Making Mathematics Relevant: an Examination of Student Interest in Mathematics, Interest in STEM Careers, and Perceived Relevance
Community college students face difculties in mathematics courses and may not understand the relevance of the topics they are learning to their intended career. When such connections are not made, mathematics courses can become barriers to pursuit of careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). In the present study, we assessed student interest in mathematics and various STEM career areas and students’ knowledge of ways mathematics was involved in STEM careers in order to better understand how these variables are related. We discovered that interest in mathematics predicted interest in many, but not all, categories of STEM and STEM-related careers. We also assessed how deeply the student was engaged with their current career pathway, and how this related to other variables. We found that students’ depth of interest in their chosen career path was only associated with mathematics interest for some STEM careers. Finally, students’ perceptions of how mathematics was used in their chosen career area predicted their interest in mathematics, and their interest in some STEM career areas.
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