How Can I Help My Child Become More Interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics?

— National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Updated on Sep 30, 2009

 Studies tell us that academic performance and achievement is enhanced when parents become actively involved in their children’s education. Sounds like good old common sense, doesn’t it? After all, the parent is the child’s first teacher. In fact, a 1997 PTA sponsored study concluded that one of the most accurate predictors of students academic progress and success is the extent to which parents (1) create a home environment that encourages learning; (2) communicate high but reasonable expectations for their children’s achievement and future careers; and (3) involve themselves in their children’s education at school and in the community. So, what can parents do to help their children become more interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics?

  • One of the most important ways parents can help their children develop an interest in mathematics, science, and technology is by exhibiting attitudes and values that support learning.
  • Listen to children’s ideas and explanations. Encourage them to ask questions and to seek answers. Avoid “negative” statements such as “I never liked these subjects when I was in school” or I got my worst grades in these subjects.” Be positive. Help communicate the importance of mathematics, science, and technology and expect your children to be successful in these areas.
  • Help children see the mathematics, science, and technology that exists around them and that they encounter in their daily lives. Point out how these subjects are used around their home, in their community, by various professionals, and in such endeavors as music and sports. The business and sports sections of the daily newspaper contain lots of examples. Be sure to check out the health and the science and technology sections of the paper.
  • Involve your children in family activities and “everyday” jobs that use mathematics, science, and technology. Activities such as determining how much paint is required to cover a room if a gallon covers “x” number of square feet. Things that no longer work and now simply occupy space in the attic or garage are great teaching tools. Encourage children to take these items apart to learn how they go together, how they work (and, perhaps, determine why they no longer work).
  • It is never too early for children to think about “what they want to be when they grow up.” Encourage your children to ask questions and to find out about different jobs. How much education is needed? How much mathematics, science, and technology are required? When you encounter people in a “science-related” career, encourage your child to ask questions about their jobs and the education required for them.
  • Become familiar with the national and state standards for mathematics, science, and technology. Find out which concepts align with which grades. Learn which skills are expected to be mastered at which grades. Become familiar with the mathematics, science, and technology curriculum offered by the local school division.
  • Taking part in organizations and/or events sponsored by the 4-H, the Girl Scouts, and the Boys and Girls Clubs is a great way for children to develop an interest in mathematics, science, and technology.
  • Participating in informal learning activities, activities that are not mandatory and occur outside the school (i.e., formal learning) setting is an excellent way to help children develop an interest in mathematics, science, and technology. Museums, science centers, planetariums, aquariums, and zoos, just a few, are some of the many informal learning opportunities that exist within the community.

Parents, here are some organizations, and Internet resources that you can use to help create an “active” learning environment for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We don't pretend to know of or be able to list every good web site on the Internet. Here are a few web sites to get you started.

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