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STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, and is the practice of integrating these four disciplines to create various curricula based on real-world applications. STEM programs incorporate all four disciplines in a manner that demands the use of cross-disciplinary knowledge to proficiently solve problems, essentially the opposite of traditional memorize and recite education models.
STEM instruction rarely includes definitive answers to proposed problems. Often, the requirement more closely resembles creative thinking, taking what the student already knows and applying that knowledge flexibly to generate possible solutions. This involves a great deal of technical knowledge and proficiency in each discipline.
STEM education is becoming more and more popular in the United States, and at an increasingly earlier age, with some STEM programs being implemented in pre-k, elementary, and middle schools.
STEM education involves very high-stress learning environments, as STEM careers are often highly focused. Subjects explored in STEM programs are immensely complex, as are the future jobs of STEM graduates. A software developer's coding error can cost thousands to the company and rocket launch miscalculations can cost lives. High-quality STEM education therefore must also include exquisite execution of tasks under copious amounts of stress.
Technology progresses daily, and the demand for STEM professionals increases along with it. STEM students learn through exploration and play an active role in creating new technologies. Enduring a STEM program requires commitment, stamina, and sacrifice, but the yield is a skillset and a mindset that many employers value greatly. One of the most popular STEM fields is Computer Science, or Computing (e.g. Statisticians, Systems Analysts, Software Developers), due in large part to the amount of digital technology surrounding our daily lives. As humans become more dependant on digital devices and software, the demand for these jobs will only grow.
In recent years, many STEM programs have expanded to STEAM programs, incorporating the addition of Art and Design to cultivate right-brain faculties and combat the heavy focus of left-brain thinking. It is thought that focusing too much on the left-brain will stifle a student's potential for creative STEM innovation.