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A Look at STEM Education from the Top Down

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Issues and Answers in Mathematics Education

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

22.57.1 - 22.57.14



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Paper Authors


Peter J. Sherman Iowa State University

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Professor Sherman received his Ph.D. in ME in 1984. Since that time he has conducted teaching and research in a wide variety of areas related to engineering, mathematics and statistics. He currently holds a joint appointment in the departments of aerospace engineering and statistics at Iowa State University.

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1This work addresses STEM education issues, not in the traditional formative frameworkassociated with K-12 education, but rather, in relation to what one might deem, the positiveoutcome framework associated with students majoring in STEM areas at the university level.The motivation for this approach is based on an argument that, while university students inSTEM disciplines are considered as STEM education achievements, fundamental flaws in basicconceptual mathematical knowledge persist; flaws that if more aggressively addressed at the K-12 level could result in attracting more youth to pursue STEM interests. Four hypotheses that arebelieved to correlate directly to a weak grasp of basic mathematical concepts among upper levelundergraduates in engineering and graduate students in both engineering and other STEMdisciplines are proposed with supporting evidence. They include:(H1) A significant number of engineering students not only lack basic mathematical conceptualknowledge, but are either unable and/or resistant to learn it.(H2) The language and symbols used in mathematics can cause confusion that significantly stifles the desire to recognize and/or learn underlying concepts.(H3) The level of self-perceived mathematical knowledge is contextual, and(H4) A polarized classroom environment is more likely when conceptual knowledge is emphasized.This work implicates specific potential flaws in the very foundation of STEM education. Anincreased knowledge of the nature of these flaws and how they manifest in relation to STEMdisciplines at the university level could lead to potentially transformative approaches to STEMeducation at all levels.The weaker the level of understanding of basic mathematical concepts is among those beingeducated to be teachers in STEM areas of K-12 curricula, the more likely is will be that futuregenerations of students in those curricula will be presented with procedural knowledge with aprogressively weaker foundation. Students who are more inclined toward such knowledge willbe favored, while those who thirst for a deeper, more holistic understanding will be left behind;those very students who are most needed for the long term benefit of any 21ST century society.

Sherman, P. J. (2011, June), A Look at STEM Education from the Top Down Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17339

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