In the time of Pythagoras, the knowledge of mathematics and its relationship to the Universe was considered sacred because the knowledge attained was all invisible. The impression that math is a mystery and not for the faint of heart continues to this day, and is likely responsible for the United States ranking well below average in mathematic scores in the International Student Assessment program. We need to make math and physics a calling and make it the source of dreams again.
I propose we have, every summer, a NASA program of 8 – 10 days duration to ignite the budding imaginations of our young people in grades 7 through 9 to teach what kind of math and science skills are required to reach the stars. The programs would involve tours to the various facilities at the assigned location, show the relationship of mathematics to physics, chemistry, engineering, and computing, all of which are required for a space mission. Beginning math concepts in one or more of these disciplines can be taught so the students better understand the relationship of math to the real world and be successful with it.
All students across the nation will be invited to submit an essay entitled How Math Makes the World a Better Place. Those students articulating the best vision will be chosen by those in charge of the program at the site itself. Each school in the nation will be given the information for submission to one of the 6 sites for this program: Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Houston Space Center in Texas, U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Alabama, Great Lakes Science Center B Ohio, Virginia Air & Space Center B Virginia, Ames Research Center B California. A case can be made that scientists at planetary research sites can be included in this program. In fact, nothing stands in the way of private industry doing the same thing in order to foster a better understanding of the kind of math and science skills necessary to succeed in their field. If we care about the skills needed for a better future, then we can make an effort to encourage our young people to learn them. Above all, we need to create the dream.
If you can dream, you can achieve.
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