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Ask A REL Response

January 2017


What research has been conducted on connecting math and science instruction?


Following an established REL Southeast research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles on teacher professional development. We focused on identifying resources that specifically addressed the effects of professional development on teacher performance and student outcomes in K-12 education. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist.

Research References

  1. Bosse, M. J., Lee, T. D., Swinson, M, & Faulconer, J. (2010). The NCTM process standards and the five "E's" of science: Connecting math and science. School Science and Mathematics, 110(5), 262-276.
    From the abstract: "This study investigates defining characteristics among the process standards of the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics and the 5 "Es" from the National Science Education Standards and the Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards. These characteristics are used to demonstrate similarities and differences between the learning of mathematics and science, discuss implications from such, and argue for the integration of mathematics and science curriculum and instruction. (Contains 3 figures.)"
  2. Frykholm, J., & Glasson, G. (2005). Connecting science and mathematics instruction: Pedagogical context knowledge for teachers. School Science and Mathematics, 105(3), 127-141.
    From the abstract: "Although the reform literature in mathematics and science is replete with calls for the integration of math and science, there remain precious few empirical studies examining the prerequisite skills, beliefs, knowledge bases, and experiences necessary for teachers to implement integrated instruction. The initial intent of this study was to examine the content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs (with respect to the integration of mathematics and science) that prospective secondary mathematics and science teachers bring to their respective preparation programs. This study then explored a collaborative model intended to create meaningful educational opportunities within the context of teacher preparation programs to foster preservice teachers' desire and ability to pursue connected teaching in the classroom. Presented in the article are findings related to the initial beliefs and experiences prospective teachers bring to the preparation process, the results of their collaborative work together in the creation of interdisciplinary units connecting mathematics and science topics, and their ongoing efforts to work together once engaged in schools for their student teaching internships. Moreover, this article proposes subtle shifts in both the conceptualization of and language used to describe, the integration of mathematics and science. Building on sociocultural theories, this article proposes the use of connections and pedagogical context knowledge as levers to promote integrated mathematics and science instruction."
  3. Judson, E. (2013). Development of an instrument to assess and deliberate on the integration of mathematics into student-centered science learning. School Science and Mathematics, 113(2), 56-68.
    From the abstract: "It has long been noted in research literature that there does not exist a shared definition of integration of science and mathematics. Classifying a particular set of integration practices by one of many labels has limited value. Moving past the definition debate, this study describes the development and testing of the Mathematics Integrated into Science: Classroom Observation Protocol (MISCOP). The MISCOP consists of 20 items separated into five constructs. The instrument was found to be internally consistent and has strong construct-to-total correlations. Factor analyses revealed five factors that, while not completely aligned with the five designed categories, did have notable correspondence. The pilot testing and analyses reveal the MISCOP to be a useful instrument for measuring the degree to which mathematics is integrated into student-centered learning of science. (Contains 4 tables.)"
  4. McGinnis, J. R., McDuffie, A. R., & Graeber, A. (2006). Perceptions of making connections between science and mathematics in a science methods course. Journal of Elementary Science Education, 18(2), 13-29.
    From the abstract: "The integration of mathematics and science is a recommended pedagogical strategy made by major reform-based documents. The goal is to enhance learner understandings by recognizing the relationships between the two disciplines. Documented attempts to systematically enact this initiative in teacher preparation remain uncommon. As a result, an elementary science methods course instructor in collaboration with two mathematics education researchers conducted a practitioner-research study that examined his efforts to connect mathematics and science. The perceptions of two groups of interns (those in a specialized program that aimed to make connections between mathematics and science and those who were not in the program but who were concentrating in mathematics or science) were contrasted in regards to the following four elements: (1) an appropriate science learning environment for elementary students, (2) the extent to which their science methods instructor modeled good teaching of science, (3) the extent to which they observed their science methods instructor making connections to mathematics in his teaching, and (4) the rationale for and intent to make connections between science and mathematics in elementary teaching. We found that there were discernible differences between the two groups in their perceptions about the issues under study. An implication for practice is that caution should be exercised when attempting an integrated approach to a science methods course, since interns may perceive the discipline of mathematics in a limited manner."
  5. Park Rogers, M. A., Volkmann, M. J., & Abell, S. K., Science and mathematics-A natural connection. Science and Children, 45(2), 60-61.
    From the abstract: "Connections between science and mathematics seem natural. First, mathematics can be used in science to organize and analyze data in tables and graphs. Second, mathematics can help represent scientific phenomena and understand scientific concepts. Student learning should benefit when teachers make the connections between science and mathematics explicit, because science provides concrete examples of abstract mathematical ideas, and mathematics helps students achieve deep understanding of science concepts (McBride and Silverman 1991). This article discusses the importance and the effect of integrating science and mathematics on student learning. It also offers tips on how to integrate science and mathematics in the classroom."
  6. Stinson, K., Harkness, S. S., Meyer, H., & Stallworth, J. (2009). Mathematics and science integration: Models and characterizations. School Science and Mathematics. 109(3), 153-161.
    From the abstract: "The squeeze on instructional time and other factors increasingly leads educators to consider mathematics and science integration in an effort to be more efficient and effective. Unfortunately, the need for common understandings for what it means to integrate these disciplines, as well as the need for improving disciplinary knowledge, appears to continue to be significant obstacles to an integrated approach to instruction. In this study we report the results of a survey containing six instructional scenarios administered to thirty-three middle grades science and math teachers. Analysis of teacher responses revealed that while teachers applied similar criteria in their reasoning, they did not possess common characterizations for integration. Furthermore, analysis suggested that content knowledge serves as a barrier to recognizing integrated examples. Implications for professional development planners include the need to develop and provide teachers with constructs and parameters for what constitutes mathematics and science integration. Continued emphasis on improving teacher content knowledge in both mathematics and science is also a prerequisite to enabling teachers to integrate content."
  7. Treacy, P., & O'Donoghue, J. (2014). Authentic integration: A model for integrating mathematics and science in the classroom. International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 45(5), 703-718.
    From the abstract: "Attempts at integrating mathematics and science have been made previously but no definitive, widely adopted teaching model has been developed to date. Research suggests that hands-on, practical, student-centred tasks should form a central element when designing an effective model for the integration of mathematics and science. Aided by this research, the author created a new model entitled "Authentic Integration" which caters for the specific needs of integration of mathematics and science. This model requires that each lesson be based around a rich task which relates to the real world and ensures that hands-on group work, inquiry, and discussion are central to the lesson. It was found that Authentic Integration, when applied in four Irish post-primary schools, positively affected pupil understanding. The teachers who completed the intervention displayed a very positive attitude towards the approach, intimating that they would continue to implement the practice in their classrooms."

Additional Organizations to Consult

National Science Teachers Association -
From the website: "The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), founded in 1944 and headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, is the largest organization in the world committed to promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all."

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:
From the website: "The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics is the public voice of mathematics education, supporting teachers to ensure equitable mathematics learning of the highest quality for each and every student through vision, leadership, professional development, and research."


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Integrating science and mathematics
  • Integrated curriculum and mathematics and science

Databases and Resources

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published for last 15 years, from 2001 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: Following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types - randomized control trials,, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc. (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Southeast Region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southeast under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0011, administered by Florida State University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.