MIT Contributes to STEM education in Developing Countries

Source: MIT website, Oct 2011

Redefining how we teach

MIT BLOSSOMS program shows students how math and science pertain to daily life
Blended Learning Open Source Science Or Math Studies, or BLOSSOMS, seeks to show students that math and science pertain to their daily lives while also encouraging critical thinking skills.After presenting the initial problem, Marmash, a teacher at King Abdullah II School For Excellence in Irbid, Jordan, relates the problem to the math necessary to solve it.  

Marmash reviews the Pythagorean theorem then challenges students to ask themselves if the theory remains valid for triangles or cylinders, such as the ones in the juice problem.The series of short video segments alternates between Marmash speaking and frequent pauses for teacher-led classroom exercises.    
The idea is for a “duet system,” where a video expert teaches in tandem with the classroom’s own teacher. The idea here is not to replace teachers or threaten them with the new technology, but rather “offer a ‘gentle introduction’ to technology-abled education.”
Developing countries are what inspired Professor Richard Larson and Elizabeth Murray, principal investigator and project manager, to pursue the BLOSSOMS project. Larson and Murray visited a classroom in rural China where students were red with cold, and learning seemed near impossible in the frigid environment. They felt deeply moved when they saw the children attentively watching a biology lesson from Tsinghua University via DVD, eagerly lapping up the information despite their rough surroundings.

Larson and Murray began to consider the best ways to educate the students of today, particularly those in poorer areas.“The video lessons aren’t supposed to be something your average teacher would teach; they come at a topic from a different point of view,” Larson explains. “How math is related to students’ lives gives them real world context and shows how it can be exciting.”

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