[Skip to page content]
< Back
NMSI Blog

Quotable Quotes About Math + Science

Today, more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation. It's time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and work to restore America's place as the world leader in science and technology.
– President Barack Obama
America faces many challenges...but the enemy I fear most is complacency. We are about to be hit by the full force of global competition. If we continue to ignore the obvious task at hand while others beat us at our own game, our children and grandchildren will pay the price. We must now establish a sense of urgency.
–Charles VestPresident of the National Academy of Engineering, President Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Q: What do we know works to improve student achievement in K-12 STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] education?
A: I'd say great teachers, who know the content.
–Arne DuncanU.S. Secretary of Education
Q: You've talked about the value of alternative certification. But there are different approaches. Attracting midcareer professionals is one approach. But then there's the Teach for America model, and the UTeach [at the University of Texas] model. What are the strengths and weaknesses of those different approaches?
A: I love 'em all. I see them as three different buckets. You have the young guns, the Teach for America students who are right out of school. Then you have the midcareer changers. Then you have a set of folks in their 50s and 60s, moving toward retirement. But they still have a good 10 to 15 years in them. I think we need to work very aggressively in all three areas. The important thing is to collect the data and track them over time, to see who's achieving the best results for children.
–Arne DuncanU.S. Secretary of Education, in an interview with Science Magazine
If America is to maintain our high standard of living, we must continue to innovate. We are competing with nations many times our size. We don't have a single brain to waste. Math and science are the engines of innovation. With these engines we can lead the world. We must demystify math and science so that all students feel the joy that follows understanding.
– Dr. Michael BrownFormer Nobel Prize winner for medicine and the Paul J. Thomas Professor of Molecular Genetics and Director of the Jonsson Center for Molecular Genetics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas
Q: Anything you would like business schools to teach more? Less?
A: In our business, there's not enough emphasis on math. Coming out of college, we really like to have kids who like math, study math and get it. And so I'd like to make sure that there is an emphasis on math.
Q: But somebody might say, ‘That's what calculators are for.'
A: And that's exactly the problem. Because when, at least when I was in school, we didn't have the computer technology that we have today to do a lot of the work for us. And so I think there's logic that has to go into this. 
And I don't think you should actually have to have a calculator for every decision that you make that has numbers attached to I t. Some of that should just come to you quickly, and you should be able to quickly move to your instincts about that being a good or not good decision.
–Terry J. LundgrenCEO of Macy's, interviewed by The New York Times on April 12, 2009
The United States is facing much more than a temporary economic crisis - we may put a patch on our stalled economic system, but we aren't likely to see robust, long-term growth unless we get a 21st century engine.
– Tom Luce, FormerCEO, National Math and Science Initiative
Only by providing leading-edge human capital and knowledge capital can American continue to maintain a high standard of living, including providing national security for its citizens.
– Norman AugustineChair, Rising Above the Gathering Storm Committee
On October 4, 1957, history changed with the Soviet Union's successful launch of Sputnik I, the world's first man-made satellite. Americans were alarmed that we had been outpaced technologically and saw the Soviet feat as a threat to our national security. In order to catch up with the Russians, our nation swung into action and infused new funding and resources into scientific research on a priority basis that resulted in new labs springing up all over the country. To support this national initiative, schools upgraded and expanded math and science instruction at every level. Congress established scholarships and grants to enable young people to pursue science and engineering majors in college and graduate schools. These efforts paid off as a new generation of American scientists and engineers was produced and the United States became the Mecca for scientific research in virtually all fields. Now, five decades later, we are again on the verge of falling behind technologically, largely because of a failure to provide world class science and math instruction in our schools...We cannot fail to prepare our children to thrive in a world where science and technology define in many ways how we work, live and entertain ourselves.
– Marian Wright EdelmanPresident and Founder, Children's Defense Fund
I relate a lot of it to my football training. We had a highly functioning team and learned all the things you need to do to have a successful launch. I try to tell kids if you play sports, you can be an Astronaut, because it is very similar, the training is similar. It's just that you have to learn something different. I tell them, ‘Hey, go for your dreams – but you have to have a plan.' My plan was education. ..I was in Algebra class like you are in the eighth grade, I did the same things you do. There's nothing magic about becoming an Astronaut, it's about dedication and working hard. It's work ethic. If they have that work ethnic and apply themselves, they can be an Astronaut also.
– Leland MelvinAstronaut, drafted after college by the NFL to play as a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions and recently served on the crew of the space Shuttle Atlantis on a mission to the international space station
The financial crisis just made the hole deeper, which is why our stimulus needs to be both big and smart, both financially and educationally stimulating. It needs to be able to produce not only more shovel-ready jobs and shovel-ready workers, but more Google-ready jobs and Windows-ready and knowledge-ready workers.
– Thomas L. FriedmanNew York Times Columnist
In a global economy, the best jobs are not going to go to the best in your class, but to the best in the world. Some of the Asian countries are just outstanding in math and science achievement and we're way behind.
–Gary PhillipsChief Scientist for the American Institutes for Research in Washington, D.C. Phillips' research shows that even American eighth graders in the best-performing states like Massachusetts rank significantly below eighth grade
We do produce students who function at the highest levels in math and science internationally. The problem is we don't produce enough of them. 
–Vivien StewartVice President for Education at Asia Society in New York
Now that we know what works, we should ask government and corporate leaders to take action today. Every minute we wait, we fall further behind other countries.
– Tom Luce,  FormerCEO, National Math and Science Initiative
Only by providing leading-edge human capital and knowledge capital can America continue to maintain a high standard of living - including providing national-security - for its citizens.
– Norm Augustine Chair, Rising Above the Gathering Storm Committee
Will America lead...and reap the rewards? Or will we surrender that advantage to other countries with clearer vision?
– Susan HockfieldPresident, MIT
Yes, we know the world is flat. But what are we going to do about it? We need to start educating kids today for the jobs of tomorrow. We need better math and science classes and more math and science teachers. We need to launch a national campaign to make math and science a national priority. And we need to act like our future depends on it. After all, it does.
– Tom Luce, Former CEO, National Math and Science Initiative
Among the most consistently cited challenges facing science and math education are the number and quality of teachers. The National Science Board's Science and Engineering Indicators 2008 report noted that 80 percent of schools had teaching vacancies last year, with 74 percent having vacancies in math programs and 56 percent having openings in physical science departments.
– Rob BroisseauInside Science News Service
One of my favorite quotes is from Carl Sagan, who said it's suicidal to create a society that depends on science and technology in which no one knows anything about science and technology - and that's the road that we are headed down. I think part of the issues is that it takes year, decades, to build the capability to have a society that does depend on science and technology. You need to generate the scientists and engineers, starting in school-elementary school, middle school, you have to fund the research that those scientists go on to do-the fundamental research. You have to generate the engineers that can turn those scientific breakthroughs into products and services. And then you have to have the right environment.
–Sally RidePresident and CEO, Sally Ride Science, former Astronaut, first American woman in space
This new generation will have the opportunity to solve many global issues: healthcare, energy security and the global food crisis to name just a few. Given this, the missing ingredient is a better knowledge of math and science and its power to provide solutions to these problems. Technology can and will change the world. For this younger generation to be the force for good they want to be, they need to understand that the new literacy of the 21st century includes math and science.
– Tom Luce, Former CEO, National Math and Science Initiative