Why Are STEM and STEAM Lumped Together?

  • STEAM and STEM are often lumped together because of lack of awareness on the difference. They share the same core “pillars” of this method of education, however, the “A” makes a powerful impact on STEAM, keeping them separate.
  • The “A” in STEAM isn’t just about “arts” as in hands-on crafts. It includes all of the humanities, including ethics and societal impact.
  • STEM should not evolve into STEAM because we all learn a little different. Some of us gravitate towards the arts and are naturally inclined to learn and use more of the arts as compared to others.


STEM and STEAM have been lumped together by a lot of us who are learning more about different styles of education for our little ones. It seems to be a common misconception to use them interchangeably. They are so much alike that I’m not surprised by this.

Sure there are many similarities between the two, but should we use the terms interchangeably? I don’t think it makes sense since STEAM has a key difference.

They are very similar in that STEAM includes the core pillars of STEM, but there is a subtle, yet powerful “A” standing in the way.

Below, I’ll talk about:




Is STEAM similar to STEM?


Why Are STEM and STEAM Lumped Together - Is STEAM similar to STEM? - BrickMates

Short Answer



STEM teaches necessary skills using hands-on activities so that children can apply it to real-world scenarios all while developing a love for learning.

STEAM focuses on the same and adds an art-based approach for further creative and humanities development. It provides an understanding of how to communicate using art-based methods too.





Your little one is curious about the world currently. They have questions, they are tinkering with toys and pushing all of your buttons to see how you react and what they can do.

STEM takes the natural processes we are born with and shapes them into productive habits. The curiosity is used to draw attention to a problem. Then, a child learns to question the problem to develop multiple solutions.



When their solution doesn’t work, instead of quitting right away your child will feel motivated to experiment solutions until finding what works best.

From there, they’ve learned how to communicate the problem concisely to a friend or parent and may teach them how to “play” or solve the problem at hand.

A key factor to all of this is emotional intelligence. Our children need to learn social skills that go far beyond being polite in public.

They will empathize with classmates who are struggling and feel happy for those who are doing well.



Another EQ sign is proper coping skills which many lack even in adulthood. (Less likely to exhibit frustration as anger and tantrums)

STEM naturally includes literacy just like the arts would too. STEAM includes all of the above making them so similar!


STEAM learning develops children similarly to STEM in that children learn how to:

  • Problem solve
  • Critically think
  • Question
  • Innovate
  • Know when to lead and when to follow
  • Develop coping skills
  • Develop a love for learning
  • Use these new skills in real-world scenarios
  • More likely to be successful in their professional and personal lives
  • Use technology to learn, design, and innovate. Don’t worry about “too much screen time“.
  • and so much more!


See they are pretty similar! Not only that, but these methods of education will help our children lead our country better than our generation.

That’s the goal, right? The next generation should always make improvements while learning from the past.

A well-rounded person is more likely to be successful in their professional and personal lives.

Whether your child’s school has STEM or STEAM-based education your little one will learn how to problem-solve, critically think, question and not merely follow, and develop proper social skills.

Ever since I’ve learned how similar they are, I knew they weren’t the same. So, that pushed me into another learning curve when I was first learning about STEM a long time ago.

I wanted to know what my girls would prefer. Which technique fits their personality? If you’re wondering too, check out the last section of this blog.



Should STEM and STEAM be Lumped Together?

Why Are STEM and STEAM Lumped Together - Should STEM and STEAM be Lumped Together - BrickMates


Short Answer:




The key difference in STEAM is the “Arts”. While it may seem like a small difference, it has a huge impact on those who find this style of learning easier or if they enjoy the arts more.

Your little one will further develop social skills, creative communication, creativity in general, and have an easier time adapting when things “don’t go their way”. 




You’re probably thinking it might be possible to lump these two terms together. They both help your child develop social skills, communication, and creativity, so what’s the big deal?!

I mean, it is easier to do so, but it doesn’t make sense if you really think about it and I’m all about trying to make sense of things.

Looking at engineers and technologists today, they rarely lack creativity. Their sole purpose is to use critical thinking to solve problems and creativity is a necessity for that.

With that said, they won’t be as creative as someone who is able to include arts as a formal component of learning.



An example of the difference in creative communication:

A STEM communicator will use a general design to show their solution while still solving the problem using critical thinking skills.

A STEAM communicator would use a detailed drawing that is aesthetically pleasing to the eye while showing the solution using critical thinking skills.

STEAM is thought to be different in the approach of teaching and learning. It’s a mindset shift.

As children properly develop spatial thinking, they can see 3-D in their heads from looking at 2-D drawings. This is especially important for scientists, engineers, and architects.

While they are similar enough to easily confuse many casual STEM enthusiasts into using these terms interchangeably, they shouldn’t.

The style of education is different in a few key ways, here is how:



  • Students learn how to apply the scientific method to each core subject in school so that they can learn how to use this concept in real-world situations.
  • There are fewer minorities and underrepresented communities (race and gender) in STEM-based professions.
  • Mindset is based on finding the best solution instead of multiple solutions. This can be good or bad depending on the problem at hand.
  • Aspects of art are included naturally as creativity and communication are developed through teamwork and hands-on activities.


  • Students learn comfort with open-ended questions and process. “The arts not only support scientific thinking but also expand and transform the traditional STEM curriculum to invite deeper observation, imagining, and revision.” – Educator, asdc.org
  • Can be used as a learning tool to increase underrepresented student’s motivation and increases the probability of success.
  • STEAM encourages unique solutions, inventive thinking and problem-solving.
  • Applies art in real situations, students aren’t actually learning the art as that is for their separate art class.


Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computer and responsible for the rise of Pixar Animation Studios and NeXt Computer Company has said, “The best ideas emerge from the intersection of technology and the humanities.”

There is no wrong choice when it comes to STEM or STEAM. Your child will work with designers and innovators or become one who will create high-quality, problem-solving techniques and continually love to learn as technology continues to develop.



Should STEM evolve into STEAM?


Why Are STEM and STEAM Lumped Together - Should STEM evolve into STEAM? - BrickMates


Short Answer:



Everyone learns a little different and our children will benefit more as they use an approach that will better set them up to learn the way they understand. Without the “arts”, your child will still be a well-rounded individual.



This is a large national debate and has a good reason, but the argument seems like it’s art teachers versus science teachers with a push from the public to foster development using STEM.

Some of the issues are fear based and rightfully so. The STEM movement has caused a marginalization of arts programs and funding in schools.

The decision makers are so focused on STEM only education that they forget creativity fosters development and art inspires creativity.

Just because these higher-ups are focused on providing a STEM-rich environment doesn’t mean the budget should take away from the little funding music and arts receive.

While I agree that art is crucial to stimulate innovation and creativity, I don’t think pushing STEM into STEAM is fair.



Sometimes it’s good to have choices. It’s not overwhelming like at the grocery store when you can’t decide between 50 different companies that produce 10 different types of peanut butter.

This is simple, your child understands and absorbs their education the best when activities are STEM or STEAM-based. There is enough of a difference between the two that your child may better learn in a setting that is STEM-based. The mindset shift that STEAM requires doesn’t suit all of us and the teacher using STEAM techniques needs to be well-equipped in knowing how to successfully introduce the arts in their lessons.

Since STEM embraces the four C’s: Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Communication and STEAM includes all of those, your little one is set up for success later on in life.

To support their new found passion, I’ve found it’s best to provide an environment that is a balance between your child’s IQ, EQ, and PQ.

PQ (Physiological Quotient): Your child won’t learn if they’re hungry or tired.

EQ (Emotional Quotient):  If your child is emotionally deprived, they can’t learn well.

IQ only blooms when PQ and EQ are supported.

According to Edutopia.org, STEAM lessons would blend skills and processes through creativity but because of that authentic assessment can be difficult. Plus, it can confuse students if the lesson is not developed correctly.

I do want to point out that teachers have to be well-versed in STEM and STEAM to best provide their students with lessons, otherwise, children can have a harder time understanding new concepts and they are more likely to disengage in school.

With that comes frustration which can cause children to give up too soon on STEM. Pre-teen and teens are more likely to not take science and math serious or pursue a career in this field if they don’t have a foundation of STEM as a child.

This is because the concepts become too difficult and/or boring.

One of the best ways to set your child up for success is to provide activities and toys that are STEM and STEAM-based at home.


Why Are STEM and STEAM Lumped Together - Best STEM and STEAM Puzzles - BrickMates


Learning happens at home. They have the freedom to take their time and work at their own pace.

Plus, most kids don’t continue learning after school which means this strategy will better develop your child to get ahead of the game!

If you have a toddler, this certified STEM toy is one of the best puzzles for child and parent. How do I know? Reviews don’t lie!

If your child is in elementary school, this will not only keep them occupied but actively engage them.

Most of all, Puzzle Clix is my new favorite. It’s a bit more advanced.

One thing these puzzles have in common is they all LOCK IN PLACE. That means I never step on a lego-like piece ever again and my kids don’t lose any pieces.

If that’s not a mom win, I don’t know what is.

Thanks so much for reading! You’re on your way to becoming the expert in STEM and STEAM just like me.

Are you team STEM or STEAM? Comment below why.

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