In order to help our kids succeed, we’ve been trying to boost their self-esteem. We tell them that they’re beautiful and special, and that they deserve the best. We tell them that God made them and that God doesn’t make junk. We tell them to go for their dreams because they’re worth it. Unfortunately, that’s not enough.
Recent studies have shown that self-esteem doesn’t come from being told good things about ourselves, it comes from actually being good at something. It comes from the confidence in knowing that we can go out into the world and be productive. One of the most important areas we’re needed in is STEM.
STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Blacks make up about 2% of people in STEM fields. Women of all races make up about 25%. STEM jobs include everything from Math and Science professors to Software Designers to Robotic Engineers. It’s one of the few job categories that is expected to grow significantly over the next decade. It’s also one of the most accessible fields to get into. While it isn’t easy, math and technology are great equalizers. Equations don’t have cronies – they’re right or wrong. A good computer program is a good computer program. The work speaks for itself.
So, why are blacks and women missing out on this great opportunity? It starts when we’re young. Girls, and students of color, often feel like we’re not good at math. That self-perception, coupled with teachers who don’t encourage us in those areas, makes for a self-fulfilling prophecy. We also don’t participate in many STEM-related hobbies. For instance, our kids tend to play video games, but not make them.
We try to build our kids self-esteem so that they will do well in life. Ironically, if we switch from building our kids self-esteem, to building their competence in STEM, the same thing is accomplished. For instance, finishing a class beyond Algebra 2 more than doubles the chance that a student will complete a 4-year degree, no matter the major.
So how can we encourage our kids in STEM?
Through everyday activity:
• Have the kids help measure out ingredients for recipes. Have them calculate how the measurement should change based on the number of servings you’re making.
• Create a Google Maps route to your destination. Have the kids calculate the halfway point. Use the start point and end point and calculate the total miles. Have the kids estimate the time to arrive based on mph in different types of traffic (i.e. rush hour, Sunday morning, normal evening).
• Let your kids be a running calculator on your next shopping trip. Reward them if their “head total” is within 50 cents of the cash register total.
Through specific STEM activity:
• Find an HTML tutorial online and help your kids create a blog from scratch. Use tutorials for CSS to pretty it up.
• Have kids play Budget Hero and try to balance the budget for the United States
• Use sciencebuddies.com to find a project