WHAT IS STEM?
I’m sure you’ve heard how important STEM is. You’ve also probably heard that people with STEM careers typically do pretty well financially. But what you might not have heard is what STEM actually is.
Getting a definition for STEM is easy enough: it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. So take a biology class in college, and technically you're taking a class that’s a part of STEM. However, STEM is much more than just a useful way of grouping subjects in a catchy acronym.
At its core, STEM is a teaching philosophy that integrates all four disciplines together into a single, cross-disciplinary program which offers instruction in real-world (as opposed to purely academic) applications and teaching methods.
Classes in the science category of STEM programs should look familiar and include biology, ecology, chemistry, and physics. However, your child's STEM-focused science class is not the kind of science class you might remember. STEM science classes incorporate technology, engineering, and math into scientific studies.
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The closest thing to technology classes may have been playing learn-to-type games during occasional computer lab sessions. Technology classes have definitely changed and may include topics like digital modeling and prototyping, 3D printing, mobile technology, computer programming, data analytics, Internet of Things, machine learning, and game development.
The field and scope of engineering have grown considerably in the last few decades. Engineering classes might include topics like civil engineering, electronics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and robotics—topics many parents could not have imagined learning as early as elementary school.
Mathematics is one STEM category with classes that will sound familiar, such as algebra, geometry, and calculus. However, STEM math has two main differences from the math parents remember. First, kids are learning more advanced mathematics at younger ages, with introductory algebra and geometry starting as early as third grade for some students, even those not enrolled in a STEM program. Second, it bears little resemblance to math as you may have learned it. STEM math incorporates concepts and exercises that apply science, technology, and engineering to mathematics.