Math and science education is important for everyone, but it doesn’t mean everyone has to become a scientist or mathematician, a former astronaut said.
Astronaut George “Pinky” Nelson addressed about 30 people about the role of the College of Education and the College of Science & Engineering on Monday in preparing future math and science teachers.
Nelson is a veteran of three space missions including Challenger, Columbia and Discovery. He’s also the director of math, science and technology education at Western Washington University.
Since his days as an astronaut, Nelson has been searching for ways to prepare teachers differently to promote learning through thinking. Nelson said it is important to teach all teachers how to be quality math and science teachers for the students’ sake.
“We can take average students and produce great teachers,” Nelson said. “The importance of teaching science and math is to improve thinking ability in students.”
Having an astronaut talk about the importance of math and science education seems to be the most effective, said Doug Ingram, a physics and astronomy instructor.
“Pinky is an inspiration. He shows what you can do with a solid math and science education. Not many people get to be astronauts,” Ingram said.
The world is a more technically complicated place than it was 50 years ago. Scientific literacy is no longer an option and it is important to learn how to think logically and have problem-solving abilities, Nelson said.
“Even if you don’t become a professional scientist, you still need to think like one, no matter what job you do,” Ingram said.
Professors at TCU are taking Nelson’s advice to learn how to better prepare math and science teachers, said Molly Weinburgh, director of the Andrews Institute of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education.
“Nelson has helped educators to rethink and better understand what good science education might look like, which is all part of what the Andrews Institute does,” Weinburgh said.
The Andrews Institute hosted the event in the Amon Carter Lecture Hall in Palko Hall. The institute was established as a collaborative venture between the College of Education and the College of Science and Engineering to prepare math and science teachers.