Creating STEAM Activities to Engage Learners in Mathematical Thinking and Problem-Solving

Division(s): Primary, Intermediate, Junior
Level(s): Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6, Grade 7, Grade 8

An exploration of how technology can be embedded into mathematics with a collaborative inquiry approach. This project will develop inquiry, problem-solving and critical thinking skills by using technology as a part of programming and assessment.

We would like to explore differentiated instruction in mathematics through inquiry and experiential learning with assessment practices and tools through the modern learning lens. We would like to explore STEAM activities involving technology to engage mathematical thinking and problem-solving. We would like to design STEAM activities that will help students see the connections made with mathematics and engage them. We would like to involve our students in more skills challenges that will reveal deep learning of mathematical concepts. Additionally, we would like to use the tools and activities explored in order to develop some authentic assessment activities for students that relate specifically to different strands in the mathematics curriculum. In this way, students could experience a variety of problems and open-ended questions in order to make connections with math in the real world, to other subjects, and to practical applications.

Team Members

  • Adam Childs

    York Region District School Board

  • Anooradha Nursimulu

    York Region District School Board

  • Dhatri Trivedi

    York Region District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

We explored how technology can be embedded into mathematics, science, language and other subjects with a collaborative inquiry approach. Our focus was on how to develop inquiry, problem-solving and critical thinking skills by using technology. Specifically, we investigated curriculum content that can and could be tied to the different technologies and used for a variety of learning and assessment possibilities. 

Activities and Resources

We began by investigating resources that are available. For example, we investigated a variety of sources like Spectrum catalogues, as well as innovative technology available from other emerging sources. We created small initial orders based on some of the technologies we wanted to experiment with. For example, we ordered Makey Makey, Probot and Snap Circuits. Upon receiving the items, we explored how the devices worked and, from there, began to link the possibilities with curriculum expectations. We also used a focus group of intermediate students to experiment with the technologies to judge engagement and effectiveness of using the technology. Based on our exploration, we created a secondary order from what we think will be most effective for our school demographic and to satisfy specific curriculum strands.

Unexpected Challenges

Initially, a challenge we faced was to purchase a variety of technology. We experienced a lot of pricing changes and shipment delays based on the availability to the products. Another challenge we faced was to specifically satisfy a curriculum strand based on an activity. For example, we wanted to create authentic assessment opportunities that might replace traditional pencil and paper activities. While the experience of using the technology is engaging to students, it was difficult to outright replace current assessment tools. In addition, students required extra time or sessions in the focus group in order to focus specifically on the task and to overcome the excitement of the technology itself. Finally, in terms of recording the assessment, we were able to consider a variety of tools. However, some teachers may not feel comfortable using technology-based tools, or not have the technology to track. For example, we identified taking videos  and using Google Forms as possible options. In order to effectively use the tools, teachers would require a tablet device like an iPad.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

By using technology-based tools for student learning and assessment, students have been more interested, excited and enthusiastic about the learning task. Students also have another avenue to show their thinking and understanding of a task that differs from regular classroom activities. The connection between science, mathematics and other subjects becomes more visible to students through these activities. By connecting the assessments and activities to various curriculum strands, students will be exposed to real-life problems and make stronger connections to the curriculum and the interconnected nature of fields of study.


We plan to make the technology we ordered along with lesson ideas available to other teachers in order for them to be able to plan into their programming. As well, based on our experiences in the TLC, we can provide teachers with assistance in planning and implementing ideas.

Project Evaluation

We believe that we were successful in reaching most of our goals. We were able to acquire more technology and consider several opportunities to use it in our daily programming and learning. However, we feel that we still have work to do. We would like to develop more specific lessons, assessments and learning opportunities that satisfy specific curriculum strands to replace traditional tasks. By having specific plans made, teachers could more easily insert the activity or assessment into their program.