STEM programming for 4-H Clubs or in the home – Part 5

Discover easy ways to apply math while working with children during 4-H activities.

America is facing a national shortage of young people with skills in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), which is resulting in a significant workforce shortage in STEM fields. Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development has a strong history of mobilizing volunteers to work with youth through hands-on learning experiences, which makes the program a natural fit for helping children generate an interest in science which then propels them to a desire to gain knowledge and skills.

Consider how 4-H volunteers can introduce applied math in their work with youth. It is important for youth to understand that math is necessary to function adequately in society. Applied math helps youth solve real-life problems. 4-H projects can provide leaders the opportunity to engage members in mathematical thinking and problem solving which can build youth self-confidence and appreciation for math.

The following are a few fun and simple activities to help youth apply math in their 4-H experiences:

  • Food project members can explore unit pricing of products at the grocery store and calculate the unit price for multiple items to determine which item is the best buy.
  • For those involved in poultry projects, members can learn mathematical applications and about the egg grading system through the measuring and weighing of eggs.
  • Members interested in technology can use GPS receivers to collect latitude and longitude data to create a site map to be shared with those visiting the county fair.
  • Determining the size of a pasture needed to provide proper forage for a specific number of animals is important for livestock project members.
  • Horse and pony members can conduct a length comparison of the human stride versus the horse stride and predict how many human strides make up a horse stride.

Through the application of math, 4-H members are able to use information to make predictions and decisions regarding their 4-H work. The ability to analyze and make decisions to determine action is a critical workforce skill that future employers will value.

The National 4-H Program encourages 4-H leaders to use inquiry-based learning methods while working with members. To do so leaders refrain from giving answers to youth, but instead encourage them to seek answers to questions. This can be done by asking open-ended questions. Use terms that encourage discussion and interaction such as explain, compare, if or what if. It is important to remember that the leader’s attitude toward STEM has an impact on member’s attitude. Youth who are around adults who show interest and enthusiasm for STEM will be more likely to develop the enthusiasm themselves.

For more information about Michigan 4-H Youth Development visit the Science Literacy website.

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