The 2012 President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report, “Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics,” calls for exactly what it’s name indicates: a nationwide initiative to promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in the first two years of college.
SIAM strongly supports the PCAST report’s call for a national experiment to improve mathematics education, including an initiative to improve K-16 mathematics teaching and learning and to build on frontier math and science as well as STEM learning research to catalyze student engagement and learning.
SIAM also agrees with the PCAST report’s finding that undergraduate students need mathematics exposure that is compelling and relevant to their STEM interests. However, the report proposes to achieve this by recommending that math courses be taught by non-mathematicians.
While SIAM understands the underlying goal to better connect students to the most relevant math skills for their respective disciplines, we believe that collaboration with mathematicians, rather than removing mathematicians from educational roles is important to achieve these objectives, as this will ensure student access to relevant and exciting learning experiences with appropriate breadth and depth.
SIAM’s community of applied mathematicians and computational scientists interact and collaborate daily with scientists and engineers in various STEM fields. Just as research collaborations between mathematicians and computational scientists and those in other STEM disciplines have found so much success, so can collaborations between mathematicians and STEM practitioners leading to engaging educational programs. SIAM members routinely work with faculty in other disciplines to teach math as well as science and engineering courses.
The SIAM community is committed to this cause as SIAM has made advances in fostering collaborations across the STEM spectrum and promoting education at all levels over the last few decades. The applied mathematics community can play a very significant role in improving undergraduate education and in increasing the STEM pipeline.
Please read SIAM’s full response here.
The original PCAST report can be accessed on the Whitehouse website here.