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What is STEM?

If your school is currently in the 21st century, there is a high chance you have heard of the term STEM. There are a few variations such as STEAM and STREAM, but they all boil down to the same acronym: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (the others also have arts and research added). The main idea is to teach students about the stated subjects to prepare them for the workplace of the future, to teach them how to think creatively and flexibly.

Beyond the definition, what is STEM? It is a philosophy of teaching the 4 core subjects while integrating and mending them together in an immersive and hands-on environment. Instead of learning about the subjects in a classroom style, STEM classes have robot-building competitions, real-life problem solving, programming challenges. To mix these subjects, however, is not the easiest task. The amount of homework and studying required for each class stacks up over time, meaning that it is not for everyone. It is a very important class to get students excited to help innovation progress into the future.

STEM classes start from elementary school, teaching about the very basics and introductory level ideas of each of the classes. For science it would be geological and volcanic activity, for mathematics, it would be addition and subtraction. Middle school expands those ideas to keep intriguing students to try and keep them in the curriculum. High school takes that and runs a mile with it, splitting into different courses for each subject and preparing students for post-graduation education at a college or a 4-year university. It is crucial to take all 4 classes, (5 or 6 if the acronym varies) because the main idea is to know the foundation of all 4 to start innovating.

The history of this term is quite short, created only in the early 2000s. Dr. Judith Ramalay was working with her team in the national science foundation and wanted a word that incorporated what her team was developing. The original word was SMET, but it later changed due to the difficulty of pronunciation. In 2009, the Obama administration announced that it will be supporting the curriculum to get more students excited and into the workspace of the future.

Around 16% of high school students currently in the U.S. have followed the classes and started working in a STEM field. 28% of freshmen intended to keep up with the curriculum, but an estimated 57% dropped out somewhere in between.

The world is moving at a faster pace than ever before. It is crucial to keep students interested in the STEM field to have more people working at the leading edge of technology. estimated in 2018 that 8.65 million workers were required to be in STEM-related fields, but real counts came to only 600,000. If there are limited courses for STEM subjects in your schools, take action and talk to staff to get those classes available for future students to come.


Dalton, Wyatt. “What Is STEM?” Pearson, 11 May 2019,

Hom, Elaine J. “What Is STEM Education?” LiveScience, Purch, 11 Feb. 2014,

Staff, WeAreTeachers. “What Do We Mean When We Talk About STEM?” We Are Teachers, 16 Mar. 2018,

“Why Is STEM Hard to Define?” National Inventors Hall of Fame,

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