Curriculum Blog Series – STEMatters! Three Reasons Why it Really Matters – Joy Lawson Davis, Ed. D.


STEMatters! Three reasons why focusing on STEM really matters.

By Joy Lawson Davis, Ed.D.

RIISE  families have been asking for her. And, it’s our pleasure to have her lead our Curriculum Blog Series.
Thanks Dr. Joy! 

Parents are constantly bombarded with national and international news about educational issues and the impact of day-to-day schooling on short and long term educational goals. Recently, there has been an increasing amount of information regarding the importance of instruction in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses/programs and subsequent careers. This article provides an overview of three very important reasons to learn more about STEM and why this cluster of content area courses is so critical to your child’s success in school and in the future.

Why early exposure to Algebra matters: Algebra is known as the gatekeeper course. Research notes that students who take Algebra I in the 7th or 8th grade are more likely to enter college and complete a four year degree program than others who take algebra later. Algebra and other math and science courses provide students practice in critical thinking and problem solving, two skills important to success in our globally competitive marketplace. Schools who have been most successful in exposing students to high level math courses early have noted higher overall achievement rates. Skills learned in Algebra are transferable to other high level mathematics courses. Students who complete Algebra I in middle school have more opportunities to experience higher level math courses during the high school career and be better prepared for college.

Why providing STEM enrichment opportunities matter: Providing opportunities for children of color to be engage with STEM professionals make a difference in their attitudes, self-esteem, and broaden their college and career opportunities. Mentorships, internships, after-school programs with STEM professionals are excellent ways to help students ‘envision themselves’ in careers in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics. Same gender programs are especially important. Research has noted that connecting girls with female STEM professionals sustains their interest in STEM careers and subsequently impact their choice of college majors. Providing male and female role models and early exposure to STEM related careers can increase their interest, self confidence, and achievement in STEM coursework. Examination of life experiences of African American male and female pioneers in STEM are critical to share and discuss so that students understand that others like them have made significant contributions to STEM fields.

Why early and sustained preparation for STEM matters: The U.S. Department of Labor projects that by 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer specialist job openings. Yet U.S. universities are expected produce only enough qualified graduates to fill 29% of these jobs. Preparing for careers in STEM areas requires excellent classroom instruction, gender role models and mentors in the sciences, and early exposure to career opportunities. African American and other students from culturally diverse groups often do opt to take STEM courses or select STEM related careers at the same level that their White peers. Sustaining preparation involves enrolling in ensuring that AP courses are available at the high school level, taking STEM AP courses and being fully prepared to take AP tests in all areas. Students who earn a 3 or better on AP examinations have opportunities to earn college credit at most colleges and universities.

As your child’s best advocate, your role in ensuring that resources necessary for their proper preparation cannot be overstated. The data is clear, success in STEM courses will pave the way for your child’s greater success in high school and college; will improve their self-esteem and overall school achievement; thus, opening doors to a wider variety of career opportunities in the future.

Related links:

Exposing black males to technology

Nine strategies for motivating students in mathematics

Technology programs for females

Why is algebra so important?


Dr. Davis is an  assistant Professor of Education at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, she teaches undergraduate & graduate courses in Diversity Education & Gifted Education, respectively. She began her career in gifted education as a local coordinator in Virginia and eventually served for five years as State Specialist for Gifted Programs, K-12 for the Commonwealth of VA. As a sought-out expert in the area of Diversity in Gifted Education, Dr. Davis has provided services to districts across the country, in the Caribbean and South Africa.

Dr. Davis holds two degrees (Masters and Doctorate) in gifted education from The College of William & Mary in Virginia, and is currently serving Co- Chair of the National Association for Gifted Children’s Diversity & Equity Committee. Dr. Davis also writes a column for Teaching for High Potential, a publication of the NAGC and is co-editor ofMOSAIC, the Special Populations Network newsletter for NAGC. Most recently, Dr. Davis was named to the Advisory Board of Gifted Child Today, a practitioner-oriented peer reviewed journal with the largest subscription base of any gifted education journal in the nation.

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