Analysis of mathematics education from a steam approach at secondary and pre-universitary educational levels: A systematic review

ANALYSIS OF MATHEMATICS EDUCATION FROM A STEAM APPROACH AT SECONDARY AND PRE-UNIVERSITARY EDUCATIONAL LEVELS: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW

Daniel Martín-Cudero* , Ana Isabel Cid-Cid , Rocío Guede-Cid

Consolidated research group in STEM education (GIESTEM). Rey Juan Carlos University (Spain)

Received July 2023

Accepted December 2023

Abstract

Society is in an incessant process of reflection, but the educational system is not following the same path, creating an urgent need for a quality educational renovation in which new methodologies, approaches and educational resources are developed based on creation, collaboration and learning by doing. In this sense, the integrated education of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) is postulated as an educational approach through which to transform the teaching-learning processes into processes that contribute to the development of critical, creative, and scientific thinking. Proof of this is the continuous increase in publications in this line of research. This article presents a systematic review with a total of 19 studies published in high-impact journals with the aim of making a critical reflection and evaluating the real scope of incorporating STEAM projects in education to improve the students’ mathematical skills. In particular, five areas of interest have been evaluated: active learning in the teaching of STEAM subjects, the development of technological resources, the design and implementation of educational proposals, the evaluation of STEAM education and teacher training in STEAM education. Considering the results, we emphasize the need to continue working on the theoretical foundation and educational practice of this approach to allow teachers to implement it effectively.

 

Keywords – STEAM education, STEAM approach, Mathematics education, Teaching-learning process, Mathematics learning, Educational research, Systematic review.

To cite this article:

Martín-Cudero, D., Cid-Cid, A.I., & Guede-Cid, R. (2024). Analysis of mathematics education from a STEAM approach at secondary and pre-universitary educational levels: A systematic review. Journal of Technology and Science Education, 14(2), 507-528. https://doi.org/10.3926/jotse.2349

 

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    1. 1. Introduction

Teaching methods have changed a lot over the years due to the different trends in educational innovation that are more frequently being implemented in classrooms. This is why both education and its professionals must be engaged in an exhaustive search for methodologies that fit each of the educational levels. It is necessary to provide students with meaningful learning which promotes their mathematical skills and helps them to think (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics [NCTM], 2014) from a balance between mathematical reasoning, computational thinking, and problem-solving processes (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD], 2023).

However, achieving this objective is not easy since, for many years in mathematics education, the memorization of concepts and properties tends to be predominant, which, in most cases, is not readily understood by students (Barrantes-López, Fernández-Leno & Balletbo-Fernández, 2013). Fortunately, this change in the teaching-learning trends of mathematics is becoming more profound. Currently, more importance is given to the transmission of mathematical thought processes than to the transfer of content since mathematics must be treated as a science in which the procedure is predominant (de Guzmán, 2007). Mathematics is definitely a fundamental part of education. It is considered an essential element in the development of student preparedness since it helps them to reason in an orderly manner, to use logic and to have a mind prepared for thought, criticism, and abstraction (Jaramillo & Puga, 2016).

According to Callejo (1994), there are two types of meaning in the concept of mathematics education: the attitudes towards mathematics and mathematical attitudes. On the one hand, attitudes towards mathematics refer to the interest in the subject and its learning, paying more attention to the affective‑emotional part than to the cognitive one, as well as expressing a higher degree of satisfaction and curiosity. On the other hand, mathematical attitudes are mainly focused on the cognitive aspect and how to use mathematical abilities in a more thorough, deductive, objective, and abstract way (NCTM, 2014; Hidalgo et al., 2004). In order to give students an opportunity to get these two attitudes, it is necessary to use or implement methodological strategies enabling the students’ full potential to be engaged and also allow them to achieve that mathematical rigor so necessary at secondary and pre-universitary educational levels.

Thanks to progress achieved in technology, the 21st Century is being a challenging time for education. For this reason, it is important to provide students with the competencies and knowledge required to reason, investigate, argue, ad reflect on the behavior of phenomena that occur in the social context and thus, be able to face the demands of today’s society (Ge, Ifenthaler & Spector, 2015; OECD, 2023). In such circumstances it is clearly necessary to promote a shift in the traditional educational model of mathematics teaching and seek a more innovative one where meaningful learning, critical thinking, and mathematical flexibility in problem-solving are encouraged (Salmon, 2019). The formulation of a problem, the alternative solutions and the strategies used to solve it are situations typical of professional life for which the student must be prepared. In this sense, it is worth highlighting the interest in the use of interdisciplinarity amongst mathematics education practitioners.

According to Lehrer (2021), interdisciplinary proposals promote the transfer of knowledge between mathematics and other disciplines and, in this way, build a structured knowledge system that facilitates the resolution of certain problems. However, Tytler, Mulligan, Prain, White, Xu, Kirk et al. (2021) pointed out the need to maintain the integrity and characteristics of each discipline involved to generate knowledge. Using methodologies in which mathematics is used as an interdisciplinary subject in other fields of knowledge can make students stop seeing it as unattainable and appreciate its true value and usefulness. Among the different interdisciplinary proposals that involve mathematics, we focus in this paper on the development of STEAM projects based on the integrated work of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics that involve training whose purpose is the comprehensive competency development of the students for their action in society and that are, in many cases, also linked to citizen participation or sustainability (Ortiz-Revilla, Sanz-Camarero & Greca, 2021).

STEAM education was born in 2008 with the aim of turning the teaching-learning process into a transversal and creative education (Yakman, 2008). In recent years, it has become an educational methodology that allows for the development of scientific, artistic, logical-deductive, and mathematical thinking, while improving creativity, innovation, problem-solving and decision-taking skills and increasing students’ engagement and motivation (Quigley & Herro, 2016; Liao, 2016; Greca, 2018). This methodology not only presents the contents of complex areas in a more attractive way (Contradty, Sotiriou & Bogner, 2020) but it also generates in the students new ways of knowing and the ability to solve problems in a society that is in constant change (Perignat & Katz-Buonincontro, 2019; Gates, 2017).

In this regard, with the implementation of STEAM activities in mathematics programme, students can achieve scientific competence, especially focused on experimental activity (Gallego & Márquez, 2018), as well as a technological education adapted to the present that promotes computational thinking (Ruiz, Zapatera, Montes & Rosillo, 2019). An education in engineering and mathematics allows students to develop skills related to the development and creation of solutions to solve real-world problems (Yakman & Lee, 2012), while art, also referring to design from an open perspective, helps them to develop creative and innovative thinking (Liao, 2016; Anderson & Meier, 2016). At the same time, they are enabled to understand not only scientific and technological behaviors but also social and human behaviors (Wing, 2006); all of this applied is in a collaborative work environment in which the students are actively involved (Greca, 2018) through participation in their own learning (Hsiao & Su, 2021).

This educational model makes it possible to face certain challenges within the current scientific and technological education such as the gender gap, lack of interest or inadequate teaching of STEAM subjects. Thinking that success or failure in experimental sciences, mathematics or technology depends on cognitive abilities that cannot be developed through practice directly affects students (Wang & Degol, 2017). Therefore, it is necessary to bet on the development in the classroom of projects that facilitate scientific popularization and gender inclusion (Sánchez-Rodríguez, Colomo, Sánchez-Rivas & Ruiz‑Palmero, 2020).

Figure 1. Action lines of STEAM education

While it is true that this pedagogical approach has already been studied in most of the literature reviews published in recent years on STEAM education, none of them consider mathematics as the basis that supports the rest of STEAM disciplines. For instance, you can carry out a physics project without having artistic knowledge or make a sketch of a sculpture without knowing about experimental science, but in each of them it is essential to know mathematics. That is, a scientific, technological, engineering, or artistic project cannot be applied without using mathematics at some point in its development Perignat and Katz‑Buonincontro (2019) examine articles published on STEAM education with the aim of describing the general purpose of this methodology.

This review contains a great number of definitions of the STEAM concept in a generalized manner and provides recommendations to advance the research and implementation of STEAM education. However, they set their focus on creativity and the elements of artistic education as learning outcomes. As for Bases‑García and García-Sánchez (2021) present a systematic review on the impact of STEAM approaches on academic results with the purpose of evaluating the self-efficacy of students and checking whether there is a significant increase in learning outcomes. Other authors such as Ortiz-Revilla et al. (2021) make a critical reflection on the implementation of an integrated education in STEAM disciplines and evaluate the real scope of this approach from an epistemological, psychological, and didactic perspective.

In this connection, Santamaria, Povis, Colca and Urcia (2022) carry out a bibliometric and documentary analysis with the aim of analysing scientific competences and describing the transdisciplinary approach and the main characteristics of the STEAM methodology and García-Fuentes, Raposo-Rivas and Martínez-Figueira (2022) show how effective the implementation of STEAM activities in classrooms is and focus on giving a general evaluation of STEAM education without considering other important factors such as the most appropriate type of active methodology or the criteria that should be followed to design and implement STEAM activities. Other authors such as Leavy, Dick, Meletiou-Mavrotheris, Paparistodemou and Stylianou (2023) are committed to identifying the application and prevalence of emerging technologies in the field of STEAM education, giving more emphasis to new technologies and artistic skills.

A more complete review is provided by Kwang and Wong (2021) who study the characteristics that involve the empirical practices of a STEAM education. This study shows that: (a) arts, science and technology are the most covered areas in the STEAM methodology, with mathematics being relegated to a lower priority, (b) the effectiveness of STEAM learning must be improved, expanding the diversity of STEAM education and addressing teacher support and (c) project-based learning, real-life problem solving, and extensive use of educational technology are the most common methodologies in STEAM education.

As can be seen, none of the reviews mentioned above highlight the role of mathematics as the main core in the STEAM methodology. All of them provide relevant information on the evaluation and effectiveness of implementing STEAM projects in classrooms but, in general, very little is said about which active methodologies should be applied or which may be, in this sense, the most attractive proposals for students. Nor are previous experiences on teacher training shown. Although the implementation of STEAM initiatives is increasing, existing theoretical frameworks are nor developed with sufficient specificity for teachers to apply them in the preparation of their classes (Yakman, 2008). This limits opportunities for teachers to design STEAM proposals with broader educational objectives.

Awareness of this problem, this scoping review provides an overview of the state of research knowledge on the current situation of STEAM education from a mathematical perspective. To respond to this objective, the following research questions were posed:

  1. 1.What elements should be considered to implement STEAM activities or projects in the teaching‑learning of mathematics? What criteria should be followed to develop them? 

  2. 2.What are the benefits of applying STEAM activities or projects in the teaching-learning of mathematics? Do the practices of the STEAM methodology have a positive impact on students and their learning?  

  3. 3.Are there STEAM learning programs for mathematics teachers? How does the teacher training program affect the teachers’ ability to plan STEAM activities or projects? 

STEAM education is proposed from a perspective of curricular integration, but there are very diverse approaches on how to bring it to the classrooms. In all of them, the role of mathematics is the most committed. Yakman (2008) claims that the study of mathematics has direct links with all fields of study, especially when we face the formulation, analysis, and resolution of all types of problems. This point is very interesting for STEAM education, since the basis of communication is the language of mathematics and, to understand anything, you must know and understand the basic concepts of mathematics. To define a broader view of this integrative mathematics-based education and adequately answer research questions raised above, we are going to analyse in this review the following five study groups:

  1. 1.Active methodologies used in teaching-learning of mathematics with a STEAM approach. 

    The use of active methodologies such as problem-based learning, project-based learning, gamification, flipped classroom, the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) or the use of WebQuest, among others, improve the academic performance, increase student participation and motivation, encourage class attendance, and reduce school absenteeism, as many research studies have confirmed. Likewise, it strengthens comprehensive training and the transfer of knowledge while awakening the ingenuity and creativity of students in problem solving. The final objective is to transform traditional teaching into an active, participatory, and interdisciplinary teaching. For this reason, we think it is important to know what the most appropriate active methodologies may be to implement STEAM project or activities in mathematics classes. 

  2. 2.Development of technological resources to teach mathematics with a STEAM methodology. 

    The use of technological resources in classrooms has been highlighted as one of the key factors that make teaching is of quality. With the advent of ICT to secondary schools has been a revolution for the world of learning. This forces the construction of a new cultural context and the global adaptation of the school itself, but mostly from the teachers. Therefore, knowing the technological resources most used is beneficial when designing any STEAM project.  

  3. 3.Design and implementation of STEAM proposals in the mathematics programme. 

    Designing STEAM activities is not easy since many factors must be considered for the experience to be positive, such as applying the correct methodology, choosing the appropiriate technological resources, organising work times appropriately or establishing specific evaluation criteria. So, another objective of this review is to analyse some of the STEAM projects that have already been applied and in which mathematical content prevails. 

  4. 4.Training in STEAM education for teachers who teach artistic and scientific subjects. 

    One of the challenges of STEAM education is the teachers’ training to implement integrated lessons (Herro, Quigley & Cian, 2018). Teachers are responsible for guiding the discussions, providing feedback on progress during the program and its activities. It is necessary that they previously acquire all the knowledge the intend to teach and master skills specific to their teaching work, such as the ability to adapt to the different disciplinary requirements of STEAM, staying up to date with the latest advances in science and technology. Teachers with STEAM training are required to promote integrated management of mathematics learning from a holistic and interdisciplinary perspective (Conradty & Bogner, 2020) and in this way, increase students’ ability to analyse and evaluate the consistency of mathematical concepts and reasoning studied in class and know how to formulate, apply and interpret them in real-life situations, recognizing the role that mathematics plays in the world (OECD, 2023). Therefore, we see it would be advisable to evaluate whether there are STEAM training programs for teachers who are not experts in mathematics. 

  5. 5.General evaluation of STEAM education. 

    Finally, we consider it necessary to give an overview of the evaluation of STEAM education in terms of motivation, attitude, limitations, learning processes and strategies, etc. It is essential to reflect on the theoretical issues related to this approach, the psychological and didactic foundations that support its application and its benefits. 

In conclusion, it is important to know which are the active methodologies and technological tools that are most frequently used in STEAM projects, what is the design and implementation phase of these projects in the classrooms and what is the current situation of teacher training in STEAM education. This article offers a critical view of these perceptions seeking to promote reflection on the role that mathematics should have in this STEAM framework. To do this, different contributions that have been made in recent years on STEAM education in the pre-university stage have been studied and analyzed. This will allow us to know, in a synthesized way, what has been investigated regarding this subject, what its current status is and how much importance is usually given to mathematics.

2. Methodology

To answer the aforementioned research questions, a systematic review of qualitative studies on the implementation of STEAM education in the curriculum of pre-university education was performed. The PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses) Statement, updated in 2020, was used as the base document for the analysis which “includes reporting guidance that reflects advances in methods to identify, select, appraise, and synthesise studies” (Page, McKenzie, Bossuyt, Boutron, Hoffmann, Mulrow et al. (2021: page 1).

First of all, from 21 November 2023 to 28 November 2023, an exhaustive search of information was carried out using the following databases: Web of Science, Scopus, Dialnet, Springer and Eric. There were no limitations regarding the search range by years since it was not about analyzing current or newer studies but rather evaluating the contributions of other authors on STEAM education in the classroom over the years. As a secondary search complement, Research Gate (a social network and collaborative tool aimed at scientists of all disciplines) was used in order to locate researchers whose motivation was related to the object of study and thus to request the full texts in the event that they would not be available in the primary sources of reference.

The search equations used were the same in the different databases mentioned above (Table 1). The first group of search equations in Spanish was performed in which the keywords were taken as a whole, excluding documents that included the words university, primary or school, since our subject of study was far from primary or higher studies. Subsequently, the same process was carried out with a second group but this time with the keywords in English. In both groups, the search for keywords was divided into subsections following the sequence: << object, technique, basis, course, exclusion >>. That is, the search was focused on the object of study (STEAM education), the technique to be applied (methodological proposal), the basis or what it is to be used for (teaching-learning and/or education), the course on which the review focuses (secondary and pre-university education), and the exclusions that were not the reason for the search (primary or elementary education and university degrees).

After an initial search, a total of 1286 documents were found to study, of which only 246 were open access. Of the 246 documents, those whose titles do not focus attention on the object of study were discarded, leaving 118 documents. Subsequently, and before making the first selection of articles, duplicates, degree theses, literature reviews and documents in presentation format or in a language other than Spanish or English were eliminated. After this qualifying process, 86 documents were selected for study.

After reading and reviewing the abstracts, a total of 48 studies were discarded. Among the reasons for exclusion were the methodology used, the type of research (only statistical texts without relevance to our review), document type (conferences or reviews), and the target audience (primary or university courses). A first reading of the remaining 38 documents was made, of which 15 were discarded without reading the complete text, since it was enough to read only a few pages to realize that they did not fit the object of study or were not research papers. After further reading, it was decided to exclude another 4 documents from the review because the approach of the documents was too theoretical and generalized. Table 2 specifies the inclusion and exclusion criteria for this review.

A second reading was carried out with the remaining 19 documents and it was decided not to discard any of them since they were all considered important to include in the systematic review. The diagram provided by the PRISMA 2020 statement was used to complete the flow of documents (Figure 2). Using the systematic review approach, an attempt will be made to identify, select, synthesize, and evaluate the selected studies in order to answer the question under study, specifically including STEAM education as a methodological proposal in the teaching-learning of mathematics in secondary and pre-university education to improve the students’ mathematical attitudes and skills.

Date bases

Search Strategy

Search Results

Web of Science

“steam education” or “steam project” teaching learning mathematics (All Fields) AND steam education (Title) OR steam project (Title) NOT primary stem university school (All Fields)

All fields (216)

Limited to Educational Research (47)

Open Access (47)

Scopus

(TITLE-ABS-KEY(“steam education” OR “steam project”) AND NOT TITLE-ABS-KEY(stem AND school AND university AND primary) AND TITLE-ABS-KEY(teaching AND learning)) AND (LIMIT-TO (SUBJAREA, “SOCI”) OR LIMIT-TO (SUBJAREA, “MATH”)) AND (LIMIT-TO(DOCTYPE, “ar”)) AND (LIMIT-TO (LANGUAGE, “English”) OR LIMIT-TO (LANGUAGE, “Spanish”)) AND (LIMIT-TO (SRCTYPE, “j”)) AND (LIMIT-TO(PUBSTAGE, “final”)) AND (LIMIT-TO (OA, “all”)) AND (LIMIT-TO (EXACTKEYWORD, “STEAM”) OR LIMIT-TO (EXACTKEYWORD, “STEAM Education”))

Title-Abs-Key (861)

Limited to Social Sciences, and Mathematics (136)

Open Access (112)

Dialnet

“educación steam” OR “metodología steam” OR “proyecto steam” NOT “primaria” NOT “infantil” NOT “universidad”

Full Text - Open Access (34)

Springer

“steam education” AND (methodology OR project OR teaching OR learning) AND NOT (stem AND primary AND school AND university)

Mathematics Education (22)

Open Access (4)

Eric

“steam education” AND (methodology OR project OR teaching OR learning) AND NOT (stem AND primary AND school AND university)

All fields (151)

Peer reviewed/Full text (49)

Education level (16)

Table 1. Search equations and search results

Eligibility criteria: Inclusion and exclusion criteria

Descriptor

Inclusion

Exclusion

Type of research

Qualitative research

Quantitative research

Document type

Articles

Book chapters and e-books

Conferences

Reviews

Source type

Journal

Reports

Presentations at conferences

Documents in presentation format

Final Degree-master’s projects

Doctoral theses

Publication stage

Final

Article in the press

Language

Publications in English and Spanish

Publications in other languages

Interest area

STEAM education

STEM Education

Subject area

Social Sciences, Science Education and Mathematics Education

Other areas

Education level

Secondary and pre-university education

Primary or university education

Table 2. Inclusion and exclusion criteria of documents

 

Figure 2. Flow diagram (PRISMA, 2020)

3. Results and Discussion

First of all, with the aim of grouping all documentation, Table 3 is a summary in which a general description of the 19 documents submitted is made, indicating the content and research purposes of each one of them. It is worth mentioning that the papers are ordered by publication date, from most to least current.

Synthesis methods

Paper

Investigation dimension

N.

Year

Author(s)

Purpose

Interest area

1

2023

Delgado-Rodríguez,  Carrascal & García-Fandino

To design and validate an educational methodological model based on the use of augmented reality to improve learning processes in science subjects

To show that teachers need training in immersive technological resources

Design and implementation of educational proposals

Development of technological resources

Teacher training on STEAM education

2

2023

Wiegand & Borromeo

To detail a theoretical reflection on the connections between STEAM education and sustainability

To present mathematical modelling as a possible instrument in STEAM education and education for sustainable development (ESD)

To create an ESD-modelling seminar for mathematics teachers

STEAM education assessment

Teacher training on STEAM education

3

2022

Zhan, Yao & Li

To explore the effects of association interventions on students’ creative problem-solving ability

STEAM education assessment

4

2022

Tsekhmister, Kotyk, Matviienko, Rudenko & Ilchuk

To identify the impact of the use of augmented reality technologies in STEAM education

Development of technological resources

5

2022

Malagrida,  Klaassen, Ruiz‑Mallén & Broerse

To facilitate the implementation of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) within science education

RRI and teacher training in STEAM education

6

2022

Körtesi,  Simonka, Szabo, Guncaga & Neag

To analyse the utility of ICT tools as a method of active learning

To apply innovative teaching methodologies related to a STEAM education program

Active learning for the teaching of STEAM subjects

Development of technological resources

Design and implementation of educational proposals

7

2022

Roldán-Zafra & Perea

To design a scientific workshop for learning mathematics with a focus on cryptography

To create activities adapted to the STEAM model

Active learning for the teaching of STEAM subjects

Design and implementation of educational proposals

8

2022

Hsiao, Chen, Chen, Zeng & Chung

To show the implications of using teaching approaches for a STEAM activity through project-based learning (PBL) and a cognitive-affective interaction model (CAIM)

Active learning for the teaching of STEAM subjects

Design and implementation of educational proposals

STEAM education assessment

9

2022

Lavicza & Tejera

To integrate technological and pedagogical innovations in the classroom

Development of technological resources

10

2022

García-Cuéllar & Martínez-Miraval

To develop activities based on STEAM education under the mediation of GeoGebra

Design and implementation of educational proposals

Development of technological resources

11

2022

Rodrigues-Silva & Alsina

To analyse the effects of a practical teacher-training program on the teachers’ abilities related to planning activities using the STEAM approach

Teacher training on STEAM education

12

2022

Wu,  Liu & Huang

To evaluate the cognitive load to explain the continuous learning intention of STEAM education

STEAM education assessment

13

2021

Hsiao & Su

To combine the concept of STEAM education with interdisciplinary teaching-learning.

To integrate virtual reality to support STEAM education

Active learning for the teaching of STEAM subjects.

Development of technological resources

14

2021

Soroko,  Soroko, Mukasheva, Ariza-Montes & Tkachenko

To analyse the use of virtual reality to support STEAM education in a general secondary school

Active learning for the teaching of STEAM subjects

Development of technological resources

15

2021

Lee, Peng & Klemm

To include the Makerspaces movement within STEAM education

Active learning for the teaching of STEAM subjects.

16

2021

Diego-Mantecon,  Prodromou, Lavicza, Blanco & Ortiz-Laso

To analyse project-based learning based on the STEAM education model implementation in

school mathematics (STEAM-PBL)

Active learning for the teaching of STEAM subjects.

Teacher training on STEAM education

STEAM education assessment

17

2020

Jesionkowska,  Wild & Deval

To evaluate the applicability of the STEAM education with a qualitative approach applying augmented reality

Development of technological resources

Design and implementation of educational proposals

Development of technological resources

18

2019

Rizzo, del Río, Manceñido, Lavicza & Houghton

To offer different ways of mathematics learning through providing contexts for exploration and the students’ creation of their own content through collaborative learning and creative thinking

Active learning for the teaching of STEAM subjects

Development of technological resources

Design and implementation of educational proposals

19

2018

Gülhan & Shain

To implement an activity based on the 5E model for STEAM education

Active learning for the teaching of STEAM subjects

Design and implementation of educational proposals

Table 3. Synthesis methods of documents

The 19 papers were divided into five study groups that were already specified in the introduction of this document: (A) active methodologies, (B) technological resources, (C) didactic proposals, (D) training for teachers, and (E) evaluation of STEAM education. Within the first group were papers that focus on the application of active learning methodologies. So, then the students may be able to have better knowledge and essential skills to function adequately in the social and professional field, it is necessary move from teacher-centred to student-centred teaching, that is, using methodologies that put the student at the centre of the process where teaching does not revolve around the teacher and the content. Rather, the focus is on the students and activities carried out to achieve learning (Silva & Maturana, 2017).

In this sense, Körtesi et al. (2022) were committed to an education focused on implementing active and innovative teaching methodologies related to sustainable STEAM education using resources that allow students to deepen their understanding of mathematical notions and solving tasks in STEAM subjects and real-life applications. On the other hand, Hsiao et al. (2022), Diego-Mantecon et al. (2021) and Soroko et al. (2021) reflected the importance of considering project-based learning (PBL) as a way of integrating STEAM subjects in the classroom. Hsiao et al. (2022) considered that the teaching content should be designed based on the PBL strategy together with a cognitive-affective interaction model (CAIM) in order to implement the hands-on STEAM activity and, in that way, achieve quality education.

Other authors such as Roldán-Zafra and Perea (2022) speak of informal environments as motivating spaces for the development of STEAM activities. In mathematics teaching, diverse teaching strategies are employed to facilitate the students’ learning process and carrying out STEAM activities outside the classroom is one of them. In this context, Lee et al. (2021) argued that makerspaces (any space that promotes active participation, the exchange of knowledge and collaboration through exploration and the creative use of tools and technology) have the potential to improve the learning outcomes of students since they support STEAM activities, as well as promote natural creativity among students who present with difficulties understanding mathematics and science in general. Introducing the concept of makerspaces in STEAM subjects encourages students to promote their critical thinking skills as they progress in their studies (Lee et al., 2021; Vuorikari, Ferrari & Punie, 2019).

Likewise, Rizzo et al. (2019) and Gülhan and Shain (2018) as well as Roldán-Zafra and Perea (2022), and Lee et al. (2021) also opted for a methodology based on collaborative work and creative thinking in order to improve mathematical learning and the students’ enthusiasm towards the subject. In particular, Gülhan and Shain (2018) applied the 5E model (engage, explore, explain, elaborate and evaluate) in their research, that is, “a teaching sequence based on the constructivism” (Bastida-Bastida, 2019: page 75). Designing STEAM activities in which this type of methodology is applied is a good strategy for the students to use to achieve meaningful learning.

In the second group were the papers that develop and incorporate technological resources for the teaching-learning of STEAM disciplines. ICT consists of increasingly accessible and adaptable tools that high schools can incorporate for the purpose of making pedagogical changes when teaching traditionally in order to move towards a more constructive learning environment (Castro, Guzmán & Casado, 2007). There are many authors included in this review who studied the use of technological resources to carry out STEAM activities. Among the most used resources were GeoGebra (García-Cuellar & Martínez‑Miraval, 2022; Jesionkowska et al., 2020; Körtesi et al., 2022; Rizzo et al., 2019; Lavicza & Tejera, 2022), augmented reality (Delgado-Rodríguez et al., 2023; Tsekhmister et al., 2022; Jesionkowska et al., 2020) and virtual reality (Soroko et al., 2021; Hsiao & Su, 2021). As Tsekhmister et al. (2022) pointed out, the use of augmented reality technologies significantly improves students’ performance, increasing the understanding of complex systems and mechanism promoting collaboration among them, developing spatial abilities, and improving performance on physical tasks (Jesionkowska et al., 2020). In mathematics, this can be beneficial to work with geometric elements in the plane and in space. Likewise, Körtesi et al. (2022) pointed out, it is very important that students have a broad knowledge of mathematical theory since it is an essential asset to guarantee the effective use of mathematical software.

In this regard, Jesionkowska et al. (2020) said that activities must be designed to improve not only the technical and artistic skills such as coding, computational thinking, art or geometry but also the communication, problem solving and project management skills. The results obtained after applying this methodology showed that the combination of STEAM education with ICT tools could help to improve the learning satisfaction and outcomes of the students and increase their motivation for technology and mathematics. Other authors such as Hsiao and Su (2021) said that it was necessary to implement learning proposals based on technology integrating the sustainability concept into virtual reality system-aided STEAM education in an effort to further provide the students with integrated interdisciplinary education. For example, this can include the design of an application of an experiential gaming model and virtual reality in education.

The third group was dedicated to documents that focused on the design and implementation of didactic proposals with a STEAM approach. In mathematics teaching, different strategies must be employed to promote and facilitate the students’ learning process. Some authors such as Roldán-Zafra and Perea (2022) based their research on the design of a didactic proposal focused on mathematics learning in a science museum with a STEAM strategy in place making didactic use of cryptography, while others such as Gülhan and Shain (2018), Hsiao et al. (2022), and Lavicza and Tejera (2022) were committed to the use of art and structural modeling to develop STEAM activities that make use of materials that the students can identify and provide easily.

According to García-Cuéllar and Martínez-Miraval (2022: page 14), “art allows teachers to carry out creative, collaborative, and supportive learning environments, as well as to develop interconnections between disciplines from a creative, motivating perspective, and where technology is integrated into pedagogical practice”. A good example of the application of art in learning mathematics is the activity that Rizzo et al. (2019) proposed in their research. The approach consisted of a contest in which students had to catch a mathematical concept in the form of a picture and insert it in GeoGebra software, make up a problem that could be solved using that picture and analyse it using the software’s tools to solve the problem.

Apart from Rizzo et al. (2019), there are other authors such as Körtesis et al. (2022), García-Cuéllar and Martínez-Miraval (2022) who have used mathematical software to develop STEAM activities. Körtesi et al. (2022) pointed out that the constant use of educational software is a requirement for sustainable STEAM and mathematics education. For this reason, it is necessary to design didactical projects where computer algebra systems or dynamic geometry systems are implemented in the classroom. In this connection, Jesionkowska et al. (2020) used the concept of augmented reality and codification in their activities since it was of a good quality in order to provide a direct link between the physical reality and virtual information about that reality. In particular, the activities consisted of developing a certain concept and creating a working application prototype through the use of a pseudo-code. Other authors such as Delgado‑Rodríguez et al. (2023), showed, through a quantitative study, that there is significant empirical evidence that validates the methodological model developed to explain key concepts and improve the level of motivation and acceptance of augmented reality technology by students. STEAM evaluation projects where augmented reality is used are more fun and enjoyable for the students. In fact, this technology has the potential to increase student participation in class (Jesionkowska et al., 2020) and may induce improvements in educational processes (Delgado-Rodríguez et al., 2023).

Of course, all activities cannot be applied if the teachers who teach STEAM subjects are not adequately prepared for this methodology. According to Tsekhmister et al. (2022) the formation of a group of experts in the disciplines involved in STEAM education is the most important procedure, as it largely determines the quality and success of any STEAM activity. Therefore, in the fourth study group, it was considered convenient to evaluate the training of teachers of STEAM disciplines. Rodrigues-Silva and Alsina (2022) analyzed the effects of a practical teacher-training program on the teachers’ ability to plan STEAM projects. For that, they designed a preparation course for the teachers of STEAM subjects which consisted of evaluating the implementation of STEAM activities through different educational approaches. In particular, they evaluated the dimensions of knowledge, usage, willing to use and appropriateness to STEAM projects.

Wiegand and Borromeo (2023) present a detailed theoretical reflection on the connections between STEAM education and the sustainability from the perspective of mathematical modelling. They point out that “mathematical modelling can be a possible instrument for promoting pre-service teachers’ professionalism in STEAM education and education for sustainable development (ESD)” (Wiegand and Borromeo, 2023: page 1269). In this sense, they created a STEAM-ESD modeling seminar for pre-service teachers in which three teaching profiles for handling ESD within mathematical modeling were developed: (a) students learn to deal with mathematical models by performing socially relevant sustainability-oriented problems, (b) teachers use ESD topics to promote mathematical concepts, and (c) teachers use mathematical models as an instrument for achieving ESD goals in the classroom. After training, the participants claim to promote STEAM-ESD modeling in their future teaching lives.

On the other hand, Diego-Mantecon et al. (2021: page 1137) pointed out that “mathematics is recognized as the fundamental basis of other disciplines; however, many students still perceive it as a difficult subject and abandon it”. As we have already mentioned, to avoid this, they propose in their study to implement a STEAM methodology based on project-based learning. To analyze this methodology, they examined classroom experiences from some secondary education teachers who participated in a STEAM training program for several academic courses. The results showed that mathematics teachers avoided interdisciplinary projects in which mathematics is difficult to address, while out-of-field mathematics teachers ignored mathematics of the projects. For this reason, Diego-Mantecon et al. (2021) was unsure about whether interdisciplinary projects are suitable for emphasizing mathematics in an effective way. However, they suggest combining traditional teaching with integrated content approaches since students should be able to apply mathematics in context.

Other authors such as Delgado-Rodríguez et al. (2023) and Tsekhmister et al. (2022), through a qualitative study of teachers who used augmented reality as a technological resource, showed that teachers require specific training regarding the creation and appropriate use of educational resources and digital evaluation systems. In this regard, Tsekhmister et al. (2022), added that “the widespread introduction of innovative technologies in the educational process at all levels has led to the need to create a model for monitoring the quality of teaching and learning, considering new factors influencing the assimilation of new educational resources” (Tsekhmister et al. (2022: page 253).

Finally, the fifth study group is dedicated to the articles that try to give an overview of the evaluation of STEAM education. Malagrida et al. (2022) focused their research on Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and more specifically on how its implementation is facilitated within secondary STEAM education. In particular, the main objective was to evaluate STEAM education through an exhaustive study carried out focused on the different teachers of STEAM subjects. This research was comprised of two phases: (1) developing a comprehensive framework of RRI competences in STEAM education and (2) analyzing the perspectives of STEAM teachers on the implementation of RRI competences and their learning methods.

The items that were evaluated in this article were, among others, identifying and defining problems, research questions, and the methods used in STEAM education, as well as identifying the evidence needed and judging its reliability or analyzing the best methodology to be applied. The methods and actions that the teachers suggested to address the RRI competences were:

  1. 1.Designing activities aimed at identifying problems, research questions and scientific methods in which the students search for information before performing virtual or real experiments. 

  2. 2.Facilitating spaces for students to interact with each other or creating e-learning platforms where students from different schools can work on the same STEAM project. 

  3. 3.Reflecting on the social impact of the activities, their risks, and consequences. 

The results show that the comprehensive framework of RRI competences helps the teachers reflect on how to innovate in STEAM education.

On the other hand, Wiegand and Borromeo (2023) are committed to STEAM education linked to sustainability. They point out that applying sustainability concepts in STEAM education could stimulate critical discussions in the educational and social domain, transforming education into an innovative environment for sustainable development. Mathematical models in the context of STEAM-ESD present two main approaches: contextual and realistic. The objective of contextual modeling is to offer students incentives for processing and argumentative discussion while realistic modeling consists of applying interdisciplinary STEAM training based on the resolution of real problems applied to sustainability and other artistic and/or scientific-technological disciplines.

Other authors, such as Wu et al. (2022), propose a learning cycle and comprehensive research framework that integrates Bloom’s taxonomy (Figure 3), that is knowledge and learning (cognitive domain), attitude and motivation (affective domain), and the implementation of STEAM activities (psychomotor domain) to explore the relationship between the learning domains and learning intention. According to these authors, to explain the continuous learning intention of STEAM activities, several factors must be taken into account: usefulness, ease of use, enjoyment, and the relevance and mental effort, among others. The findings of this research reveal that critical factors affect the students’ learning attitudes and intentions regarding STEAM education.

After analysing and evaluating the five study groups based on the papers included in the review, we have everything necessary to answer the questions that are the focus of our research. Table 4 indicates those articles that have been used to answer each of these research questions.

What elements should be considered to implement STEAM activities or projects in the teaching-learning of mathematics? What criteria should be followed to develop them?

After evaluating the different theoretical frameworks and methodologies used in the articles included in this review, we realize that it is important that the work of teachers and the rest of the educational community is oriented around the development of the STEAM field. Clear and concrete objectives must be set to achieve the greatest possible involvement of students. However, these objectives cannot be excessive, but must be adapted to real needs and implicitly linked to a strategy in order to facilitate its subsequent review and evaluation. Before designing and implementing any STEAM project, it is advisable to ask yourself to what extent each activity marked in the project will help achieve the objectives, define the actions (work calendar, human and material resources, organizational measures, and monitoring and evaluation), specify its approach, and choose the methodology that will be applied.

 

Figure 3. STEAM learning cycle (Wu et al., 2022: page 3)

The STEAM projects proposed in the reviewed articles are developed using active methodologies contrasted with scientific and technological evidence and, at the same time, based on challenges or problems that promote the development of integration in the teaching of digital technologies. The objective that is intended to be achieved with this is to develop meaningful learning in students in which critical, analytical, and abstract thinking predominates. It should be emphasized that the active methodologies do not mean discarding traditional instructional structures and tools such as direct instruction when necessary and contextualized, since it is very possible that in the development of the activity the teacher will have to intervene to explain a new concept to the students.

Most authors agree on highlighting the use of interdisciplinarity in projects with this approach. They emphasize that it is important to cover all possible STEAM disciplines, focusing on the artistic and creative part, since it is the one that differs from the STEM approach, without “A”. Regarding the most used active methodologies, collaborative work, project/problem-based learning and learning and education through design and manipulation of materials stand out.