From multiplication facts to STEM

June 8, 2018
by Mark Ollig

I must confess; third grade math was one of my toughest educational challenges.

My learning multiplication facts (times tables) for Mrs. Elizabeth Seymour’s math class would never have happened if it were not for my mother.

Each day after school, mom quizzed me, using multiplication flashcards she had purchased from the local Dueber’s store in Winsted.

An added incentive to my learning (only after passing her multiplication quiz for the day), was being allowed to watch my favorite evening 1960s television show, “Lost in Space.”

After many daily quizzes, I finally memorized all those multiplication facts. My mom is to thank; she never gave up on me.

Some 50 years later, I still have those multiplication answers stored in my memory, along with how to play “Hello Dolly” on the piano, which she taught me when I was 13. I occasionally play it for her when visiting; she will nod her head and smile.

Today’s students must find it strange to think of a time when there was no internet, Web, smartphones, iPads, laptops, or even pocket calculators for looking up a multiplication problem.

And no, my third-grade classroom did not have any manually operated, mechanical calculating machines sitting on our desks.

However, the students in the high school trigonometry class were using “mechanical analog computers” called slide rulers.

When I attended high school in the mid-1970s, our junior class was allowed to use electronic pocket calculators; which meant no more fidgeting with slide rulers.

The pocket calculator I used was a 1975 Texas Instruments TI-1200 model. Worked great, too.

Here is one comforting quote regarding math, “Do not worry about your problems with mathematics. I assure you mine are far greater,” said theoretical physicist, Albert Einstein.

As many of you know, STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math.

STEM of Minnesota is an educational website promoting STEM courses and learning resources for school students, parents, teachers, and youth workers.

The Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota High Tech Association, Minnesota Business Partnership, and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce support STEM of Minnesota.

Its goal is to help students pursuing a rewarding career using innovative technology skills.

The STEM of Minnesota website has several multimedia tools available.

Some of the tools include various study guides, easy-to-read equation charts for trigonometry, geometry, physics, algebra, and chemistry.

Technology course careers STEM can assist with include: automotive design, computer hardware and software, music recording engineering, game software development, architecture design, and others.

Teaching resources for educators are also available on the STEM website.

The STEM of Minnesota website is http://www.mn-stem.com.

Other STEM online resources include the Minnesota Academy of Science (MAS), which is a statewide organization dedicated to promoting interest in and appreciation of science.

The MAS website is http://www.mnmas.org.

The Minnesota SciMathMN website “advocates for effective, engaging and rigorous science, technology, engineering and mathematics education opportunities for all Minnesota students.”

The SciMathMN website is http://scimathmn.org.

Understanding a specific technology involves more than just facts and information; it also requires a resourceful person who can expand technology’s ability to beneficially integrate into various facets of our daily lives using innovative methods.

Students will have many career choice opportunities for applying their newly-acquired STEM skills. They will also make discoveries to help solve today’s existing technological challenges.

“The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving,” said Oliver Wendell Holmes.

The Minnesota Department of Education STEM webpage is https://education.mn.gov/MDE/dse/stds/stem.

Students participating in STEM education are building a solid foundation for their future careers.

Learning those multiplication facts will come in handy, too.

This article was written Sept. 1, 2008, and recently updated for today’s publication.

Visit my weblog: https://bitscolumn.blogspot.com.

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