Skills gap: Math scores improve, children retain engineering misconceptions

Even as U.S. math scores are increasing, most children remain uninterested in engineering as a career and parents are not encouraging it. Here's how to help.

01/28/2009


As U.S. students math scores are increasing, more than
Trends in International Mathematics and Science (TIMSS) report released last month, fourth grade students in the U.S. improved 11 points in math between 2003 and 2007 and eighth graders jumped 16 points since 1995, says Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International. They now rank at least in the top one-third compared to other countries. TIMMS is an international comparison that measures the mathematics and science knowledge and skills of fourth- and eighth graders.
The expressed disinterest in engineering was based on a new national survey of youth and adults conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of ASQ (American Society for Quality). engineers is commonly referred to as the skills gap. 
Find out what else Control Engineering is saying about the engineering skills gap .
Based on the ASQ survey, kids aren't interested in engineering because:
-They don't know much about it (44%).
-The Geek perception is still at work as they think engineering would be a boring career (30%).
-They don't feel confident enough in their math or science skills (21%) to be good at it,
Actress vs. engineer?
-Only 20% of parents have encouraged/will encourage their child/children to consider an engineering career.
-More girls say their parents are likely to encourage them to become an actress (21%) than an engineer (10%).
ASQ attempts to change perceptions
ASQ has more than 14,000 engineer members who are concerned about ensuring a work force of skilled, highly educated engineers for the future. To get more kids interested in engineering, ASQ will offer a free webinar called " Real World of Engineering " available at www.asq.org/education beginning Feb. 16 (during

National Engineers Week

, which has many activities to encourage youth in engineering). The webinar will be available for viewing for
Even so, perhaps
Manufacturing executives can take heart with the knowledge that math skills often critical for success for those working on the factory floor are on the rise among young people, suggests FMA.
“This improvement is significant because the manufacturing world of the future is a technology laden one, and those who can’t command math and science will be at a disadvantage,” says Dr. Chris Kuehl, economic analyst for the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA). “If the U.S. is to fill its need for engineers, scientists, inventors and technicians the school system must prepare kids to handle the math, and it appears real progress is being made.”
“By improving in math, U.S. students will be better prepared to succeed in higher education and in today’s global workforce,” says Gerald Shankel, president and CEO of the FMA. “Mathematics also provides a solid foundation for careers in manufacturing. With the average age of the current manufacturing workforce above 50, there will be a wide range of good paying manufacturing positions available in the future for students with the proper science and math training.
“In the past, there has been disappointment with the quality of math and science skills coming out of college,” Shankel says. “Our technologies have advanced. For example, we are using laser light to cut metal now, and it requires a person proficient with math and science skills.”
Among those capabilities are combined operations, metric conversion, fractional/decimal conversion, angular arithmetic, measurement with rules and gauges, and basic geometry.
The TIMMS study shows there is still room for improvement for U.S. students. The report revealed U.S. fourth grade students ranked ninth and higher than in 24 other nations while eighth graders ranked sixth and better than 37 nations.
FMA educational events include technology councils,
February is National Science Literacy Month,
– Edited by Mark T. Hoske , editor in chief
Control Engineering News Desk
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