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December 1, 2014
Vol. 72
No. 4

Double Take

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Research Alert

The Ups and Downs of STEM

The Ups
Since 2007, student interest in majoring in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has increased sharply in two fields: engineering and biology, according to research presented at the 2014 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. The study looked at data from the freshman survey conducted annually by the University of California at Los Angeles—specifically, at the proportion of freshmen planning to enroll in STEM fields.
Engineering experienced the greatest growth, at 57.1 percent, followed by biology at 28.2 percent, mathematics at 12.6 percent, and the physical sciences at 11.1 percent. The research, conducted by Jerry A. Jacobs and Linda Sax, was highlighted in the April 2014 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education (see
The Downs
According to the U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index, which measures U.S. activity in those fields relative to the year 2000, high school aptitude and interest in pursuing STEM fields have not kept pace with the demand for STEM workers. Although STEM employment in the United States has increased by more than 30 percent, from 12.8 million STEM jobs in 2000 to 16.8 million STEM jobs in 2013, high school student interest levels in STEM are now slightly below where they were in 2000. The report also notes a small drop in the latest U.S. PISA scores in math and science, compared with how students fared on those assessments in 2000. The index is available at

Only Online

Teach the Hour of Code

Show your students that anyone can learn the basics of computer programming—in only 60 minutes—by hosting an Hour of Code in your classroom. Hour of Code events are one-hour tutorial sessions that give students the opportunity to write their first few lines of code. The tutorials are game-like and self-directed, enabling students to work at their own pace and skill level.
Although anybody can host an Hour of Code anytime, the goal is for tens of millions of students to try an Hour of Code during December 8–14, 2014, in celebration of Computer Science Education Week. To sign up or learn more about the tutorials, go to

Relevant Reads

How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg (Penguin Press, 2014)
"When am I going to use this?" Every mathematics teacher has heard this question, and often the answer is an unsatisfactory, vague suggestion that the student may eventually embark on a career in STEM. Jordan Ellenberg offers a better answer:
Knowing mathematics is like wearing a pair of X-ray specs that reveal hidden structures underneath the messy and chaotic surface of the world. Math is the science of not being wrong about things, its tools and habits hammered out by centuries of hard work and argument. With the tools of mathematics at hand, you can understand the world in a deeper, sounder, and more meaningful way.
To support this grand claim, Ellenberg presents illustrations from politics, medicine, economics, and theology. Is the United States facing an "obesity apocalypse"? Do colleges whose students have higher average SAT scores charge higher tuition? Even readers who normally avoid mathematics will come away from this book feeling more in the know.


Check out the following TED Talks on STEM:
  • In "The Magic of Fibonacci Numbers," the "mathemagician" Arthur Benjamin explores hidden properties of the Fibonacci series and reminds us how inspiring mathematics can be: <LINK URL=""></LINK>
  • In "Hands-On Science with Squishy Circuits," educator AnnMarie Thomas shows how homemade play dough can be used to demonstrate electrical properties—and turn little kids into circuit designers: <LINK URL=""></LINK>

Numbers of Note


"Failure is a necessary attribute of engineering. That's quite a contrast from traditional schoolwork."
<ATTRIB> —Christine M. Cunningham and Melissa Higgins </ATTRIB>

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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