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Jun 19, 2017 09:49 AM EDT

A longitudinal study conducted in part by the University of Wisconsin-Madison revealed that parents' enthusiasm about STEM affects their children's test result as well as their desire to pursue a STEM-related degree later in life.

The study recruited families in Wisconsin between the year 1990 and 1991 and followed them until the present. The STEM part of the study was led by Judith Harackiewicz, a psychologist at the UW. She and her team examined 181 families who have students attending different high schools around the state.

The families were then divided into two groups where parents of the first group were sent information regarding the importance and relevance of STEM to high school students. They were also given access to materials on STEM. The second group, on the other hand, did not receive any information at all.

The researchers noticed that students who belonged to the first group increased their science and mathematics scores by 12 percent during a standardized test for high school achievement.

Moreover, students who belonged to the first group are more inclined to take a STEM-related course in college or pursue a STEM-related career. They also seem to value STEM more than those who belong to the second group.

With the results, Harackiewicz and her team concluded that parents greatly influence their children's educational choices. She added that parents are an 'untapped resource' for encouraging students in becoming interested in STEM.

Parents can serve as the trajectory for students by helping their children understand the importance and relevance of math and science in high school.

The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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