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Scientific Inquiry in Mathematics - Theory and Practice

Andrzej Sokolowski
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Woong Lim
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STEM education in the secondary classroom poses challenges. Few mathematics teachers are experienced in using mathematics for science. Few science teachers know how to help students who struggle in the science classroom because they lack mathematical skills. In order to build and sustain STEM education in pre-college classrooms, we need to train teachers for teaching a STEM curriculum that is authentic and closely aligned with school mathematics. The author of Scientific Inquiry in Mathematics – Theory and Practice argues that learning math concepts through science contexts has the potential to be the leading model of STEM learning in the classroom.

The book has two parts, with Part I on theory and Part II on teaching practices. Part I has six chapters carefully building the groundwork for STEM in educational settings. Initially Sokolowski examines STEM as a multidisciplinary platform and delves into what we mean by integrating math and science. Most books on STEM stop here. However, it behooved Sokolowski, who says “his book proposes a theoretical framework” (p. v), to write a whole theoretical chapter, “Teaching and Learning Representations in STEM.” It discusses the role of representations as the context of learning, as the product of scientific inquiry, and as the medium between the two different functions. In the next chapter, Sokolowski is clever to point out “the phase of modelling in mathematics might not parallel with the phases of modelling in science” (p. 29) and re-conceptualize modelling relevant to STEM learning (also see Chapter 6). It was quite amusing to run into a number of insightful views of the author throughout the book, especially since such views are not random but drawn from the realities of teaching in the classroom.

Part II has four chapters illustrating STEM projects that involve the mathematics of pre-calculus and calculus (e.g., rates of change, function continuity, function transformation, and optimization). Basically, these chapters serve as a curriculum, including teaching procedures, activities, teacher comments, and worksheets. Introducing the lessons and background information, Sokolowski refers back to the content of Part I to help readers imagine STEM teaching/learning in action.

There are a plenty of books on STEM education, but this book stands out offering both a theory and a practice of STEM education. It provides examples of STEM curriculum grounded in the realities of school mathematics and sciences. We need more books like this one, more case studies of STEM education connecting biology-mathematics, physics-biology, engineering-mathematics, technology-biology-mathematics, and the endless permutations of S-T-E-M. In that sense, I commend this book for starting the line of work that taps into both theory and practice and pushing us in the mathematics classroom to look beyond the numbered theorems in the texts for our aspiring scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and future citizens with STEM literacy.

Woong Lim ( is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education at University of New Mexico. His research interests include mathematics teacher education; and discourse, language, and equity in the mathematics classroom.

See the table of contents in the publisher's webpage.