Friday, April 26, 2013

More studies questioning the U.S. "STEM crisis"

A new survey of U.S. workers shows that fewer than a quarter use advanced mathematics in their work, and most of those using such math hold blue-collar technician jobs--not white collar positions. As reported in The Atlantic, the study surveyed 2,300 workers in a range of jobs over two phases from 2004 through 2009. The findings suggest that high-tech blue collar context could be a useful one for high school mathematics teachers. A couple other items of interest: A study around early childhood that indicates gesticulation drives home abstract concepts in mathematics instruction. And the Community College Research Center at Columbia University concludes from an interview study of 46 Virginia community college students that they prefer to take only "easy" courses online rather than "hard" courses.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Skepticism about supposed shortage of STEM workers

A new study finds that even if U.S. students on average are not as stellar in mathematics and science as their peers in some other developed nations, the nation still produces enough top-tier performers to fill a third of the so-called STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) workforce jobs available in the world today. This finding, from a report by a liberal-learning economic policy institution, counters the view that the nation is potentially facing a shortage of STEM workers because of educational system problems and needs to hire better educated temporary workers from the outside. Other findings that the legion of educational researchers who have been studying science and mathematics learning for the past 20 years may find surprising: The nation's post-secondary system is actually overproducing STEM majors relative to the jobs available. Apparently majoring in science or mathematics is not the guarantee to job security that we've been told. The report indicates that only half the U.S. STEM graduates actually secure STEM jobs, largely because there is not sufficient demand for STEM workers, not because these graduates lack knowledge or skills. Further, a surprising proportion of those working in STEM fields have landed those jobs without a college degree.