Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics Response to the “Engage to Excel” Report

The 2012 President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report, “Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics,” calls for a national initiative to promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in the first two years of college. A key finding of the report is that mathematics education is a critical component of all undergraduate STEM degrees, and that current deficiencies in mathematics learning are partly driving the loss of STEM majors in the early college years.
We strongly concur with the report’s finding that undergraduate students need exposure to math that is compelling and relevant to their STEM interests. As applied mathematicians and computational scientists, we live and breathe every day the fundamental role that mathematics plays in other STEM disciplines, regularly collaborating with scientists and engineers from every corner of the STEM world.

Just as these collaborations lead to fruitful new research discoveries, so too can collaborations between mathematicians and other STEM practitioners lead to engaging educational programs that will keep interest strong while appropriately preparing students for deeper learning in STEM fields. Many SIAM members have a long history of working with faculty in other disciplines to teach math as well as science and engineering courses.

In contrast, the PCAST report calls for mathematics courses to be taught by non-mathematicians. While we understand the objective of this recommendation to better connect students to the most relevant math skills for their disciplines, we believe this is the wrong approach. Collaboration, rather than removing mathematicians from the education equation, will ensure that students have access to relevant and exciting learning experiences with appropriate breadth and depth.

SIAM applauds the report’s call for increasing the use of research-based teaching methods and exposing undergraduates to early research experiences. Many SIAM members are actively engaged in efforts to expand early research opportunities for undergraduates. SIAM also has a special publication for highlighting undergraduate research to encourage more students to participate in these key formative experiences.

Read the complete response here.

You can access the original PCAST report on the White House website here.

 

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