Teachers in ECU's TechMath program tour local businesses
(Oct. 8, 2008)
Lynn Cox, an earth science teacher at J.H. Rose High School, hears it from her students all the time: “Why do I need to know this?”
Too often, she said, students don’t understand how the science and math concepts they learn in the classroom apply to real life situations.
But she hopes to change that, and, after a visit to several businesses in Greenville, N.C., now has the knowledge to do so. “My students need to see this use of science and math outside the classroom,” she said.
About 30 teachers from public high schools and middle schools throughout the region took a field trip Oct. 3, to local manufacturing sites as part of East Carolina University’s TechMath project.
In its third year, the TechMath initiative helps public school teachers plan lessons that focus on business-related science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills. It is funded by a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
The goal is to help the region’s school systems better prepare students to meet a growing demand for technologically-skilled workers here.
Ernie Marshburn, director of strategic initiatives in the Division of Research and Graduate Studies at ECU, said eastern North Carolina “under produces students that have a solid foundation in mathematics and science.”
Schools need to do a better job of showing students the careers that stem from these academic studies, Marshburn said. “This program demonstrates to teachers how they can collect real world examples to take back into the classroom and model a realistic way for students to turn what they learn into a career,” he said.
At the ASMO Greenville manufacturing facility, TechMath participants saw how workers use math and science to produce automotive windshield systems and radiator motors. They also learned about the demand for math and science skills in the manufacturing industry.
“Manufacturing is math and science,” Yoshihiro Oyobe, president of ASMO Greenville, said, simply.
His business needs an educated workforce to compete in the global economy, and all of his employees must have the basic math and science skills, he said. Speaking directly to the teachers, he said, “I’d like to ask you, please do your best.”
In addition to touring ASMO, the teachers visited NACCO Materials Handling Group and Metrics, a pharmaceutical laboratory. The next day, they met on ECU’s campus to discuss what they saw and how it can relate to their classroom curriculum.
Beth Eckstein of ECU’s College of Business said the teachers will share what they learned with their students.
“We hope to inspire students by showing them that they need math in their careers, regardless of what they choose. We’re showing them that math is one of the primary foundations for business, and they need to pursue it as much as they can,” she said.