Why is STEM Hard to Define?

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Why is STEM Hard to Define?

What is STEM education? It’s widely accepted that the acronym STEM stands for “science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

According to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), “A common definition of STEM education […] is an interdisciplinary approach to learning where rigorous academic concepts are coupled with real-world lessons as students apply science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in contexts that make connections between school, community, work, and the global enterprise enabling the development of STEM literacy and with it the ability to compete in the new economy.”

Perspectives Change the Definition

The NSTA goes on to state that this definition leaves questions in what STEM education truly means, and discusses how the definition can changed based on the perspective of the individual – whether an educator, a member of the workforce, etc. There are also many variations of STEM that incorporate additional subjects.

What about STEAM and STREAM?

Variations on STEM include: STEAM (adds “arts”) and STREAM (adds “reading” or “research” and “arts”). Even these, at their core, focus on foundational subjects in education and effectively preparing students for the future. NSTA summarizes the many variations of STEM education by saying, “It is about moving forward, solving problems, learning, and pushing innovation to the next level.”

Preparing Students for Careers in STEM Fields

According to the U.S. Department of Education, “All young people should be prepared to think deeply and to think well so that they have the chance to become the innovators, educators, researchers, and leaders who can solve the most pressing challenges facing our nation and our world, both today and tomorrow. But, right now, not enough of our youth have access to quality STEM learning opportunities and too few students see these disciplines as springboards for their careers.”

Introducing curricula and educational programming focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics is intended to help better prepare students in these areas of learning and create practical applications for how these lessons apply to the real world. STEM education is designed to encourage students to pursue these subjects as well as innovation and research in their education and career paths. This focus will help prepare future generations to best handle our world’s biggest problems.

Want to learn more?

For more information on STEM education and its impact on students, download our white paper on exposure to innovation.

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