On any given day, students in Wake County and throughout North Carolina work on the same math problems.
The Common Core State Standards provide an across-the-board curriculum.
On a recent day at Lincoln Heights Elementary School in Fuquay-Varina, fourth-grade teacher Sophie Dudding and her students worked on fractions.
For about 20 minutes, Dudding walked students through a critical-thinking process.
Students chose to use cross multiplication and division to test if fraction strips were the most efficient and best way to solve the problem.
“It was a lot easier,” said 9-year-old Katie Bush. “If we divided it, it would have taken longer. When you drew it out, it was easier to see and figure out.”
In STEM, which focuses on science, technology, engineering and math, lessons often go a step further than traditional teaching methods.
Lincoln Heights is in its second year as a STEM school, and school leaders say students are embracing the method.
Sometimes, they’re even encouraged to disagree with each other.
During the math lesson, 10-year-old Tyler Raines said he preferred to use cross multiplication.
“It’s faster than shading the squares in,” he said.
The STEM process isn’t just for science and math. Pam Bobay, a media specialist at Lincoln Heights, used the engineering model for a unit on advertising with fifth-graders.
Students were tasked with finding ways to advertise for a recent school event that showcased STEM to parents. Students come up with fliers, videos and posters.
They worked in groups and discussed ways to improve their ads.
The school aims to have teachers use STEM in their lesson plans 75 percent of the time.
Teachers post their lesson plans on the school’s internal website, and the school’s improvement team reviews them, said Erica Prentice, the school’s STEM coordinator.