Talking To Children About STEM Boosts Test Scores and Career Interest

A new study finds that parents who talk to their high schoolers about science and math can increase competency and career interest in the fields.

The study is called the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. It shows 12 percentage point increase on the math and science ACT for students whose parents were provided information on how to effectively communicate the importance of STEM. The same students were also more likely to be interested in STEM careers.

The research provides new insights as policymakers in the United States look to increase the number of students going into STEM fields after high school and college. A strong amount of STEM graduates would be critical for economic growth and global competitiveness. At the moment, the US ranks 35th in math and 27th in science in the world.

The researchers focused on the expectancy-value theory, which is the concept that individuals make choices depending on the relevance or usefulness to a current or future goal.

When the researchers discovered that the students of the parents they gave information to did better on their ACT and were more interested in STEM fields, it challenged widely held assumptions. Parents were thought to be communicated effectively with their children, but it may not be the case anymore, especially with math and science.

This study is a new perspective on discussions at the federal level, where policymakers haven’t focused on students’ beliefs around STEM – an approach researchers described as cost-effective.

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