The average American parent’s science and math knowledge taps out around the 6th grade level, according to new research.
When asked to estimate the grade they’d be placed into for both math and science subjects if they took a test today, the average respondent said 6th grade for both.
The survey of 2,000 American parents of school-aged children also found that 42% of parents say they would be “lost” trying to teach their child the math curriculum for their grade.
And thirty-five percent said the same about the science curriculum.
Commissioned by Mongoose on behalf of the USA BMX Foundation, the survey tested parents’ STEM knowledge, as well as their plans for helping their children stay up-to-date with their STEM curricula in the event of a remote or hybrid school year.
More than half of parents (55%) found math difficult in school, and nearly four in 10 struggled with science.
That pattern appears to repeat itself in the next generation, as math (49%) and science (31%) were among the top subjects parents believed their child found most difficult to comprehend.
Fifty-eight percent of parents say their child has asked for their help with math, but given their reported levels of confidence when answering standard middle school math and science questions, parents might not be the best person to help out.
Nearly four in 10 parents could not correctly identify what the acronym STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – stood for.
One in five parents were not at all confident in answering the formula for calculating speed (distance divided by time) – a typical 6th grade science question.
Moreover, only 36% were very confident that they could identify the circumference and the diameter on a diagram of a circle.
And less than a third considered themselves very confident in identifying an example of potential energy, such as a stretched rubber band or a raised weight.
Their own lack of confidence in their knowledge of STEM subjects notwithstanding, 72% of respondents are afraid that remote schooling, or a hybrid of remote and in-person schooling, in the current school year might cause their child to fall behind on their STEM curriculum.
Sixty-two percent attributed their concern in this area to the fact that remote and hybrid learning offer fewer opportunities for hands-on learning, such as science lab instruction, that are crucial to learning these subjects.
And sixty-four perfect say their concern stems from the fact that science and math can require extra 1-on-1 teacher attention, which they’re afraid won’t be as available to their child during a remote or hybrid school year.
“This survey reminds us there is a troubling knowledge gap about STEM in this nation. Unless we turn that around, our economy and our country will suffer,” said Jodi Grant, Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance.
“The bike-centric STEM program created by the USA BMX Foundation in partnership with Mongoose teaches STEM with a hands-on bike curriculum that is fun and relevant to students’ lives. As students continue to recover from missed schooling, it’s critical more STEM programs like these are available to our kids.”
Eight in 10 parents agreed that hands-on learning and experimentation are integral to teaching children math and science skills.
And 76% say they believe their child benefits from hands-on learning activities in these and other areas.
In spite of the fact that they or their children might find these subjects to be challenging, parents didn’t shy away from the potential difficulty of STEM, instead agreeing that experimentation in learning is important for students, because it not only teaches them how to fail but also how to “fail better.”
It’s a lesson they seem to look forward to learning themselves, since 72% of respondents say they plan to learn math and science alongside their child this school year to help encourage them.
“As a society we put too much emphasis on failure, rather than celebrate the process of trying. Studies show failure is the key to unlocking lifelong learning, and that should be celebrated,” said Mike DuVarney, Executive Director of USA BMX Foundation.
“This holds true for the classroom and the sport of BMX Racing. We celebrate the winner, but what about the other riders that crossed the finish line learned what? In the USA BMX STEM enrichment/afterschool program, students use bikes to perform experiments, exploring STEM subjects through a hands-on learning environment,” DuVarney added.