topSkip to main content

Menu, Secondary

Menu Trigger


How to Open the STEM Pipeline

By Dartmouth College President Philip J. Hanlon and Barnard College President Sian Leah Beilock:

University presidential transitions can create unexpected alliances. And so, too, with the two of us, as a mathematician (Phil) prepares to hand off the presidency of Dartmouth to a cognitive scientist who studies math anxiety (Sian).

In the process, we have discovered many things on which we agree, and chief among them is this: Our nation must find more effective ways to imbue young people with the curiosity, confidence, and joy to pursue the study of math — as well as science, technology, and engineering, the three other vectors on the compass known as STEM.

First, we as a nation need to be honest with ourselves about the depth of the problem. Education leaders bemoan the precipitous drop in math test scores during the COVID years. But the virus, however deadly, is a convenient scapegoat. National Assessment of Educational Progress scores have lingered at below-proficient levels for more than a decade in math, despite billions in federal funding and new policies focused on lagging academic success.

That the persistent underperformance in math remains a defining challenge — especially for women and students from historically underrepresented backgrounds, despite decades of effort — is underscored by, well, the math: While Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, and Alaska Natives represent 33 percent of the US population, they receive only 24 percent of all science and engineering degrees awarded to US citizens and just 13 percent of doctoral degrees. Meanwhile, women earn just 22 percent of bachelor’s degrees in engineering and are similarly underrepresented at the master’s and doctorate degree level in engineering, computer, science, and math.

Those stark statistics only begin to illuminate the ripple effect of that disproportionate representation. Research shows that innovation and discovery are powered by the fuel of fresh insight. And the spark of combustion is often ignited by the collective efforts of scientists from widespread backgrounds raising, and then pursuing, a range of questions.

Read the rest of the article in The Boston Globe.