Amanda Vaden
Child with paint on face looking straight at camera.

With Halloween earlier this the week, it’s a fitting time for us to reflect on some of the more “terrifying” topics of our times. Starting with some scary STEM stats that might make you think twice about the state of science, technology, engineering, and math in the U.S.

But don’t worry — while they may be daunting, they are all within our power to fix!

U.S. students are lagging in STEM proficiency. STEM feeds innovation, yet students in the United States are consistently underperforming in science, technology, engineering, and math — the U.S. is ranked 22nd and 31st for Science and Math, respectively. This issue gained attention when the Federal Government expressed concern over the dropping performance of STEM students in the U.S. and launched the Educate to Innovate campaign.

Most teachers do not have a degree (or formal training) in STEM. Seventy-eight percent of U.S. teachers say they have not received the training necessary to teach STEM topics. This causes a lack of confidence in incorporating STEM into the classroom, or teachers who might not know where to begin when doing so.

Minorities have become a minority in STEM education. Less than half of African-American (42 percent) and Latino (49 percent) students complete the STEM courses they start, compared to 70 percent of Caucasian students. This statistic assumes a greater significance when you consider that minority groups pursue STEM courses much less frequently than non-minority groups in the first place — often as a result of inadequate academic preparation.

There are fewer women in STEM. Women are graduating college at greater numbers than ever before. Since 2014, more women than men earn college degrees each year; and while they are increasingly finding a place in tech companies, they are still not fulfilling their share of technical roles.

The gender gap in STEM develops earlier than we think. By middle school, only 11 percent of girls expect to take up STEM careers versus about 36 percent of boys. Gender stereotyping begins from a very young age with girls being discouraged — both directly and indirectly — from taking up math and science. As a result, many young women end up feeling unprepared and diffident for STEM careers when pitted against their male counterparts.

While there is no magic spell to completely address all of the problems with STEM education in the U.S., experts suggest that the earlier kids are exposed to STEM education, the better. So find any opportunity that you can to get your kids interested in discovering the joys of STEM! Maybe the future won’t be so scary after all.

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