American high school students are not pursuing STEM subjects as much as they used to. This is happening for a few reasons but according to many Americans, 52 percent, this is because the subjects are too hard and when we look at factors like ACT Math scores being at a 20 year low, we can see that this is becoming a serious problem. The question is how do we fix it? Well, in a recent survey American high school students gave us the answer.
Earlier this year the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, or SIAM, conducted a survey of over 1,500 high school students that were participating in their annual MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge. Along with other questions the students were asked to share their opinions on how more students could be drawn to STEM subjects and how the government can help advance students in these subjects. The students gave their answers and it seems to have made the solution to the problem pretty clear.
Drawing More Students to STEM subjects
A lot of students just are not interested in pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math. This is not a problem that can fix itself. It will require an action of some kind to reach out to America’s youth and according to American high school students, the answer is fairly simple. About 57 percent of the students in the survey suggested more out of the box teaching methods. That seems to make a lot of sense to me. Interesting teaching methods help keep students attention and make things more fun. Furthermore, 49 percent suggested showing how these subjects apply to real life. Again that seems to make a lot of sense, why bother learning something you are not going to use in your life? I remember making that argument many times when I was younger. Other suggestions included using more technology in the classroom and more humor in teaching methods.
It looks like we have some pretty simple answers to the problem. Now we just need to find ways to implement them and sadly I think that will not be easy at all.
How can the Government help advance STEM students?
I thought this was an interesting question. Often today we talk about how the government is failing us and which politicians need to go or stay. This question put government action right in the hands of the high school students and their answers were informative but pretty evenly split. About 25 percent suggested more STEM-related competitions. While 23 percent suggested more technology in the classroom could help student advancement. Also, 20 percent said more accessibility to STEM awards and scholarships would help. Those were the largest answers but there were a few others that seemed like good ideas as well.
None of the answers were able to draw a majority so it looks like this issue still needs some thought put behind it.
The results of this survey could help solve the problem of interest among American students but it’s going to take a lot of time and effort before we see a change. Hopefully, we take this opportunity to listen to our nation’s youth and make that change.
To learn more about the Mathworks Math Modeling Challenge please visit their website.