Of all U.S. high school students who graduated in 2011, only 45 percent were ready for college-level math and a mere 30 percent were ready for science, according to ACT, a college-entrance testing agency. These data reflect the great challenge facing the U.S. in preparing students for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers.
Unfortunately, this STEM challenge is having a negative economic impact on the U.S. For example, Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce predicts that by 2018, the U.S. will fall short by at least 3 million workers with college degrees.
One of the obstacles to solving this problem is that students are simply not interested in or excited by STEM subjects. With the notable exception of Iron Man’s alter ego Tony Stark, our popular culture doesn’t often celebrate engineers, scientists, or mathematicians. According to a recent survey by Intel Corporation and Change the Equation, a non-profit coalition of more than 100 CEOs focused on STEM learning in U.S. schools, three out of five teenagers have never considered a career in engineering. So it’s no wonder that high school students can’t appreciate how STEM learning translates into a career.