Math and science have a stigma in our society. Even though math and science have birthed technology, which just about everybody loves and wouldn’t be willing to give up unless they absolutely had to, enjoying math and science is considered by youngsters to be “dorky” or “nerdy.” Not to mention that there is this aura surrounding science and math (math especially so) that they are hard and require a lot of work. While it is true that not everyone is going to have that natural ability to easily grasp math and science, it is not beyond the reach of most people if the work is put in, as society would have us believe.
It all goes back to perception. Most teens have no idea what math and science truly entail, or how it affects their everyday lives. They think that they are just forced to go to class and learn boring facts and calculations that they will have to regurgitate for the test and then never use again. Unfortunately, the way that education is set up today has partially led us to this view. So much of education is based on standardized testing, a large portion of which is math. Students have to know the content that will be on the test, so teachers push through endless concepts to try to cram it all in, while students are left there thinking, “who cares if I can do the derivative of x squared?”
Students aren’t excited about these subjects because they haven’t been given a reason to be excited. I teach chemistry and biology at a magnet high school that has many different programs. One of these is for math, science, and technology. However, there are other magnets for visual arts and performing arts. These are the majority of the students that I have in my classes. Their major is the arts, and science is a graduation requirement mandated by the state. Many of them would not take biology or chemistry by choice. However, many of them ask questions, and seek answers. They want to know what is going on and how science relates to their lives. Many work hard for the grades they receive, but most are willing to do that. Some of them have even said it is their favorite class. Biology is a theatre major’s favorite class? Go figure.
It’s not just that there is a breakdown at school in raising the interest level in math and science. There’s probably also a breakdown at home. When most people are polled on which subjects they disliked most in school or which they were worst at, many will say math and science. These people have kids. Because they didn’t have the interest in science/math themselves and because they are unable to help their students in these subjects, they consciously or unconsciously push the idea of “yucky” math and science on their kids. These kids are learning at a young age from their parents that math and science are hard and boring and nobody likes to hear those things. And the cycle keeps perpetuating itself until someone breaks it. That someone needs to be the parents themselves or an able math or science teacher who can help instill the love of learning and questioning (which are fundamental to science) in all people.