Concerning the February issue (“How can we, those who understand, use, and love science and technology, pass it along? I invite your thoughts! For those outside the U.S., how is STEM (science, technology, engineering and math related careers) taught and encouraged in your county?”), in Portugal there is a general trend that shows that the Portuguese youth do not like math issues. In the past few years the high school math final exams scores are becoming lower and there is an evident decreasing trend. Some of our students have developed “natural protection mechanisms” against math topics.
After medicine, the engineering graduation courses are the most popular one in Portugal. There are a lot of young students that will be the future of the Portuguese engineering. However, some of them have a lot of difficulties in those curricula that are related to mathematical issues. This is a very important obstacle that I and my colleagues as Professors have to face and pass through, in order to help our students to become successful professionals.
The “math problem” is not only a reality in our students. It is also a problem in our companies. I am supervising a project in order to analyze the use of quality tools in the Portuguese companies and the preliminary results show us that our companies are using only those tools that do not require much knowledge and that are very easy to understand. The tools used by the Portuguese companies point to the existence of low skills to select the appropriate tools to help maximize the efficiency of processes inside the organization.
I think that we have a cultural problem that will not change in one day but could be reduced in some years if we do a good “home work”.
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