Critical Thinking/Math & Science

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How Can Critical Thinking & Problem Solving Skills Support Math and Science Curriculum at the 9-12 Level?

This snapshot provides resources that show how Critical Thinking and Problem Solving skills can be used to support math and science curriculum that makes use of design challenges. It includes the following:
  • Definition of Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
  • How Critical Thinking & Problem Solving Can Support Math and Science Education
  • Examples:
    • Science Professional Development Resource (Teachers’ Domain)
    • Implementing a Science Design Curriculum (video clip)
    • Assessing a Math Design Curriculum (video clip)
  • Additional resources


Critical Thinking & Problem Solving:

  • Exercising sound reasoning in understanding
  • Making complex choices
  • Understanding the interconnections among systems
  • Framing, analyzing and solving problems

How Critical Thinking & Problem Solving Skills Support Math and Science Design Curriculum

Mathematical formulas and scientific theories are more than textbook material; they underlie the products and interactions of today’s technological society. Beyond repeating theory and formula, students need to understand how to apply math and science knowledge to different situations and challenges. Hands-on, project-based math and science curriculum activities provide opportunities for students to think critically about the use of math and science in solving problems, deepening their knowledge of the basics. For example, in completing engineering design project based on realistic constraints that professionals in the field may face, such as a change in federal safety requirements, students need to think critically about how to revise their design prototype to satisfy its design goals and meet its scientific requirements.

Science Professional Development Resource

WGBH’s Teachers’ Domain is home to an array of science education professional development courses that can help teachers incorporate engineering and architectural design concepts into their teaching. Teachers’ Domain provides access to K-12 life science, physical science, and earth and space science professional development resources that make use of media produced by WGBH. Teacher professional development modules and courses help teachers expand their knowledge of science content and inquiry methodology and learn how to integrate these concepts into their teaching. In addition to professional development courses, Teacher’s Domain also offers a searchable database of multimedia resources to use in the classroom, including video clips that illustrate the application of the design process.

Implementing a Science Design Curriculum

This Edutopia video clip, produced by The George Lucas Educational Foundation, shows students at Aviation High School in Seattle, WA, as they complete an engineering design project. Students work in groups on a project-based assignment to plan and design an airplane wing that can withstand a given amount of pressure. Using Critical Thinking and Problem Solving tactics, students devise and test several different wing designs to see which is most effective. Student groups decide how they will work together, and an engineer from the community volunteers his time to help plan and guide the wing design project. Local engineers visit students to check on the progress of their work and give constructive feedback so that students are better prepared for a final presentation assessed by professional engineers.

Assessing a Math Design Curriculum

Authentic assessment for project-based design projects can mean involving outside evaluators who are professionals in the related field of study. In this video clip, produced by The George Lucas Educational Foundation, we see students participating in an architectural design competition. Students need to use their knowledge of math to create a financial proposal, and build an architectural model for the construction of a futuristic school building. Students work in teams to problem solve around a given land-use design challenge. As part of the process, professional architects from the community advise students as they develop their designs, and ultimately act as judges for students’ culminating presentations of their proposals.

Additional Resources

For additional resources search the Route21 database or see: