German school THG Waltrop does more maths than ever before

Posted 22/10/2018 by Stephan Griebel

“Working with the robotic vehicle TI-Innovator™ Rover is fun, and at the same time our students are doing more maths than ever before," says Dirk Schulz, a physics and maths teacher at the Theodor Heuss Gymnasium in Waltrop, Germany. Dirk Schulz, who won recognition as Germany’s Teacher of the Year in 2017, is using the technology to boost his pupils’ enthusiasm about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). THG Waltrop is a T³ Germany training center and part of the TI STEM Labs project.

Focus on curiosity

When Dirk Schulz and his colleague Michael Plenge started using graphic calculators, they decided to develop an entire new teaching concept starting from 7th grade (12-13-year-olds). “We included data collection and statistics so we could use the calculators for both maths and science classes,” he says. Michael, STEM coordinator at the THG Waltrop adds: “Our entire concept is aimed at students who are interested in and enthusiastic about STEM. We do not focus so much on talent and performance, but more on whether they are curious. We have a lot of 5th grade students who are very interested in subjects like biology or physics. So, we have developed teaching materials to feed their interests and to keep them involved throughout their years in school.”

Geometric shapes and measuring speed

The students start off with simple tasks, but gradually make more complicated calculations, such as measuring the speed of a football. “It takes a while for students to get to know the device,” says Dirk. “We started off with easy challenges, like programming geometric shapes. So, they begin with a square, then they gradually work towards more complicated shapes.”

(Video in German, English subtitles available)

Having fun makes learning easier

Students working on projects involving the robotic vehicle Rover do not actually notice that they are learning how to code or how to use mathematics. “Even working on the simplest tasks with the robotic vehicle requires more maths than they have used before,” says Dirk. “But our students are coming to realize that learning maths is useful and is linked to other disciplines.” In turn, THG Waltrop’s students are very positive about the projects:

“These are very practical things to do and so different to sitting down in class and doing calculations. Projects like these mean you can put your own ideas into practice, and they are more fun. And I think that having fun makes it easier to learn!”

T³ Germany inspires teachers

Dirk is very enthusiastic about the T³ Germany association of STEM teachers and is a T³ instructor himself. He hopes that more teachers will join the network. “You can learn a lot from other teachers,” he says. “We have access to information and tips about the use of educational technology and we exchange information about developments in STEM education. To further expand the T³ network, I have set up a Twitter account (@dirk_m_schulz) to show best practices and to inspire other teachers.”

Learn more about TI STEM Labs