The Future of CNC Manufacturing Education – CNC Manufacturing, Education Reform & Change Management News.

Why We’re Failing Math and Science in Engineering

Posted by Bert Maes on November 3, 2009

We will need:

  • Better Marketing
  • Better Teaching
  • Better Training Equipment

Some kids see mathematics as the gateway to engineering, paving the way to creation of new gadgets and technologies.

But most see mathematics as a gatekeeper, a suppression of creativity, denying entry to talented would-be engineers.

school_philosophers_mathematics_39299521 percent of the kids that would like to become an engineer don’t feel competent enough in their mathematics, geometry and science skills. They experience it as too difficult, boring, nerdy and irrelevant to their lives.

Not surprising as the message kids usually get is: maths and science are challenging, but if you work hard you can do it.

Instead we should tell kids (ScienceDaily June 25, 2008) that:

* Engineers make a world of difference.

* Engineers are creative problem-solvers.

* Engineers help shape the future.

* Engineering is essential to our health, happiness, and safety.

* Engineering is a satisfying profession that involves creative ideas and teamwork.

But the QUALITY OF TEACHING should change with it:

  • The Sputnik era came because there were idealists who said we’re in trouble as a country, we have to compete against the Russians. Today, we have to compete against the Chinese and Indians who are graduating tens of thousands more very talented science, math and engineering graduates from their colleges. They’re not doing better than we are at the college and university level, but they’re doing massively better than we are in the numbers. (Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania)
  • => We have to compete at quality. The way that’s going to happen is if we have leadership at the top and a real fear through this society that if we don’t compete better by educating our best students—which means getting the best teachers, which means rewarding them for results—we’re going to fall behind…  (Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania)
  • Kevin Craig, professor of mechanical engineering: “One of the great failures in engineering education has been the inability of graduating students to integrate all they have learned — science, mathematics, engineering fundamentals — in the solution of real-world engineering problems (…) The college professors are teaching very little practical application engineering — but plenty of theory to their students. Which really does nothing to prepare the graduates for applying their skills to solving most of the problems encountered in the real world of Engineering and Design.” (
  • => The same comparison: “Nobody would accept training IT students with computers that are 25 years old, so why is it acceptable to use antiquated machines in the precision engineering industry, where technological developments are at least as fast?” (Kristin Alexandersson, CNC machine tool sales engineer for Haas Factory Outlet (HFO) Edströms Maskin)


4 Responses to “Why We’re Failing Math and Science in Engineering”

  1. Tasneem R said

    Yeah what you said is very must be getting really cooked up on hearing same thing over and over again , like ‘work hard you’ll get it ‘..and stuff like that . Engineers does make a work of difference into our lives .This is what should be told to the kids who are not competent enough in maths and science.It;s because of these great guys(engineers) that we have so much of facility these days . A very simple example would be of ATM machines which has made our lives so simpler .

    Discover you aptitude –

    • Bert Maes said

      Thank you, Tasreem R.

      Indeed today the extraordinary is the ordinary thanks to ONE industry: manufacturing/engineering. Manufacturing/engineering is the life sustaining force that touches every single thing around you.

      Thanks for the hint about an ATM machine. I’ve been talking about flatscreens, washing machines, windturbines, guitars, solar panels, cars, NASA lunar modules,… in my blog posts, but ATM is another interesting angle.

      So thank you so much, Tasreem R.

      Best regards,


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