Rachel Lehmann-Haupt

Senior Editor, TED Books, TED Books


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How can we make science, technology, engineering, and math education more fun for kids? Join our live Q&A on February 13th at 3PM Eastern

In "Save Our Science: How to Inspire a New Generation of Scientists," Yale professor Ainissa Ramirez makes an impassioned call for a recommitment to improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in our schools and throughout our society. She describes what habits we need to change to make STEM fun again, as well as a plan for how to increase every child’s participation in these disciplines.

Ramirez notes that the artist Pablo Picasso once said that all children are born artists and that the trick is to stay that way as an adult. She believes that all children have an inner scientist within them, and we need to get them in touch with their inner scientist again.

Buy and read the book:




Or download the TED Books app for your iPad or iPhone . (http://www.ted.com/pages/tedbooks) A subscription costs $4.99 a month, and is an all-you-can-read buffet.

Author and TED Speaker Ainissa Ramirez will be joining us for a one-hour live conversation on Wednesday, FEB 13th at 12PM PST/3PM EST.

Mark your calendars!

  • Feb 13 2013: true supporting teamwork should also be part of this learning process
    e.g. letting students who know teach others by explaining it in small groups
    and working in teams on creatively solving harder / more complex problems

    we cannot solve the big environmental and technological challenges of today
    (e.g. send people into space) without working together
    in a way that builds on the skills of everyone and allows learning from mistakes made...

    teachers should be pointing out mistakes as source of knowledge how it doesn't work

    "There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves, no matter how unpleasant, are necessary in order to learn what we need to learn; whatever steps we take, they're necessary to reach the places we've chosen to go." (Richard Bach)

    "Mistakes are healthy and allow for growth. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,
    but making a mistake is the truest form of originality." (Georgia J. Bonesteel)

    "Making mistakes, getting it almost right, and experimenting to see what happens
    are all part of the process of eventually getting it right." (Jack Canfield)

    "We can only learn from mistakes, by identifying them, determining their source, and correcting them... people learn more from their own mistakes than from the successes of others." (Russell L. Ackoff)

    "A sound discretion is not so much indicated by never making a mistake as by never repeating it."
    (Christian Nestell Bovee)

    "The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way." (Dale Carnegie)
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      Feb 13 2013: My own experience is that students teach each other better than instructors. Students are willing to be more vulnerable with each other, which is essential for learning. When the interface with a teacher, they feel like they are being evaluated. Not good.
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    Feb 13 2013: Changing the world certainly isn't easy, and Ainissa, thank you so much for your contribution! I'm afraid our time is just about up. Do you have any closing remarks?
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      Feb 13 2013: I want everyone to feel that they can help move the needle by changing the perception of STEM in their own corner. If we connect all these corners, we will eventually have the entire planet covered.

      STEM is one of the best inheritances we can leave our children so that they have a shot and dealing with the challenges of this brave new world. Thanks everyone.
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    Feb 13 2013: I never said that this STEM education thing was easy. Changing the world never is.
  • Feb 13 2013: By creating more videos on the real time applications of Math, Science and Engineering. http://k12videos.mit.edu/ is one site where students of MIT have come together to create videos that gives real time understanding of the concepts they learn in their school. Khan academy is another such example where there are videos that help to create projects based on the theoritical understanding. I believe hands on is must for every learner to feel what it takes to apply those concepts so that he or she knows that they love the subject completely. The most they start loving the outcome of the concepts they apply. Wonders happen like the flying cars, solar energy and so on
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      Feb 13 2013: I think videos are an untapped resource for teaching. I have created a few at www.materialmarvels.com. Khan academy focuses on skill, but my impression is that video can make science more hands-on, when hands-on things are not available. Good point!
  • Feb 13 2013: More recently, I've seen educators stress STEAM. What are your thoughts on making STEM more fun by incorporating the Arts?
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      Feb 13 2013: I am all for STEAM. In fact, I think they should call it TEAMS, since there is collaboration in it. To me, the path to making creative problem solvers does not matter. I only focus on STEM because it is what I know well. I have had discussions with artists about this, and we are all in the same boat.
  • Feb 13 2013: Hello.
    I am using LEGO® elements to teach different aspects of STEM to home school students. They have fun building and learn how the model they just built relates to things they have experienced in the real world. If time permits, I challenge them to alter what they have built to create something bigger / more powerful / faster. They have fun and learn at the same time.
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      Feb 13 2013: Fun is key. they don't know that they are learning something that their friends say is boring. Keep it up!. And I heart legos.
      • Feb 13 2013: Finding what drives someone is another key. It can be used to challenge someone to explore a subject further. Having fun makes it less like work.
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          Feb 13 2013: I hav found there is two ways to get kids excited about something: 1. Find what they are passionate about, or 2. Be passionate about something and infect them with your excitement. Passion is contagious.
  • Feb 13 2013: to get and keep someone interested in mathematics and science
    you have to provide a link between the theoretical explanations and
    their application in real life situations or properly worded problems
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      Feb 13 2013: I would certainly agree. Kids are asking all the time "why should I know this?" And the answer is not "because I said so." That was Ok for my generation, but not for the younger generation. So, teachers like myself have to do our homework to make the science relevant, just like you say.
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    Feb 13 2013: I think it, your book, is a great statement. Its the type of book I would like to see distributed to school board members.
    "No Child Left Behind" has forced teacher to focus on reading and less on science. My view is that encouraging a child's nature curiosity will develop readers in a natural course.
    Your thoughts on this?
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      Feb 13 2013: I agree. STEM can be the means to teach reading and writing and all the other topics. It doesn't have to be in a vacuum. And I think NCLB put a nail in the STEM coffin for two reasons: 1. Science isn't on the test and 2. The testing also forces teachers to teach to them. So, STEM isn't getting taught at all in some cases.
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      Feb 13 2013: STEM topics can be interesting reading. We need more books that can encourage this kind of curiosity.
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        Feb 13 2013: This is a wonderful opportunity to be able to exchange ideas with you.
        I am hoping to host a TEDx event for the Vermont State Legislation. It would be like the one held for the House of Parliament. We need people like you addressing our lawmakers, educating the lawmakers, on the importance of STEM.
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    Feb 13 2013: Obama said quite a bit about STEM, when he talked about jobs and manufacturing and education. I am excited to see how this unfolds.
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      Feb 13 2013: I see that you were at the Bell Labs which permitted people to explore their own interests.
      How could we provide for this type of experience in schools?
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        Feb 13 2013: It would be great if schools had a public lab or design space. They are popping up around the country, schools should latch on.
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    Feb 13 2013: "A number of factors compound the problem: a shortage of well trained teachers in math and science and poor methods of teaching these disciplines. Additionally, popular culture does not generally treat the study of math and science with much respect. Hollywood stereotypes them."

    Daniel Yankelovich, one of America‘s finest public policy analysts and social science researchers.

    Page 5

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      Feb 13 2013: You raise some good points. The training of math teachers is directly linked to how well students will do. It ends up that in the US, we don't not train math teachers as well. We could incentivize this by getting math majors to become math teachers, but you have to pay them well, since financial institutions want them too.
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    Feb 13 2013: I am still buzzing about Obama's SOTU address. I am excited that he spoke about pre-school. If we can get STEM into pre-school and teach it in compelling and fun ways, then half the battle is over.
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    Feb 13 2013: Hello all, and welcome to this live Q&A with author Ainissa Ramirez, thank you for joining us!

    Welcome Ainissa!

    Your book, "Save Our Science: How to Inspire a New Generation of Scientists" makes a vital call to improve science, technology, engineering and math education in the US.

    You must have been happy to hear President Obama make this exact point in h is State of the Union address last night, saying that we need the commitment to STEM that we had during the space race. What are the important steps we need to take now?
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    Feb 13 2013: Well, we are out of time. Thanks everyone!
  • Feb 13 2013: Thank you for your kind words and inspiration.
  • Feb 13 2013: The biggest problem with science, math and engineering is the fact the students don't get to have a hands on experience on those subjects unlike computer science where we get to stimulate and get the results right away. This is probably the only reason that got me excited about software, computer and so on. I think we can create an environment similar to that of computer science will help students to get excited about the subject. That way, he or she will be experimenting and researching on it all through their lives.
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      Feb 13 2013: Hands-on science is key to keeping students engaged! You are right! We need more of it.
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    Feb 13 2013: Many thanks for being here today Prof. Ramirez .
    It is been an honor to chat with you.
  • Feb 13 2013: It appears that fun equates to easy or continuation of the traditional models for education. At a young age, have the students in small classrooms with dedicated teachers who love the fields that engulf science. Mathematics being the purest of sciences is difficult to comprehend at the beginning because most people never teach that this subject is the language of the universe and the body.

    Most elementary teachers do not specialize in the sciences and therefore might corrupt young minds into thinking that science is boring or simply difficult. Instead, if you had specialized individuals working on enhancing the logic center of the mind at an early age, you might find the task of learning science easier as you progress through education.

    The American mind is usually set as impatient and desires immediate gratification, this is not the case with science. We need not only enforce the "fun" of science but the diligence that the subjects offer. The pride of comprehending something beyond "yourself" allows for more exciting and "fun" discussions amongst students and teachers.

    I hate to say it but...

    You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.

    I wish the prefrontal lobe formed much earlier than it does. Perhaps with more logic and understanding, we could all look at math/science not as fun or not fun but simply enjoy discovering something that is beyond yourself.
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      Feb 13 2013: What we are doing isn't working, so this is worth a shot. If we need to train teachers better, let's do it. But, what we really need to do is change the perception of science. TV shows could show the relevance, and that will drive the need.
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    Feb 13 2013: Can you point to any books that are doing it right that can be used in schools?
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      Feb 13 2013: I actually think we should do away with the book and get kids to do project and the link. But, at the college level there are books like "Chemistry in Context". Instead of learning things by rote, you see what the principle you are learning would be of use. Like, I need to know how to balance an equation because it teaches me how to remove Arsenic from water, which is a poison. Stuff like that make chemistry alive. And, that is what it is alive.

      So, the short answer is that books that put things in context are a good way to go, but the best bet is to teach STEM by getting hands dirty.
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    Feb 13 2013: How would like to see what Obama said unfold and what are the best steps?
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      Feb 13 2013: I kind of spell this out in Save Our Science. It is the test that are killing STEM, so if Obama lifted all of the rewards and repercussion of not performing well for a year or two and tried and experiment to motivate teaching with other carrots, we might have a good chance. I need to talk to Arne about this.
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    Feb 13 2013: Why do we associate math and physics with drudgery? And why are women especially afraid of STEM? In your book you explain a fascinating history that explains womens' attitudes.
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      Feb 13 2013: Thanks, Rachel. At one time, girls used to outnumber boys in science and math classes. Back then, science was still taught by rote and not relevant to industry. But, this turned around when we needed science to feed the country and protect it. Then science was viewed as a higher priority and girls we wedged out. Now, girls face the barrier of fitting back in. Largely this is due to environment or they are socialized to think that STEM is not for them.
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      Feb 13 2013: Girls and boys perform the same in STEM it is that girl lack role models to feel that STEM is for them.
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      Feb 13 2013: Science and math became drudgery because they were taught by rote. All the passion was squeezed out so that these topics can be efficiently written about in books and the like. Now we need to write books and teach STEM by putting the passion back in.
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    Feb 13 2013: Anissa - Maybe you want to talk a little about why STEM is taught wrong and how that can be improved? I have a memory as a child of creating a styrofoam model of the planets - it was so much fun to paint them and so creative, but this was science!
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      Feb 13 2013: I think you hit it on the head, if children are having fun while they are learning it isn't drudgery. that is why I suggest we have science classes that are focused on projects that are important to students. They will learn the math and physics needed because they can see its relevance and will be willing to do the hard work to be successful. you can see this in the robotics competitions that are happening. Kids are working hard and love it.
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    Feb 13 2013: I have a question: Did you find anything surprising in the book?
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    Feb 13 2013: Should we be asking, When do children loss their interest in mathematics? What turns them off to numbers?
    This seems to happen at a young age, around the third or fifth grade.
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      Feb 13 2013: Children lose interest in math because it is taught wrong. And we live in a culture that hates math, which makes life very hard for mathematics teachers.
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    Feb 13 2013: Yes, that was exciting! Why is it so important to get kids going to with STEM in pre-school?
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      Feb 13 2013: STEM from a business case is important, since most of the jobs of the 21st century will have some math or scientific skill needs. But, STEM is much much more than that. I would say that it is important for human development. Being curious and learning by trial and error is what we do as children to discover and learn. But, the way that we teach does not allow children to learn via these modes. STEM is inherently about using one's curiosity to explore and exercises this muscle for human development.
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    Feb 13 2013: Hello