Influential Voices: STEM and the Future

As I read Paul’s blog post this month, I found myself thinking about my current frustration with my son’s education. In the past, I’ve said good things about the education that my children are receiving, but this year, my son hit the front of the pack in his class with his math skills, he has a teacher who is not able to be as flexible as I’d like to be able to accommodate multiple levels in the classroom. From the sound of things, my son is now working independently a unit or more ahead of his class, but it is not clear if he is being taught the material or he is learning it on his own. He was supposed to get a high school student who was advanced to work with him, but I’m not sure that this has happened, and my son hasn’t told me.

So why am I telling you about my son when we are talking about STEM and the future? Because my son on his own is not the future, but my son, and each of his peers, and the rest of his school, and all the other children that age ARE the future of STEM. If we lose them one by one because they are not getting what they need because they are not at the middle of the pack, STEM is not going to have a future. I love that when I take my son to my daughter’s gymnastics meets, he wants to add up the scores and come up with his own metrics. I love that my son asked for science kits for his birthday and is teaching my daughter and doing projects with her from the kits. I can manage the expectations of hard work or a costly education if the school doesn’t turn my kids off to STEM before they have the opportunity to explore it as a career.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. feifanchang
    Feb 07, 2012 @ 07:39:35

    The quality of education is the more important one issue .
    It is good to check your child performance that either he is getting some knowledge or still on same position where he was previously.
    Thanks for sharing the post.


  2. Gracii
    Feb 08, 2012 @ 18:51:07

    It’s my understanding (from a friend that is currently a high school teacher) that the problem is not teachers, it is the board and the current curriculum and the schools’ requirements. She explained to me that she has students in her math and science classes that are head and shoulders above the rest, some in the middle of the pack and some that are slower than the rest, yet she is required by the school to keep her lesson plan geared towards the middle of the pack, and not to acknowledge or encourage or have separate classes for the kids like your son, who are ahead of the pack.


    • Aimee Siegler
      Feb 10, 2012 @ 08:57:33

      Gracii – I am not sure if this is the same in elementary schools as it is in high schools, but I know that they manage to accommodate the different reading levels by putting the kids in groups and letting them work at their own pace. If they accommodate reading this way they should be able to do the same for math.

      As an update, this week, after three months on waiting, my son got a visit from student services, and along with one other 4th grader, he is going to get the opportunity to work with a high school student on math in a smaller group. So at least things are moving in the right direction, and my son is excited to get going on this. I’ll share more on this as I see the results.


  3. Cindy Veenstra
    Feb 14, 2012 @ 08:17:50

    Aimee, your concerns are well-placed. I have had many parents tell me that their sons or daughters are being turned off to math in the early grades. I’m sure you have advocated for improving the education system by participating in PTA meetings and talking to the teacher and principal.
    In addition, as parents we can help improve the educational system, by finding successful, established outreach programs and encourage schools system to participate, in order to enrich our children’s educational experiences. From the ASQ Advancing the STEM Agenda Conference we had last summer, we saw examples of companies or individuals collaborating with school systems to enrich the math and science programs. For example, HyPerMath has developed a virtual racetrack, where students use their math skills to design engines for their virtual cars. The students love the program and learn advanced math in the process (high school level).

    I keep a list of K12 STEM outreach programs that may be of interest
    If you have not seen the Design Squad TV show, check it out. At the elementary school level, one of my favorite is the Odyssey of the Mind program, which promotes creative thinking. It includes a structure and a vehicle problem (more math application).

    As a result of the participation in collaborative efforts at last year’s conference and our belief that more collaboration is needed, we have put a stronger focus on collaboration between STEM education and industry for this year’s conference.

    Cindy Veenstra


    • Aimee Siegler
      Feb 14, 2012 @ 11:01:11

      Thanks for sharing the links and feedback Cindy. I am going to share this information with the school. Another update on my son – last Friday, the 4th graders went to Winona State for a field trip on chemistry, and now he wants to study chemistry in college. This weekend he did an experiment with his sister to show surface tension by dropping liquids on a penny to see which would flow over the edge first. So I am seeing some positive sparks here. I will continue to share updates on this. When dealing with your own children, it can be a very emotionally charged subject. As parents, I think that all we really want for our children is that they be given the opportunity to get a high quality, well rounded education to afford them the opportunity to make a choice of what they want to be when they grow up, and have a strong enough foundation to pursue it.


  4. jimecalfa
    Feb 21, 2012 @ 02:23:33

    Great post! Thanks for sharing your story.

    Let me share with you what it is happening in my country, Argentina, about STEM careers; I would love to have your comments.



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