experiences of 714 top STEM graduate students and related their experiences to their STEM accomplishments up to age 35.
In both longitudinal studies, those with notable STEM accomplishments had been involved in a richer and more robust collection of advanced precollegiate educational opportunities in STEM (“STEM doses”) than the members of their cohorts with lower levels of STEM-related professional achievement. This finding holds for students of both sexes. The types of “STEM doses” noted in these studies include advanced placement (AP) and early college math and science courses, science or math project competitions, independent research projects, and writing articles within the disciplines. Of these mathematically inclined students, those who participated in more than the median number of science and math courses and activities during their K-12 school years were about twice as likely, by age 33, to have earned a doctorate, become tenured, or published in a STEM field than were students who participated in a lower-than-average number of such activities. The differences in achieving a STEM professional occupation or securing a STEM patent between the “low dose” and “high dose” students were evident but not as pronounced. Note, however, that these results are merely an association and do not imply a cause-and-effect relationship. For example, those with the most interest and abilities in STEM fields might self-select for the enrichment programs. Nevertheless, it does fit with the individual experiences of many members of this committee that early exposure to highly challenging material in the mathematical sciences had an impact on their career trajectories.
One means by which the mathematical sciences professional community contributes to efforts to attract and encourage precollege students is through Math Circles. Box 5-1 gives an overview of this mechanism, which has proved to be of real value in attracting and encouraging young people with strong talent in the mathematical sciences.
From 1988 to 1996, the National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored a Young Scholars Program that supported summer enrichment activities for high school students who exhibited special talent in mathematics and science.33 It was begun at a time when the United States was worried about the pipeline for scientists and engineers just as it worries now. By 1996, the NSF was “funding 114 summer programs that reached around 5,000 students annually [and about] 15% of the Young Scholars programs were in mathematics.”34 Some of the successful funding of mathematics programs through this mechanism included programs at Ohio State University, Boston University, and Hampshire College. The committee believes
33 This description is drawn from Allyn Jackson, 1998, The demise of the Young Scholars Program. Notices of the AMS, March.