Push for Science and Math Education Can Mean Greater Rewards for Students

(ARA) – The message becomes clearer the more it’s repeated: America needs to catch up when it comes to science and math. International student tests have shown that America’s students lag behind their peers in other countries, and many feel that it’s essential to gain ground in those fields if America’s future is truly going to be bright.

The Obama administration is leading the charge to emphasize the importance of science and math education. In President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address, he made a point of mentioning the need for stronger science and math education, saying, “We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair.”

Obama and others have noted that without a strong science and math education, America’s children might not have the skills necessary to keep innovation and technology growing in the United States. And in a world market where America must compete with other nations that have strong science and math programs, the country’s future is considered to be closely tied to its students’ abilities.

The effort to encourage kids in science and math should come from inside and outside the classroom. Teachers and schools certainly do their part, but parents can also help foster an interest in the science and math fields. Something as simple as taking a young child to a science museum might be the catalyst for a lasting fascination that could turn into a career.

For older students, parents can act as guides by discussing the benefits of careers in the science, math and technology fields. In addition to the government’s enthusiasm for science, many large corporations are eager to promote science and math education, as they will be dependent on a strong base of well-educated future employees.

Scholarships for science and math students are abundantly available, and other programs offer opportunities that go even further. The Intel Science Talent Search, for instance, a program of Society for Science & the Public (SSP), is an annual competition that identifies the nation’s most promising young scientists and mathematicians. Science Talent Search alumni have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize, Fields Medals, National Medals of Science and even an Academy Award, illustrating that awards for the creative and inspiring work of science are available.

High school seniors are eligible for the award and this year, 1,744 students entered the competition with original research projects from a range of mathematical, engineering, environmental and scientific disciplines. The field was narrowed down to 300 semifinalists and $600,000 in awards was divided among the students and their schools, to support math and science resources. Forty finalists gathered in Washington D.C. to compete for more than $630,000 in awards.

Evan O’Dorney, 17, of Danville, Calif., won the top award of $100,000 from the Intel Foundation for his mathematical project in which he compared two ways to estimate the square root of an integer. His research stems from an interest he developed as early as age 2, when he was checking math textbooks out of the library.

O’Dorney and other finalists were also given the opportunity to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House. Obama discussed with the students the importance of science and math education and shared his encouragement of their research pursuits.

“By meeting with us, it was sort of like President Obama was passing on the baton for us to take on the future,” said Elaine Zhou, an Intel Science Talent Search finalist from Winter Park, FL. “We may not become politicians, we may not live in the White House, but his support of young scientists like us reinforces that we can have a strong impact and change the future for the better.”

The effort to take America back to the top ranks of innovative countries is manifesting in the encouragement of the country’s students to explore their curiosity for how the world works and develop solutions for global challenges. What might seem like a spark of interest today could be a world-changing innovation tomorrow. For more information on the Intel Science Talent Search, go to www.inspiredbyeducation.com.