Convincing a high schooler to do anything can feel like an uphill battle. But a new study shows that instilling a love of STEM in your teenager – yes, your teenager – could lead to a big payoff.
Scientists led by a team out of the University of Chicago have found that when parents discussed the relevance of math and science and its relationship to career opportunities with their high school-aged kids, those students were more likely to take STEM courses in high school. They also scored 12 percentage points higher than STEM-less counterparts on their math and science ACTs.
The importance of STEM skills has come to the forefront in recent years. In 2016, the White House predicted that by 2018, there could be as many as 2.4 million STEM jobs available – and our workforce isn’t growing fast enough to fill them all.
That’s where parents come in.
“Parents are potentially an untapped resource for helping to improve the STEM motivation and preparation of students,” says Christopher S. Rozek, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Chicago and lead author of the research. “We could move the needle by just encouraging parents to have these conversations about the relevance of math and science.”
Physics projects and statistics classes are hard, but the study says that talking to kids about when and how those skills become applicable is the key to making it stick. The spike in test scores and class enrollment was in kids whose parents pointed out the role of math and science in the real world, like in how cell phones function. Finally – all that texting pays off!
The takeaway: Teach your kids to shoot for the stars, then to study them.