Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Focusing on the M in STEM in the High School Math Curriculum

In 2014, CNN reported that only 16% of high school seniors end up pursuing careers in STEM, despite the fact that industry-related jobs are growing at a rate 1.7% faster compared to non-STEM-related professions. Furthermore, many of those who have related degrees end up pursuing careers outside of what they were trained in.

It seems that it would be useful to offer a STEM Math course in high school that would prepare students to study STEM in college so that they will be ready for a STEM career. This doesn’t have to violate what NCTM has outlined in Catalyzing Change in High School Mathematics where the authors say that in the first 2.5 years of high school students should continue to work on and be able to use the essential math concepts that all students should know. This includes statistics which should be included in the algebra 1, algebra 2 sequence. Students who want to do AP Calculus would continue along a path that includes a pre-calculus course. Course selection after the common pathway should be based on students’ needs, goals, and interests. This is where a course in STEM would serve a useful purpose. I would call it steM where the focus is on mathematics within the context of science, technology, and engineering. Matt Larson has written that STEM in its present implementation is not strong in its math component. I agree. And that’s why we need to develop a STEM course that focuses on the math component and makes it come alive for students. One example that came to mind was the example in Dan Meyer’s blog: The Teaching Muscle I want to Strengthen in 2018.  In it, he mentioned a Desmos activity called Complete the Arch that could become a part of the lesson of building an arch-style bridge. I searched for an arch bridge building lesson which I didn’t find (most of the bridge activities were for elementary students) but I did find some neat videos that would be perfect to show in the contents of a high school lesson.

So in summary what I’m calling for is for NCTM to organize a committee that would focus on developing an excellent steM curriculum that could be an option for students who are not on the calculus path.

Let me know what you think.