SIAM Responds to PCAST Report

July 17, 2012

In February 2012, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology called for a nationwide initiative to improve education in the STEM disciplines---science, technology, engineering, and mathematics---with the emphasis on the first two undergraduate years. The call came in a report, Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, that makes five recommendations for avoiding a projected shortfall of U.S. graduates with STEM degrees.

Only one of the report's five recommendations is specific to mathematics: "Launch a national experiment in postsecondary mathematics education to address the mathematics-preparation gap." As part of that experiment, the report advocates "college mathematics teaching and curricula developed and taught by faculty from mathematics-intensive disciplines other than mathematics, including physics, engineering, and computer science." Objecting to that approach, SIAM prepared a written response to the report.

"We believe this is the wrong approach," the response states. "Collaboration, rather than removing mathematicians from the education equation, will ensure that students have access to relevant and exciting learning experiences with appropriate breadth and depth."

Welcoming the idea of a national experiment, as well as various national initiatives for improving K16 mathematics education, SIAM went on to make recommendations of its own. Quantitative and computational skills are "increasingly necessary across the STEM disciplines as data analysis, modeling, and simulation become critical tools of research and innovation," the response states; modeling and applications should be emphasized early in students' math education and in the undergraduate curriculum. "SIAM encourages applied mathematicians to collaborate with scientists and engineers to embed computational learning and exposure to modeling and simulation in early STEM courses."

SIAM posted its response to the PCAST report at http://www.siam.org/reports/pcast_12.pdf


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