What People Are Saying About STEM

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Integration

Technology Student Association (TSA), 2010

“In recent years, not only educators, but also political, civic and industry leaders have pushed for a greater emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in our schools. These groups feel that in order for our nation to be competitive, healthy and vibrant, our young people must have competency in the 21st century skills afforded through the STEM fields. TSA promotes a vision of students literate in these fields as well, and believes that the competitions within this guide help make that vision a reality.

STEM education is not just the isolated and discreet acquisition of knowledge and skills related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Rather, STEM education demands the interweaving and application of these academic fields for the purpose of comprehending, communicating, and solving problems. Indeed, it is now commonly accepted that to understand (and apply) any one of these STEM areas, one must, at the same time, have a grasp of and apply the others. (For example, to design and engineer with any degree of complexity, one also must be familiar with technology, mathematics and science; or to practice science, one must have a firm knowledge of mathematics and technology.)

Beyond necessity, there is another reason for STEM education in our schools — and why the TSA program of activities inherently aligns with STEM goals. This reason revolves around teaching and learning, and what motivates students. STEM education is intrinsically exciting, rewarding and meaningful for instructors and students alike. It is our belief that, as with STEM education, TSA’s activities provide the same kind of stimulation, challenge and relevancy for all involved.”

The Overlooked STEM Imperatives: Technology and Engineering K-12 Education

ITEEA, 2009

“…There is still confusion about the meaning of STEM Education.  Some people believe erroneously that technology is really about instructional technologies, but this would put three subjects – science, mathematics and engineering – in parallel with a tool – instructional technology.  The preponderance of what is called STEM still focuses on four silos of varying magnitude…One could argue that engineering education really is STEM education. Whereas silos emphasize synthesis of disciplinary knowledge to do applications, engineering involves inquiry in the design process to think critically and to solve problems.  These principles of science and the analysis of mathematics are applied to technological problems of benefit to society.  The learning is in relevant contexts and uses hands-on activities to engage students…This is STEM.”

“…When mathematics and science knowledge are related to the engineering content, student learning of content and subject matter is approached in a way that addresses variation in learning styles.”

STEM Education Has Little to Do With Flowers

Natalie Angier, The New York Times, October 4, 2010

“…Aficionados pronounce STEM exactly as you’d imagine — like the plant part, like the cell type, like what you do to a tide and I wish I could do to this trend, but it’s probably too late. Go to any convention, Congressional hearing or science foundation bagel chat on the ever ominous theme of “Science in the Classroom, and why can’t our students be more like Singapore’s when they take international tests anyway?” and you’ll hear little about how to teach trigonometry or afford all those Popsicle sticks needed for the eighth-grade bridge-building competition, but you’ll be pelted by references to STEM…”

“…As even those who use the term admit, it is deeply, serio-comically flawed. For starters, it is opaque and confusing. “Everybody who knows what it means knows what it means, and everybody else doesn’t,” said Eric Lander, co-chairman of the president’s advisory council and head of the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. When he first heard the term, he figured it was a too-cute reference to botany. “I thought, stem education? What about flower education?” he said…”

“….These days, given the public’s fixation on embryonic stem cells — progenitor cells that give rise to all the different tissues of the body — the potential for confusion is even worse. “People hear about STEM education, and they think some harm has come to an embryo in the process,” Dr. Lander said…”

“…A program officer from a foundation recently asked me, ‘Is the work you’re doing STEM education or science education?’ ” said Elizabeth Stage, the director of the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley. “I drew him a Venn diagram, showing him what’s central about science and how that overlaps with technology, engineering and math.”

“…Dr. Stage, a mathematician by training, thinks it’s a “false distinction” to “silo out” the different disciplines, and would much prefer to focus on what the fields have in common, like problem-solving, arguing from evidence and reconciling conflicting views. “That’s what we should have in the bulls’-eye of our target,” she said…”

“….The decision to include engineering and technology in the education “messaging” dates roughly to the 1990s, when the National Science Foundation and other government agencies began trying to draw up national standards for science education, specifying what students in kindergarten through 12th grade should know by the end of every school year…”

“…Pragmatism and economics are also part of the equation. As government has turned ever more avidly to industry to help pay for expensive improvements in the science classroom, the need to emphasize the link between a well-rounded science education and tomorrow’s techie work force has grown accordingly. “A lot of corporations are now talking to each other about what they’re doing in STEM education,” said Dr. Stage, and those corporations include engineering and computer heavyweights like Exxon Mobil, Intel and Hewlett-Packard.”

“Dr. Lander argues that that there is a basic rightness to the itemizing spirit behind STEM. “Science is discovering the laws of the natural world, and mathematics isn’t that, it’s logical, deductive truth, and its experiments don’t have error bars,” he said. “And when you get to technology and engineering, it’s the constructed world, and that’s different than the discovered one.” He’d like a better term than the current one, but said he’s tried “all four factorial permutations” of the letters, and the alternatives are either unpronounceable or already claimed by a baseball team. Dr. Ride points out that an earlier version of the official acronym was, in fact, SMET, “and thankfully we’ve moved away from that,” she said…”

“…Besides, acronyms encourage rampant me-tooism. Mr. Dyak said that some have lobbied for the addition of medicine to the scholastic program, complete with a second M. “It’s called STEM squared,” he said. Even the arts are hankering for an orthographic position, he added.”