My school district holds an “August Institute” every summer. It’s a chance for teachers to come back together and engage in professional development as they get ready for the new school year. This year I was asked to present a session on integrating math and science.

So I did.

I decided to build my session around a triple Venn diagram. One circle represents the Common Core Math Standards. The second circle represents science content. At the elementary level, our district supplies two hands-on units for each grade level. The units come in large boxes – called kits – and are shipped out to classrooms on a rotating basis. At the fourth grade, we teach Land and Water and Electric Circuits.

The third circle in my Venn diagram represents the Next Generation Science Standards. Since the NGSS are fairly new – at least in our district – I decided to focus on one particular aspect: the Crosscutting Concepts. These are the connections and intellectual tools that cut across all science content, such as patterns, cause and effect and energy and matter. As far as I’m concerned, they seem to offer the best way to start understanding these important new standards.

So that was the framework for my session: a triple Venn diagram representing the intersection of math standards, science content and the NGSS Crosscutting Concepts. My learning target was “collaborate on a lesson plan that integrates Common Core Math Standards, grade-level science content and the NGSS Crosscutting Concepts.”

I started off by having my participants (there were thirty of them) skim through the Crosscutting Concepts to see which one would lend itself best to integration with science. The hands-down favorite was number three: Scale, Proportion and Quantity:

In considering phenomena, it is critical to recognize what is relevant at different measures of size, time, and energy and to recognize how changes in scale, proportion, or quantity affect a system’s structure or performance.

I gave my people ten minutes to read and process Crosscutting Concept #3 in its entirety. Then I had them get into grade-level groups to discuss the science content at their grade level in order to determine which unit and which specific learning activity would be ripe for this integrated lesson. The fourth grade team, for example, pick the Land and Water unit and focused on an activity where students build a stream model and compare the erosion and runoff when the model is tipped at two different angles.

The next part of the session involved digging through the CCSS to find an appropriate math standard to address. The fourth grade team picked CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.4.MD.C.7:

Recognize angle measure as additive. When an angle is decomposed into non-overlapping parts, the angle measure of the whole is the sum of the angle measures of the parts. Solve addition and subtraction problems to find unknown angles on a diagram in real world and mathematical problems, e.g., by using an equation with a symbol for the unknown angle measure.

Essentially this group wrote a lesson in which the students compared the two stream angles, but added the task of measuring the two different angles. Normally, the directions call on students to create the slope by placing a text book under one end of the little tub, and then make it steeper by adding a second book. These teachers decided to have them make a five degree angle with the first book and raise it to ten degrees with the second books; a small tweak, perhaps, but entirely appropriate if the goal is to integrate math standards as well as Crosscutting Concept #3.

For the remaining 45 minutes, each group wrote their lesson, followed by a little sharing.

It was a successful session; not the last word on integration of math, science content and NGSS, but an important first step on a long, important process.

### Tom White

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Emily Wojciechowicz says

Tom, great illustration of the integration of standards and the overlap of the targets that help make the lessons even stronger. I’m sure it will be a great building block for teachers to reference as they continue planning throughout the year.

Lindsey Stevens says

Tom, I think this is an awesome idea. I am sure that the teachers will be able to cross reference the standards again in the future and it will make that integration and those lessons stronger.

Alisa Louie says

Tom – thank you! Thank you for being so open with how you ran your session. This strategy is exactly what I need to be able to find ways to integrate curriculum.

Kristin Leong says

So awesome to put all those interdisciplinary connections out on the table. Also, GO VENN DIAGRAMS.

Kelly Pruitt says

Tom, thanks for making this accessible. When I think about any integration, my head swims a bit. I’m sure the teachers working with you appreciated the time to work and process. :)

Hallie says

I really like that you chose to focus on CCCs as you integrate math and science. I tend to focus on the content areas, but you show that the crosscutting concepts don’t just go across science domains, but all subject areas. It’s always good when we can apply learning in more than one place!

Doug says

Tom, great example! I’ve actually been thinking about the integration of math and science quite a bit this summer. Last year I did a book study for “Writing in Science”, earlier this summer I took a class focused on integrating ELA with science called “Engineering a Story”, so what’s been on my mind next is math and science integration. You’re a mind reader :0). But seriously, this is something that I’m very interested in exploring more deeply this year. Thank you for sharing your insights!

Chris Gustafson says

Tom, I am getting ready to teach a class at our district’s version of your institute and so I appreciate your helpful description of your session. I’m checking off the parts of your session I want to make sure I include in mine – standards based, plenty of time to work together, creating a product that can be used in the classroom. Thanks for the sometimes daunting work of teaching grownups!