algebra teacher, Mrs. Stephens, who provided multiple algebraic problems situated in real-life contexts and encouraged students . . .

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