How do secondary level biology teachers make sense of using mathematics in design-based lessons about a biological process?

Charlie Cox, Birdy Reynolds, Anita Schuchardt, Christian Schunn

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


In the fall of 2011 five secondary level biology teachers in the northeast United States implemented an experimental instructional module that challenged their students with a design problem. This challenge required students to perform both mathematical analysis and the engineering application of biological concepts in order to reach a resolution. Specifically, given the parental genotypes of two gecko parents, students were tasked to: (a) mathematically represent the relative frequency of all possible offspring genotypes; and (b) design a systematic breeding program for the geckos that would consistently produce a rare and highly desired genotype as a result. Presented here is a study of how the participating teachers made sense of the mathematics and engineering design applied to the biological process of inheritance, and their reflections on their own implementations of the instructional module. Emergent themes dealt with the limitations of mathematics in teachers’ own biology education, their lack of experience with either engineering or design, and their efforts to help students address similar circumstances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationContemporary Trends and Issues in Science Education
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages33
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameContemporary Trends and Issues in Science Education
ISSN (Print)1878-0482
ISSN (Electronic)1878-0784

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Look at the lessons to be learned from the revival of engineering design in higher education, resulting from years of studies conducted through grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), with an intensive concentration in the 1980s. There is a reason why engineering professions want people with design skills at the entry level, including research and creative application of scientific principles, and it proved counter-productive for higher education curricula to downplay those skills in favor of other subject matter. If anything, it makes perfect sense to expose such skills to students at the secondary level wherever that can happen, but especially in science courses including biology, in order for them to make an informed choice about careers that might interest them and that they might wish to pursue.

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016.


  • Design Challenge
  • Mathematical Expression
  • Pedagogical Content Knowledge
  • Professional Development
  • Secondary Level


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