Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (2023)

K–12 STEM education encompasses the processes of critical thinking, analysis, and collaboration in which students integrate the processes and concepts in real world contexts of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, fostering the development of STEM skills and competencies for college, career, and life.

The STEAM SymposiumScience, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (1) began incorporating Art into what was previously called the STEM Symposium with the 2017 California STEAM Symposium.

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Defining STEM and STEAM

STEM Education in California

To be successful, California’s efforts to improve schools and raise student achievement must include advancing our students’ understanding of STEM: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Through STEM education, students learn to become problem solvers, innovators, creators, and collaborators and go on to fill the critical pipeline of engineers, scientists, and innovators so essential to the future of California and the nation.

STEM education inspires and prepares all of its students to seize the opportunities of the global society through innovation, inquiry, collaboration, and creative problem solving.

California also has education programs that incorporate science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM). For more information about STEAM education programs in California, please contact the following Divisions of the California Department of Education listed below:

Expanded Learning Division

STEM Disciplines

The Four STEM Disciplines Described

Science is the study of the natural world, including the laws of nature associated with physics, chemistry, and biology and the treatment or application of facts, principles, concepts, and conventions associated with these disciplines. Science is both a body of knowledge that has been accumulated over time and a process—scientific inquiry—that generates new knowledge. Knowledge from science informs the engineering design process. (NGSS for California Public Schools, K–12)

Technology, while not a discipline in the strictest sense, comprises the entire system of people and organizations, knowledge, processes, and devices that go into creating and operating technological artifacts, as well as the artifacts themselves. Throughout history, humans have created technology to satisfy their wants and needs. Much of modern technology is a product of science and engineering, and technological tools are used in both fields.

Engineering is both a body of knowledge—about the design and creation of human-made products—and a process for solving problems. This process is design under constraint. One constraint in engineering design is the laws of nature, or science. Other constraints include time, money, available materials, ergonomics, environmental regulations, manufacturability, and reparability. Engineering utilizes concepts from science and mathematics as well as technological tools.(Engineering Design in the NGSSScience, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (2)(PDF))

Mathematics is the study of patterns and relationships among quantities, numbers, and space. Unlike in science, where empirical evidence is sought to warrant or overthrow claims, claims in mathematics are warranted through logical arguments based on foundational assumptions. The local arguments themselves are part of mathematics along with the claims. As in science, knowledge in mathematics continues to grow, but unlike in science, knowledge in mathematics is not overturned, unless the foundational assumptions are transformed. Specific conceptual categories of K–12 mathematics include numbers and arithmetic, algebra, functions, geometry, and statistics and probability. Mathematics is used in science, engineering, and technology. (California Common Core State Standards (PDF))

Source: Adapted from the National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council, 2009.

Students learn not only in the classroom but also in the real world, and the importance of expanded, informal, and K–12 regular school day learning integration has been emphasized recently by the 2011 convening of the Committee on Integrated STEM Education by the National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council (NRC), and the NRC convening, STEM is Everywhere. The most effective STEM education takes place where expanded, informal learning, and K–12 regular day instruction are integrated and the unique potential of each of these environments is fully leveraged for high-quality STEM education, often referred to as STEM ecosystems. (Change the Equation, 2012).

Computer Science

Computer Science (CS) Education Initiatives at the California Department of Education (CDE)

Recognizing the increasing importance of computer science education in California, former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson was tasked with supporting two efforts to establish this content area in California. Torlakson convened an advisory committee to develop new state computer science content standards on September 25, 2017. The second initiative began in response to California Education Code Section 53313Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (3), which specifies that the Superintendent shall develop a computer science strategic implementation plan for submission to the Legislature, if the plan is adopted by the State Board of Education, on or before July 15, 2019. The implementation of computer science education, throughout kindergarten and grades 1 to 12, would allow for pupils to build their computational and critical thinking skills, enhance technological development, and prepare them for the 21st century.

CDE Programs and Initiatives

Computer Science Strategic Implementation Plan
Information and resources related to the Computer Science Strategic Implementation Plan.

California Computer Science Education Standards
Information on current computer science education resources, initiatives, and standards.

California Career Technical Education: Information and Communication Technologies (PDF)
The Career Technical Education (CTE) Model Curriculum Standards have expanded to include the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector. Essential skills for those within the ICT sector, such as project management and effective communication, are described here.

Digital Literacy: The Model School Library Standards for California Public Schools (PDF) provides standards for libraries across California public institutions regarding the accessibility and usage of print and digital resources for students.

CDE for CS Newsletter: To subscribe to this quarterly newsletter, send a blank email to


Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools (ACCESS)Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (4)
ACCESS is a statewide network of computer scientists, K-12 teachers, professors from community colleges through universities, educational policy advocates, and related industry professionals who advocate for high-quality K-12 computer science education in California to ensure that it is accessible to all students.

Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (5)
Regarded as the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, the Association for Computing Machinery provides resources that aim to advance computing as both a science and profession.

Code.orgScience, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (6) is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing access to and equity within computer science education for women and underrepresented communities. The website provides programming courses for grades K-12, resources for the Hour of Code, and advocacy materials.

Computer Science Education WeekScience, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (7)
Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) is an annual program dedicated to inspiring K-12 students to participate in computer science.

Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA)Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (8)
The CSTA aims to empower, engage, and advocate for K-12 computer science educators worldwide. The CSTA has developed a core set of learning objectives designed to provide the foundation for a complete computer science curriculum at the K-12 implementation level.

CSPdWeekScience, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (9)
Computer Science Professional Development Week (CSPdWeek) makes high-quality professional development available for every teacher and counselor, regardless of where they work, what program they teach, or their district’s ability to fund their development.

CS UnpluggedScience, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (10)
CS Unplugged is a collection of free teaching tools for educators that teaches computer science through engaging games, puzzles, and activities.

K-12 Computer Science FrameworkScience, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (11)
Developed by organizations including, the CSTA, and the Association for Computing Machinery, the K-12 Computer Science Framework is designed to guide computer science education toward accessibility and participation for all students.

National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT)Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (12)
The NCWIT is a non-profit community that aims to increase the meaningful participation of all women in the computing sector, particularly in terms of technological innovation and development. The NCWIT provides valuable resources for educators to utilize in diverse classrooms.

STEM Resources

California Department of Education Resources

Assessment – California Assessment of Student Performance and ProgressScience, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (13)
The California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress System (CAASPP) is a resource for educators to access test administration systems, training resources and materials, the latest CAASPP news, and important dates regarding administering the CAASPP tests.

Career Technical Education
A program of study that involves a multiyear sequence of courses that integrates core academic knowledge with technical and occupational knowledge to provide students with a pathway to postsecondary education and careers.

Education Technology
Provides assistance to schools and districts in integrating technology with teaching and learning.

Engaging Girls in STEM
Resources to support girls in STEM fields.

Engineering and Architecture (PDF)
Foundational information about the engineering and architecture sector pathways and occupations for students in California.

Environmental Education
Information on current environmental education resources, special events, and grant opportunities.

Resources and information for enhancing the content knowledge and teaching skills of classroom teachers and links to foundational documents which guide California's mathematics instruction.

Resources and information for enhancing the content knowledge and teaching skills of classroom teachers and links to foundational documents which guide California's science instruction.

  • California Science Framework
    The Science Framework for California Public Schools is the blueprint for reform of the science curriculum, instruction, professional preparation and development, and instructional materials in California.

Statewide Partner Resources

CA 4 NGSS ToolkitScience, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (14)
The California Alliance for Next Generation Science Standards facilitates collaboration among education, business, government, and community leaders to support effective and timely implementation of CA NGSS throughout California.

California Mathematics CouncilScience, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (15)
The California Mathematics Council (CMC) is an organization that believes all students have the capacity to become mathematically competent and confident when provided a rigorous and challenging mathematical program supported by high expectations.

California Science Teachers AssociationScience, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (16)
The California Science Teachers Association's (CSTA) mission is to promote high quality science education.

California Science Teachers Association (CSTA) NGSS ResourcesScience, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (17)
The CSTA has developed a collection of resources and information for California science educators regarding the implementation of the state’s new science standards.

California State University and Better Together NGSS ResourcesScience, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (18) (PDF)
The California State University collaborated with the Better Together California Teachers’ Summit to create this very comprehensive list of resources for teachers and schools who are implementing the California State Standards and Frameworks.

The California STEM NetworkScience, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (19) is a Project of Children Now.
The STEM Network web pageScience, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (20) contains links to Regional California STEM Networks.

Contra County Office of Education STEAM InitiativeScience, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (21)
The Contra Costa Office of Education provides resources and a newsletter for STEAM.

National Resources

National Science and Technology CouncilScience, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (22)
This Council was established by Executive OrderScience, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (23)(PDF) on November 23, 1993 and is a cabinet-level council of advisers to the President on science and technology.

STEM Teaching ToolsScience, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (24)
The STEM Teaching Tools initiative is funded through federal research grants from the National Science Foundation.


Innovate: A Blueprint for STEM Education (PDF; 2014)
A blueprint for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics in California public education produced in 2014 by the STEM Task Force for Superintendent Tom Torlakson.

The Condition of STEMScience, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (25) (PDF; 2017)
The report will show achievement levels for students in each of the four areas of STEM on a national level.

Disparities in STEM Employment by Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin: American Community Survey ReportsScience, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (26) (PDF; 2013)
This report details the historical demographic composition of STEM occupations, followed by a detailed examination of current STEM employment by age and sex, presence of children in the household, and race and Hispanic origin based on the 2011 American Community Survey (ACS).


What skills do you need for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics? ›

What are STEM skills?
  • When we talk about STEM skills, we're talking about the individual skills needed to do science, mathematics, and engineering, and those needed to use technology effectively. ...
  • Creativity. ...
  • Inquiry Skills. ...
  • Math & Science Skills. ...
  • Engineering-Design Thinking. ...
  • Critical Thinking. ...
  • Collaboration.

How to do well in STEM classes? ›

Experiment with self-testing and spaced repetition of various topics over multiple days. Practice exactly what you'll be asked to do. Many courses will offer practice questions with their solutions; however, you need to work out the answers to practice problems before you review the solutions.

How useful is the study of science engineering technology and mathematics? ›

Importance of STEM

STEM in higher education teaches students to think critically, prepares them for careers and creates professionals that can work across scientific disciplines to solve challenging problems. STEM integrates multiple disciplines and trains students to use cross-disciplinary knowledge to solve problems.

What is the hardest strand? ›

STEM is harder in many ways. STEM requires more rigor and focus. There isn't a “subjective, emotional” part of any of it other than the starting point for being “objective and rational”. And there's a ton of the latter.


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