The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) was recently awarded a National Science Foundation grant for an initiative to increase mathematical modeling and computational applied mathematics in high school and college curricula. The effort is being led by SIAM Executive Director Jim Crowley and SIAM Vice President for Education Peter Turner (Clarkson University) with guidance from a Steering Committee representing several constituencies.
The main themes of the workshop, aptly titled, 'Modeling Across the Curriculum,' are to increase mathematical modeling across undergraduate curricula, develop STEM High School (and potentially AP) courses based on modeling and computation, and assess college STEM readiness.While the proposal is relevant in this age of growing concern for America's falling standards in math and science education, it is especially timely in the wake of the Undergraduate STEM Education report released by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) earlier this year.
The objectives of the workshop address several key issues raised in the PCAST report, such as increasing student preparedness for STEM majors and overall enhancement of STEM education in the first two years of college. The workshop can also help answer the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) recommendations to increase modeling and application-based learning in school curricula.
For the undergraduate component, the workshop will propose ideas for multidisciplinary STEM education, taking into consideration previous work undertaken to integrate various STEM elements, such as, the University of New Hampshire's Calculus-Physics program, and various programs at the undergraduate and graduate level that promote expansion of Computational Science and Engineering. Computational Science and Engineering is the cornerstone of STEM learning, and SIAM is uniquely positioned to engender such expansion, given its longstanding commitment to promoting research and education in CSE.
The proposed high school applied mathematics program will give students an introduction to STEM through courses in modeling and computational and applied mathematics, including project-based modules. These would replace or complement existing AP or other courses, with the main goal of integrating STEM subjects without including additional basic content and increasing real-world focus in math and science education in high schools.
Assessment and evaluation of college readiness—the third goal of the workshop—would be critical to address the "math gap" identified in the PCAST report. Careful evaluation of curricula is needed in order to better prepare high school students for STEM majors, at the same time adapting early college education to narrow this gap.
The idea for the workshop was borne out of discussions between SIAM and NSF Education and Human Resources representatives early last year on undergraduate and K-12 courses and programs, college readiness and career preparation.
Based on the PCAST report, CCSSI recommendations, and anecdotal information from high school and college educators, there is clearly a need to emphasize interactions and interconnections between various STEM areas and approach STEM education in a more coordinated fashion. Applied and computational mathematics, as well as statistics, are naturally suited to such a collaboration.
Carefully evaluating and developing material that enhances the STEM educational spectrum in a coordinated manner would go a long way in better preparing our students for STEM college majors and careers, thus increasing the pipeline of scientific and technical talent in America.
The Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is an international society of over 14,000 individual members, including applied and computational mathematicians and computer scientists, as well as other scientists and engineers. Members from 85 countries are researchers, educators, students, and practitioners in industry, government, laboratories, and academia. The Society, which also includes nearly 500 academic and corporate institutional members, serves and advances the disciplines of applied mathematics and computational science by publishing a variety of books and prestigious peer-reviewed research journals, by conducting conferences, and by hosting activity groups in various areas of mathematics. SIAM provides many opportunities for students including regional sections and student chapters. Further information is available at www.siam.org.