STEM vs STEAM: Putting “Art” Back In Education

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Two distinct schools of thought have emerged of late, the great debate of STEM vs STEAM education. Proponents of both still engage in discourse on why their method is more effective, and so we have decided to take a look into STEM and STEAM to see what each is about, and how they can help students. Today, we will explore both concepts and explain what each stands for, and who backs them. Finally we’ll let you know our take on this debate and why we chose one over the other.

What is STEM?

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and is a concept applied to education. The idea of STEM revolves around an integration of the four areas of study, not only because it will result in more effective learning, but also because all four are closely linked to one another. These four subjects are usually taught separately, and STEM Education proponents are of the opinion that integrating all would be a much more successful concept. The long term outcome is to create a generation of STEM literate individuals, who are able to utilize the skills learned in the classroom when they enter the working environment.

STEM education should begin as early as possible, preferably in elementary school, to ensure that kids are familiar with the concepts and are able to apply science, math, technology and engineering in day-to-day activities by the time they are in high school. This video neatly explains STEM Education, and why it is perceived as being an important inclusion to school curriculums.

What is STEAM?

STEAM considers all the four areas mentioned earlier, but with the addition of one more subject into the mix, which is Art. STEAM’s approach is more well-rounded, in that the inclusion of art ensures students have a balanced exposure to subjects. Art in this sense can include communications, graphic design, music, visual arts, performing arts, social studies and history, among other areas. The basis of STEAM lies in the fact that art is an essential facet of education, and is one that will help kids to further hone their creative skills and challenge them to innovate. The application of both science and arts is extremely vital here.

Having art applied to education ensures kids see the importance of all five areas in their daily lives, and also prove that science and art can function in collaboration, rather than in isolation. This video explains STEAM Education, along with some feedback from the most important target market, the kids themselves!


Proponents of Team STEM , such as the STEM Coalition, are focused on the critical role of STEM in schools, and see it as an issue that should be considered on a national level. The inclusion of STEM in classrooms is seen as way to ultimately help the United States of America prosper economically, and sure citizens are well equipped with knowledge that will make them productive and contributing members of society.

Team STEM is also interested in increasing diversity where STEM literacy is concerned, as there seems to be a lot of individuals who are not adequately represented, such as minorities, women, veterans and rural populations. The proponents believe that there should be more initiatives organized to retain talented STEM literate educators from all walks of life, to further inspire future generations.

In terms of whether arts is needed, some STEM proponents feel that the lessons already include art, and there is no need to include it as another entity as art is present in the other four areas. Others feel that the focus should remain solely on developing STEM skills, rather than including art as a subject, as they feel it defeats from the purpose of building and developing math and science skills.


STEAM proponents see the importance of holding art up to the same standards as the other four areas, and feel it is important to recognize that art is prioritized just as much. This is not to say that STEM neglects art, but that it doesn’t receive as much attention as it would in a STEAM environment.

It is also important to note that each child learns differently, and with that in mind, a STEAM education can cater to all the different personalities. Some kids may naturally flourish with STEM subjects, and some with art. The best thing is to expose them to all five areas and help them to improve in the ones they may find challenging.

This awesome infographic by The University Of Florida wonderfully illustrates how important art is to education, and also uses real life examples such as Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs to show that STEAM is just as valid as STEM, if not more so. Both Einstein and Jobs are viewed and revered not only as men of science firstly, but as innovators and icons who paved the way in their respective careers. Their approach to work required skills acquired from STEM subjects, but also required a level of artistic flair. Thus the notion of a STEAM based education is more fitting as it recognizes all facets of someone’s brain power, from the logical to the creative.

But Which Is Better?

We feel that those who back STEM have admirable ideals, but there is nothing wrong with adding art into the mix as well. In fact, you could even say that Zap Zap Math was built with the consideration of a STEAM mindset. So maybe we’re a little biased, but we’d have to go with STEAM for the win! After all, we definitely feel that kids should get a balanced education where all five areas are seen as being equally important. Arts are an intrinsic part of the other four areas, but perhaps it would be good to incorporate it as a whole area to allow kids to discover how it can further boost their innovative and creative skills, which they can then utilize to apply the other four areas in real life.

Take for instance a wonderful example of a STEAM education in action, with a dance student being able to design a costume that lights up as she dances, which is a wonderful marriage of art and engineering at its finest. Imagine the possibilities inherent with a STEAM education. They are indeed amazing, and inspiring. This is exactly the route our future generations need to tread down.

So while this issue is clearly still being ironed out and heavily debated, you can bet that Team Zap Zap is all aboard the STEAM train!

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