Teaming Up to Make Data Science a Priority

The math curriculum taught to today’s high school students is out of sync with the current landscape and our everyday use of technology. A podcast by Freakonomics author Steven Levitt discusses the current “geometry sandwich” of Algebra I/Geometry/Algebra II, which was designed to prepare students for the Space Race of the 1950s, not where we are today.

Data Science for Everyone found that 90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years. However, only 11% of high school students take a statistics course. Data science jobs have seen a 650% growth since 2012 and reports show that seven of 10 careers with the fastest growth are data-centric. In order to prepare students for the future, a change needs to be made with their relationship with data.

Data Science for Everyone is a national movement for advancing data literacy in the U.S. among students, comprised of a coalition of more than 160 educators, policymakers, and industry leaders. Earlier this year, Data Science for Everyone submitted a letter to the Biden administration urging to make data literacy a national priority. They have created actionable steps and gathered resources for educators to implement into their curriculum.

To date, states including California, Oregon, and Ohio are working to update their current curriculum to meet the growing demand. Additionally, UCLA’s Introduction to Data Science course is taught in 26 school districts nationwide. This is still not enough; additional advocacy is needed to help ensure that the issue of data literacy remains part of the conversation surrounding education.

Last month, Data Science for Everyone held a virtual Commitments Campaign event to bring together all stakeholders who are working to make a change in data literacy. The event garnered 272 commitments from companies, education leaders, and policymakers that impact more than 3 million students, 25,000 teachers, and 500 school districts.

Dr. Karina Edmonds, senior vice president and head of Academies and SAP University Alliances for SAP, spoke to how data science education strengthens our communities and workforce: “We absolutely have to get everyone at the table as the growth of data science jobs continues to skyrocket. We can’t afford to leave a great part of our society behind.”

The 49ers and SAP have committed to offer rich educational data science resources for K-12 students over the next year. SAP and the 49ers Foundation plan to launch a new data science course by next year that will include data modules focused on using football data to make data science more relevant to students. The two phased program will be comprised of virtual lessons for middle school students, along with a high school curriculum and field trips for grades 9-12.

We can each play a role with bringing this movement to life. Individuals can make their own personal commitment to help ensure that students have access to data literacy skills. Simple things like the following:

  • Parents and adults must encourage children’s curiosity around data science and math. Projecting negative past experiences with math and science can influence children’s relationship with data science in the future. Remove negative self-talk — things like “I hate math” or “I’m not good with numbers” — that are only hurting the curiosity we want youth to have.
  • Contact decision-makers and initiate conversations in your community to find support for modern standards that reflect the data-centric world. This can include contacting the Department of Education, state legislators, or the local school board and district superintendent. These policymakers influence curriculum, course offerings, and teachers’ professional development, so engaging these leaders and getting them excited about data science can unlock the potential of new courses and better trained teachers.
  • Get personally involved as a volunteer. Not all programs rely on volunteer support, but there is great importance in students hearing from experts in the topic being discussed. The SAP Corporate Social Responsibility team has partners across North America that can host employees for speaking opportunities. Check out organizations like Computer Science for All Teachers and Tech Girlz.