February 2022

Colleges Can Make Calculus a Gateway—Not a Gatekeeper—to STEM Fields

Colleges Can Make Calculus a Gateway—Not a Gatekeeper—to STEM Fields

In an opinion piece for EdSurge, Just Equations National Policy Director Melodie Baker argues that new instructional approaches are needed in order to ensure that college Calculus can be responsive to the needs of the 21st century-and a gateway to STEM.

With science and technology jobs expected to grow twice as fast as other occupations over the next decade amid rapidly shifting demographics, creating a robust and diverse pipeline into STEM fields is essential to ensuring U.S. competitiveness and working toward racial equity. But neither will happen unless we address the fundamental gatekeeper to all STEM fields: undergraduate calculus.

Our technologically advanced society promises experiences that are user-friendly and intuitive. But the pathway to careers in science and technology is anything but user-friendly, as revealed by the sheer number of college students opting to switch out of a STEM major after facing a college calculus class. Black, Latinx, and women students are especially at risk. This pattern points to the need for deep changes in the delivery of calculus, as highlighted in a report I recently co-authored with two colleagues, Charting a New Course: Investigating Barriers on the Calculus Pathway to STEM.

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