The environment is a compelling context for teaching and engaging today’s students in the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). For the purposes of this article, the key word here is mathematics. That’s right, much of STEM is rooted in math – even when you’re studying nature and the environment.
Concepts of math in and of themselves – created to explain and evaluate concrete principles in a way that relies on certainties and hard facts – might seem far removed from the natural world. But when you take a closer look at the world around us, the way we study it, and the way we interact with it, you might be surprised to find out how much of what we know about the environment is rooted in math.
Mathematics allows us to analyze current conditions within an environment, make predictions about future trends, and respond in ways that surpass what is possible through simple observation. When looked at in the context of the other STEM subjects, mathematics becomes a necessary tool in the practice of these fields, enabling the collection and comparison of scientific data that then informs the technology and engineering design of the future.
If you are looking for ways to include math in your environmental studies and nature lessons, check out the Rooted in Math Educator Toolkit. In this educator toolkit, you’ll find lesson plans, activity ideas, and informational resources all freely available to help you bridge the gap between mathematics and the natural world.
The following “Rooted in Math” infographic from NEEF’s Greening STEM series illustrates some of the many ways in which math is important to environmental studies. It explores the many applications of mathematical principles and formulas within the fields of environmental science, technology, and engineering, while also touching on the fascinating ways mathematical concepts can help us identify patterns in nature.
Use the full version of “Rooted in Math” linked below to scroll through digitally, or download the 2-page version to easily print on 8.5”x11” paper.