Despite the massive tonnage of information available on the internet from places like this little ‘ol blog I found that when I started my STEM teaching journey I really didn’t even know what to look for. Couple that with my lifelong love of reading (including a Masters in English), and it’s only natural that I’d turn to books. Specifically, books on Amazon, and ideally books that I could pop onto my kindle reading app with nothing more than a click of a button. Even with the incredible ease of purchase, there was still the matter of finding the right book, and reading it of course.
If you do a search for STEM on Amazon (or anywhere else for that matter) you get a pile of stuff that you don’t really know is applicable, genuine, good, or even useful for what you are doing. It is my humble hope here to give you some incite about what books I have found to be good investments to increase my effectiveness as a STEM teacher.
In the list below I have linked the Amazon listing where possible. I have linked the actual physical book even in cases where there is a Kindle option to give you the choice of what format to buy it in. Unless noted otherwise, I have actually read the books listed below and applied some or all of what they contain to my actual classroom practice. In the interest of full disclosure I want you to know that if you buy one of these books after clicking on the link provided below I will get a small commission from Amazon. Buying in this manner will help to keep the site up and running while keeping me motivated to create more free content for you to enjoy.
First, lets discuss classroom management. I put this first because without a solid classroom management system in place you won’t be able to effectively teach anything, let alone project based STEM. The very best resource on classroom management that I have ever seen is:
Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids: (and the rest of your class, too!)
by Chris Biffle
I use the advice in the book above many times per day every day. It teaches teachers how to set, and enforce classroom expectations while at the same time keeping the classroom environment light, and conducive to engaged learning. I recommend this book to literally every single teacher I meet.
Next, I want to recommend a book on STEM as a generalized topic of education. Regardless of the specific STEM content you are working with, there is a general way I feel professional educators should go about teaching it. We need to be encouraging a few specific traits in our students that STEM lends itself well to. Traits such as problem solving, growth mindset, creativity, and grit are crucial not only to real world STEM endeavors, but to life in general. As such we should be developing our curriculum as a set of design challenges. In order to figure out the best way to do this I found this book:
Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom
I have read this book several times, and am always inspired to make my lessons better when I do. It talks about the history of Project Based Learning, and gives STEM teachers some valuable advice about how to teach the engineering design process. Just by absorbing this book you will become a more effective STEM educator.
We started out here with classroom management, and moved into STEM generally. Now it’s time to dive into some specific content areas. For me, one of the most effective content tools for STEM Education is model rocketry. In fact, I have written a whole post on why I think its effective, what national standards apply to it, and why you should have it as one of your units. That post can be found here. If you are going to dive into rocketry in your classroom, whether your dive is shallow or deep, there is one definitive book out there that will cover everything you need to know to get started. It has been revised seven times to keep up with advancing understanding, and was initially written by one of the founders of the model rocketry hobby. This book is literally, THE resource for model rocketry.
This book is not only a fantastic read, but covers the subject in such incredible detail that it’s hard not to be able to teach rocketry well after reading it. I have been doing rockets with my students in one form or another for the past three years, and still refer to this text at least once per week. If you are going to do rocketry you need this book.
The two main systems I work with in my classroom are rockets & robots. Specifically, in terms of robots I use Lego Mindstorms Ev3 for Education. I have already outlined general rocketry in a post, and will do the same with robots in the future (though as of this posting my next post is going to be a rocketry lesson plan) Books on Ev3 for educaiton are few, and far between, at least when I was looking so most of my lesson ideas have come from a collection of web based portals (which I will outline in another post), but there is one book I have found to be indispensable to my teaching practice. When I had 1 week to figure out how to teach robotics this book saved my bacon.
This particular book is a bit on the spendy side at almost $55.00, and only comes in print, but it really is a fantastic resource. I encourage anyone who is just starting an Ev3 curriculum, or even seasoned pros to give it a read. When I was starting it really helped me get through the sticky bits of this stupendous learning tool.
Finally, I would be remiss in a Top 5 STEM Teaching Books post if I didn’t have a Raspberry Pi book. I mention the Pi in my Top Five STEM Learning Tools post, and fully intend to spend a good deal of time on the blog writing about projects, lessons, and uses for the Pi. As such I wanted to make sure I listed a book. Unfortunately, unlike the Lego Ev3 book challenges there are just so many great Raspberry Pi books that picking just one is tough to do. What I had to do is narrow down my selection by focusing on a book that will fit into my own curriculum. Here’s what I came up with:
Again, in the interest of full disclosure I actually have the First Edition of this book, and though I have read it, I haven’t applied it in my classroom yet. Programming with Python, which is actual coding is a bit of a sticky wicket for the grade levels I teach. I have done some Linux & Python work with some of my more advanced grade 7 & 8 students, but hesitate to add coding into my curriculum as an actually unit. As I have learned in the past three years, there are some concepts that even I can’t teach to every single 7th or 8th grader in 21, 45 Minutes sessions (the average number of days in a standard quarter which is all I get them for). That said, if I ever move to High School, or ever feel bold enough to try it in grade 8, this book would be the basis of my unit.
That wraps up our Top 5 Books post, but stay tuned to the site for more Top 5 posts, Lesson Plans, product evaluations, and general discussion about STEM education. The very best way to do that is to sign up for my newsletter in the lower right hand corner of this page. Thanks for stopping by!