The arts get all the credit for being hands on and engaging students’ creativity, but science and math subjects can be just as fun when taught in an engaging way. Math and science concepts are often complex and difficult for students to apply to real-life situations, which is why it’s necessary to include engaging activities in your lesson plans when teaching them to your class.

Introduce your class to geometry and shapes with the traditional Chinese tangram puzzle. Tangrams are sets of squares, triangles, and parallelograms that can be rearranged to form outlines of things like animals, boats, houses, people, and complex geometrical shapes.

Tangrams–which can be purchased at a toy store or simply cut from pieces of paper or cardboard–are a great way to teach your class to identify certain shapes, to understand congruency, and to understand how shapes interact with each other to form new ones.

A fun way to use building to teach your class about animal biology is to divide them into groups, assign a different animal to each group, and instruct them to build a protective home for their assigned animal. Having them build beaver dams, bird nests, and insect homes by hand will get them thinking about their animal’s relationship to its habitat.

As a math bonus, students can measure the dimensions of their habitats — height, weight, circumferences, and mass and identify which ones were the tallest, smallest, lightest, etc.

A simple homemade ice cream recipe and a bit of groceries are all you’ll need to make ice-cream in the chemistry lab.

Making ice cream is a tasty way to teach students about the freezing points of certain materials and about the chemical reactions involved when salt comes into contact with ice. It’s also a great way to demonstrate the state changes of matter.

On the math side, it allows kids to practice their measuring skills. Don’t make it easy: If you were going to triple the batch, how much of each ingredient would you need? You could even make multiple batches to illustrate the difference between, for example, a tablespoon and a teaspoon. Does the ice cream taste the same when you use a teaspoon of vanilla as it does when you use a tablespoon? The real world application in a fun setting can make numbers more accessible and exciting so kids are enthusiastic about learning.

Fluid dynamics, Newton’s Laws of Motion, and refraction are all complex topics that are best illustrated with concrete examples. What better way to learn about physics than while having fun in the school’s swimming pool?

It’s easy to build activities around lessons like these that your class can experience first hand while in the pool. For instance, a study of what happens to the water when someone performs a cannonball can be a great lesson in water displacement.

Add a math lesson by speculating about building a new fence around the pool. How tall would it need to be? How much wood would you need to buy? How long would the perimeter be?

Science and math subjects often get a bad rap from students who struggle to see the value in learning about complex topics that they won’t get to apply to real-life situations right away.

Focus on showing them why these topics matter by engaging them with hands-on activities and you’re sure to leave them a bit more curious about how the world around them changes and grows.

Joyce Wilson loved being a teacher, and though she has recently retired, she hasn’t lost that passion. She continues to educate (and help educators) by mentoring teachers in her area. She is also the co-creator of TeacherSpark, a resource for teachers to gather fun, engaging lesson ideas and activities.