sciences are being used. Different pathways are needed for students who may go on to work in bioinformatics, ecology, medicine, computing, and so on. It is not enough to rearrange existing courses to create alternative curricula; a redesigned offering of courses and majors is needed. Although there are promising experiments, a community-wide effort is needed in the mathematical sciences to make its undergraduate courses more compelling to students and better aligned with the needs of user departments.

At the graduate level, many students will end up not with traditional academic jobs but with jobs where they are expected to deal with problems much less well formulated than those in the academic setting. They must bring their mathematical sciences talent and sophistication to bear on ill-posed problems so as to contribute to their solution. This suggests that graduate education in the mathematical sciences needs to be rethought in light of the changing landscape in which students may now work. At the least, mathematics and statistics departments should take steps to ensure that their graduate students have a broad and up-to-date understanding of the expansive reach of the mathematical sciences.

Recommendation: Mathematics and statistics departments, in concert with their university administrations, should engage in a deep rethinking of the different types of students they are attracting and wish to attract, and should identify the top priorities for educating these students. This should be done for bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D.-level curricula. In some cases, this rethinking should be carried out in consultation with faculty from other relevant disciplines.

Recommendation: In order to motivate students and show the full value of the material, it is essential that educators explain to their K-12 and undergraduate students how the mathematical science topics they are teaching are used and the careers that make use of them. Modest steps in this direction could lead to greater success in attracting and retaining students in mathematical sciences courses. Graduate students should be taught about the uses of the mathematical sciences so that they can pass this information along to students when they become faculty members. Mathematical science professional societies and funding agencies should play a role in developing programs to give faculty members the tools to teach in this way.

The community collectively does not do a good job in its interface with the general public or even with the broader scientific community, and improving this would contribute to the goal of broadening the STEM pipeline.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement