Often, when people think about going cross-curricular in social studies, they automatically assume the best subject is language arts. However, I have found a few times when science and math fit well within social studies. For example, in attempting to understand how the Nazis got absolute compliance, our class applied a few social psychology experiments using the scientific method. (We borrowed the ideas from books like Blink and Stumbling on Happiness) The students then studied the Zimbardo prison expirment and the electric shock experiment.
I am surprised, too, how often we use math. In doing community needs assessments, students created spreadsheets and analyzed the demographic data. The entire economics section involves the daily use of math. In studying the elections, we found ourselves analyzing statistics and creating mathematical scenarios for the electoral college. As a homework option, students sometimes choose to conduct polls and graph their results with a stastical analysis attached.
Yesterday, we used math in analyzing the World War II death numbers and finalized it with a poem about war and a discussion of the danger in using statistics, in terms of forgetting the human cost of war. Afterward, a student e-mailed her reflections on statistics, which really impressed me.
It’s making me realize that math is valuable and that I know the subject well enough to teach it. It also makes me hopeful of being able to create thematic units next year in my self-contained classroom.