UH Moment

UH Moment: “STEAM”

Science and math often are considered to be opposite ends of the spectrum from art endeavors. But one teacher and researcher finds they have more in common than we think, and together can create a better student.


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“I like a challenge, and I think teaching is very challenging.”

Justin Young, a former Algebra teacher, wants to build a better student, but math and science don’t enjoy a great reputation with many students.

“I saw this quite a bit in my classes when I was teaching high school,” he said. “They didn’t want to be there. That’s why there was this lack of motivation, but I saw this as a challenge.” 

Now a doctoral student of in the educational psychology program, Young has researched how art can create a better science, technology, engineering and math student. So called STEM students become STEAM students (the “A” is for art).

“When an artist is painting, he is trying to solve a problem—how to express what is being felt. He experiments with colors, technique and images the same way a scientist or engineer experiments with energy and signals,” he said. “There is more than one way information can be taught just like there is more than one way problems can be solved.”

Problem solving uses all the senses and allows many roads to success. He cites one lesson asking students to build an object that can fly. 

“Students will come up with different things, and will inevitably make something that flies, but with variations on success,” he said. “There’s that variability—it’s almost like excitement! Like ‘let’s see what happens!’” 

Finding common ground allows STEM to learn from Art, and for students to become their own agents of learning by experimenting

“Creative thinking and problem solving are essential in the practice of math and science,” he said. “Incorporating art into math and science will not only help students become more creative and better problem solvers, it will help them understand math and science better.”

Justin Young is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston.