Traditionally, science, technology, engineering and mathematics have been taught as isolated subjects in our schools. Yes, math is a tool that is often used in science classes; and technology, such as calculators, is used in teaching math, science and engineering. And of course the computer has found its way into all content areas in many classrooms. However, the STEM approach to education involves the idea of purposefully integrating all of these subjects together, and in the context of rigorous, authentic, real-life critical thinking and problem solving. Why the change?

To truly understand phenomena and events, as well as navigate and participate within today’s rapidly changing world, whether within its natural- or human-made realms, requires a comprehensive education in STEM content. Just as important in these endeavors, are the skills of critical thinking and problem solving. More specifically, we want our young people to learn the skills of: asking questions and defining problems, obtaining and evaluating information, developing and using models, planning and carrying out investigations, selecting and using appropriate tools, analyzing and interpreting data, using mathematics and computational thinking, constructing explanations and designing solutions, using evidence to support one’s arguments, and communicating all of this in both speech and writing. Education experts and industry leaders are rallying for this type of rigorous learning.

Moreover, according to the National Science Foundation:

A well-prepared, innovative science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce is crucial to the Nation’s health and economy. Indeed, recent policy actions and reports have drawn attention to the opportunities and challenges inherent in increasing the number of highly qualified STEM graduates . . . Priorities include educating students to be leaders and innovators in emerging and rapidly changing STEM fields as well as educating a scientifically literate populace.

Presently, and in the near future, young people seeking STEM careers will find more jobs available and at higher salaries. See, for example, this recent research report from the Pew Research Center, 6 facts about America’s STEM workforce, and this video on the need for engineers.

Here’s an article about encouraging girls to pursue STEM; it has some good external links. Many of the ideas would be inspiring to all young people. Tips for Getting Girls Involved in STEM