When it comes to STEM education, the most ambitious goal is probably to get up to the standards that the best science & engineering programs provide: Caltech, MIT, Stanford… you name it!
What do these schools actually promote to become world famous?
In this post, I will be sharing the most helpful, critical skills I gained from MIT. The purpose is not to advertise for the school or brag about any of my achievements. And of course, it’s also not to belittle any programs.
The goal of this post is to share the key skills that YOU can help your children/students develop starting today, so they have the STEM “muscle memory” and can apply the problem solving skills in any future endeavor.
I Thought I Would Learn More Math & Engineering?
Going through a two-year Master’s program at MIT in Mechanical Engineering, I was required to take courses and write a thesis. Like going through any school, there were courses I was good at and there were a couple that I just regretted taking. At that time, just like all other students, I was focusing on passing the courses and fulfilling all the requirements.
What I didn’t know was the value of:
- Going through those courses (focus of this post)
- Completing the thesis (to be discussed in the next post)
What I Actually Learned
Till now, I don’t recall learning much new math or science theories beyond what was required from prior education. What I recall learning from each course is how to APPLY and INTEGRATE all the prior knowledge into understanding something in the next level by DISSECTING the new situation into smaller, manageable pieces.
Sounds familiar? It is indeed the Computational Thinking that was thoroughly practiced in every course.
For almost every course, I started to see the same kind of math being applied. I started to see similar equations being solved, but to explain something in a different expertise.
I was never tested on facts anymore. I was always tested on the computational thinking that was needed for the particular course.
How I am Still Applying the Skills
It’s been almost ten years since I graduated. Because my career has not required an extensive expertise in a technical field, I have been applying Computational Thinking in almost everything I do everyday.
Ranging from planning for a move to a new home to teaching my students, I realized that I’ve been thinking differently after my academic career at MIT:
- I pay way more attention to specs, numbers that explain a device or a situation
- I question more about the underlying cause
- I assess the larger picture first before getting stuck on the details
How Does My Experience Help YOU Coach Your Child?
You guessed it! Coach your child to develop the Computational Thinking skill!
The goal is not to direct every child to become a scientist or engineer. The goal is to provide the tool your child needs to assess various situations and come up with the best solutions for themselves, surprisingly enough, including maintaining relationships, managing their time and resolving conflicts.
Computational Thinking is a skill to be developed and practiced from different aspects. It is extremely broad to cover it here. However, here are some specific actions you can take to get started:
- Go through and practice the tips provided in all the posts in True STEM Blog. Every post is written from the perspective of practicing Computational Thinking.
- In sum, keep asking them WHY and HOW.
- Keep getting THEM to ask WHY and HOW.
More will be shared about my journey at MIT and how we can create the mini-MIT environment for the children early on!
Disclaimer: This post is only based on my personal experience. It is not to generalize other alum’s experience or exclude a similar experience from other learning settings.