Learning Blast: Apply Math and Science Knowledge

Engineers use knowledge of science, math, and other areas in all phases of the engineering design process.

Taking existing scientific knowledge and applying it to solve real-world problems is the hallmark of engineering work. Science and mathematics are essential tools in engineering. They are used to help achieve practical and useful results. 

Engineers use these tools in all phases of the Engineering Design Process. As they describe and scope a problem, engineers familiarize themselves with mathematical and science processes that might inform their design. They also consider what types of knowledge could help generate better solutions. For example, a biomedical engineer who is working to develop a new type of bandage draws upon what she already knows from medical studies about how the human body heals wounds. As part of her research, she might find mathematical equations that describe how quickly wounds heal and realize these equations can help define the success of a new bandage design. 

As you watch the video, think about this:

  • What can youth learn as they visit the museum exhibits and how that can be applied in their own designs? 
  • Notice how the facilitators prompt youth to apply what they have learned during the museum visit while designing their marble ramps. 

Watch the video:

Share what you noticed:

  • What did you notice in the video? 
  • How can you design engineering experiences that encourage youth to use their own experiences and knowledge of the world as they engineer? 

What we know:

Engineering makes use of knowledge from science, math, and other fields to design solutions. Scientific and mathematical tools are also used by engineers when creating, testing, and analyzing designs.  

Engineers construct physical and computer models to explore relationships between variables and recognize patterns in their data. Systematic testing and analysis of how well a technology performs is one feature that distinguishes engineering from making or tinkering. To optimize how a design functions, engineers must think carefully about the underlying science.  

What you know:

Providing hands-on experiences and asking youth to think about what they know before they begin an engineering challenge can help them surface their understandings. Encouraging them to apply what they’ve learned through their hands-on science investigations can result in better designs. This is because hands-on experiences and discussions help them learn how to apply their science and math knowledge in a design challenge.  

While youth create and test their designs, prompting them to measure, estimate, and display their data in charts or graphs can help them use mathematical tools in the same way that engineers do. As they engineer, youth should have many opportunities to apply knowledge or tools from science and math to strengthen their solutions. 

Key Take-Away:

Create opportunities for youth to discuss their prior knowledge and build new understandings of the world around them as they engage in engineering. 

Encourage youth to apply their math and science knowledge to the engineering process. Help them see how effective use of math and science are critical to the development of high-quality solutions.  


What strategies could you use to bring science and math knowledge into engineering experiences?  


Developed in collaboration with Christine M. Cunningham. These practices are also more fully described in educational research articles (Cunningham, 2018; Cunningham & Kelly, 2017).