LONDON — Generally speaking, parents are supposed to know more than their young children. That isn’t the case when it comes to STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) topics, however, according to a new survey. A group of parents with kids between the ages of five and 13 years-old took part in this research. Incredibly, a third admit that the very thought of having to answer a STEM-related question for their kids leaves them feeling ill.
Put together by The Institution of Engineering and Technology in London, the survey reports that 48 percent of parents don’t even know what “STEM” stands for. Meanwhile, half the poll say their children know more about science than they do. A similar number of moms and dads say the same regarding technology (44%), engineering (25%), and math (38%) knowledge.
The survey, conducted by OnePoll, also quizzed parents about some common scientific and tech terms, with some telling results. Just under four in five are unfamiliar with the term “Boolean logic,” 46 percent don’t know what binary code is, 68 percent can’t define a hexadecimal, and 64 percent are in the dark about Raspberry Pi technology.
“I’ve always felt passionately about our role in inspiring the next generation of engineers, app developers and astronauts,” comments Professor Danielle George, president of the IET, in a statement. “But today’s study has uncovered some gaps in parents’ STEM knowledge which can make it hard for them to engage with the subject with their kids.”
Parents are even fuzzy on their basic principles of math
It’s somewhat understandable for parents to be unfamiliar with new, emerging STEM trends and terms, but what about the topics they themselves learned in school? Again, the findings didn’t reflect too kindly on mom and dad. Over half couldn’t remember what photosynthesis is and 68 percent can’t even recall Pythagoras’ theorem. Another 54 percent can’t remember how to solve long division problems.
Meanwhile, 52 percent can’t calculate fractions and 61 percent don’t know how to calculate the circumference of a circle. Four in 10 couldn’t even name the number of sides comprising an octagon. Similarly, 73 percent can’t recite Newton’s law of universal gravitation and nearly half (47%) don’t understand prime numbers or recognize the symbol for pi.
Another two-thirds can’t remember the name for when a liquid turns into a gas (evaporation) and 52 percent don’t know the boiling point of water (212 degrees Fahrenheit).
All in all, seven in 10 parents believe their kids would gain a “great deal of confidence” if they embraced STEM. On a related note, two in three parents admit that they wish STEM had been taught to them in the same engaging and exciting way it is taught to students today.
IET is holding a free Engineering Open House Day event on Friday, July 23.