Local teachers use real-life problems to engage students

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Local teachers are in the student's seat as they learn new ways to help their students learn. It's part of an ongoing program at the Center of Excellence for Research, Teaching and Learning at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

"The students in the STEM programs in K-12 often struggle with why do I need to know this math? Why do I need to know this science? If you can relate it more to a problem or project that is a real life real world problem then they get more engaged," said Dr. Terri Yates, a teacher at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

This program shows teachers how they can get the students more engaged in their own learning.

"Students are given a problem and they have to start answering the questions and asking themselves questions. What do I know? What do I need to know? And how do I go about solving this problem," Dr. Yates said.

For the teachers, the resources provided are the key. It helps them to apply real life values to their lessons.

"We're currently doing a problem called "turkey for all" and they are learning how to plan a meal for a homeless shelter for 50 people," said Southwest Guilford Middle School teacher Melissa McKeown. "We are using ratios and proportions and unit rate and it has made it very valid for them. They see the purpose in doing math."

Problem-based learning even works for students as young as elementary school.

"It's working and I think it really adds to the college preparedness that the kids are going to have going into the future because they are using methods that they are going to see in the real workplace as they get older," said Westfield Elementary School teacher D.J. Sheets.