A small finding announced a few months ago should be a wake-up call to many of us in education. A group at the University of Virginia found that career preference in 8th grade is a better predictor of which students enter STEM careers than achievement test scores (in math). This article from the Boston Globe provides a good summary of the research, which was published in Science. The key point is the same as in my last post - building student understanding and measuring academic achievement is only one piece of the puzzle. Getting young people interested in and excited about science and technology is as important if not moreso. If CSI (or a better link) and Mythbusters can get this started, shouldn't schools and after-school programs keep the kids engaged?
On a personal note, after winning multiple math awards throughout my youth, I hardly considered a math or science major in college. Special thanks belong to the middle school principal and Teach for America staff who trusted me to bring my passion for math to a 6th grade classroom!