This week, USC hosted the second annual National Grand Challenge Summit for the National academy of Engineering. The summit was designed to discuss how science and technology can be used to solve society’s biggest problems, and the keynote speakers and panelists ranged from scientists and innovators to policymakers and business executives.
I was able to attend the summits on Innovation, Policy and Education and the one I found to be the most interesting was the education summit. All the panelists in the Education Summit agreed that the flaw in the k-12 education in America was one of the problems factoring into the decreasing number of individuals going into the STEM fields. However, Maria Klawe, the president of Harvey Mudd College described one aspect of this problem that I thought was interesting, the problem being the American Culture. She described the response she usually gets when she tells ordinary people that she’s a Mathematician, the response usually being “I was never any good at Math.” I too have gotten this response countless times when I tell people I’m majoring in Engineering. Maria’s concern with this response was however how acceptable it has become in American Culture to not be ‘any good at math.’ The solution she proposed to this problem was to treat Math like we would if it was a sport that we want to get good at, practice. With many hours of practice and dedication, Maria asserted that anyone can be good at Math regardless of who they are or where they come from. I thought thinking of Math as a sport would be a completely new perspective for many people, but I also thought if it would be possible for people’s fear of Math to alleviate if they start thinking of Math as just a sport…most probably.