Data Science is Needed in the Classroom

Written by: Reagan Flowers, Ph.D.

Though data science may seem like a popular catchphrase in tech, it’s much more than that. Data science is being used across many industries and is a skill that is rapidly expanding to every career field. Re-evaluating how we teach science and math in the classroom will play a big part in preparing students to succeed in these careers.   

What is Data Science

Data science involves gathering information and then organizing it for analysis and application. With the way today’s technology has evolved, it’s easier than ever to measure every aspect of a process, a product, a potential audience, and more. As a result, data science creates efficiencies for determining what is working and not working before trying another solution when it comes to STEM and problem-solving. For example, when Thomas Edison invented the electric lightbulb, it took thousands of tries. Today, information is constantly at our fingertips, and knowing how to use that information to move the world forward is crucial. 

How is Data Science Being Used

Data science has endless applications, but let’s take a look at a few to show you just how widespread its use has become. In the last decade, data science has played a role in:

  • Gaining insight about customers, where they’re shopping, what they’re buying, and what communication they respond to (this is how search engines and social media websites are continually becoming “smarter” about targeting your search results and the ads you see)
  • Increasing the security of a company’s system and information, fighting fraud and hackers
  • Reducing inefficiencies in manufacturing
  • Predicting future trends in retail or financial markets
  • Improving healthcare practices such as better detection through X-Rays and CT Scans, developing new prescription drugs, and expanding the study of genetically linked disease

Why Teaching Data Science Matters

Data scientist careers are very lucrative, with many making well over six figures. On top of that, the number of these jobs available already far outnumber available qualified candidates. This disparity will only continue to grow if we do not prepare students for changing jobs.

In addition, the careers that will need an understanding of data science go far beyond the data scientists that build systems and algorithms. Data analysts process the gathered information and provide conclusions to many roles, including marketers, business owners, product developers, website developers, doctors, scientists, and so many more. In the future, virtually any career role can benefit from a basic understanding of data science.

This is why students need to learn early on the importance of data-based decisions. Regardless of the specific path chosen, every industry is now approaching success in this way.

One very concrete way to do this is by integrating real-world examples in the classroom. For example, explaining how a math equation could help keep a company from going bankrupt or how scientific data analysis can help find cures provide the real-world application students need to make a connection to their possibilities.

Bringing Data Science to Underrepresented Students

Of course, students from economically disadvantaged areas are less likely to see data science taught in their schools soon. So we have to do what we can to close that gap, which starts with community partnerships and at home.

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If you work in data science, contact your local schools about mentoring or presenting to students. If you need help, feel free to contact us here at C-STEM. We love to help make connections like this a reality. Hearing about data science from someone who does it makes the topic real and achievable for students.

It is important to remember that regardless of what you do for a living, talk to your kids about how you use data in your job. Ask about the industries that interest them, and together you can research the kind of data used in those jobs. Finally, keep an eye out for free data science webinars. We’ll post any opportunities we come across in our C-STEM newsletter.

Moving Forward

We at C-STEM will be looking at how we can help fill gaps with learning data science. But, in the meantime, let’s keep asking ourselves what is being done and continue to support schools in having the most significant impact in developing talent to lead in the data science space.

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11th Annual State of STEM Education Stakeholder Breakfast

Please join us at The Junior League of Houston from 7:30-9:00 AM