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STEM is not just maths – Trinity Liao

Many of us know that STEM revolves around the four main disciplines – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These are all intertwined subjects that are important in understanding pretty much every part of our lives. STEM is everywhere. But the one thing that perhaps blankets it all is mathematics. If you choose a STEM pathway at university, there’s a big chance that at least one of the courses you do are maths focused. Maths is so integrated into most jobs, which is why most schools in SA make maths a compulsory subject until senior years.

However, maths isn’t just the holy grail that every STEM student should focus on. Sure, it’s incredibly important, but there is a vast spectrum of equally critical aspects of STEM that often get overlooked.

Think of STEM as a puzzle, and each puzzle piece representing an aspect of STEM – creativity, curiosity, organisation skills, procedural thinking, problem solving, lateral thinking, communication, collaboration and of course science, technology, engineering, and maths. All these pieces fit together to make the final picture of STEM. It’s important to note that one piece is not more or less important than another, just like how a puzzle is not fully complete until every single piece is connected. 

This is STEM. An interconnectedly diverse puzzle filled with multiple disciplines and skills. Now, we’re not here to make you feel overwhelmed about STEM. We’re here to tell you just how beautiful it is.

And to get a better picture of STEM, let us introduce you to some of its important aspects that you might not have thought about:


Many people don’t often associate STEM with creativity or any artistic sense due to how mentally stimulating STEM can be. But creativity is very important in any STEM discipline as it helps you to break out of conventional bounds and explore ideas outside the box. Having an innovative vision to solve a problem stirs the conversation, leading to those so-called ‘crazy’ ideas actually coming true. And it all simply starts with, “what if we do this…”


Start asking those why questions! Even if they annoy the heck out of people. Actively seeking answers are the key to driving new ideas and innovation. When you take the initiative to ask questions, you are learning and evolving yourself as a person. So, embrace the unknown and be curious about everything around you.

Procedural thinking:

Procedural thinking is the method of thinking logically in a step-by-step order. Think of it as a flow chart or a recipe. It only works successfully if you follow through it in sequence. This is especially important when you’re conducting an experiment or trying to understand how something happened. 

Lateral thinking:

Most of the time, the problems that we’re given in STEM are not like the usual school assignments where all the criteria have been laid out for us and we know there’s one clear endpoint. Usually, we get incomplete bits of information with no ‘correct’ answer, so our job is to design the best possible solution. This is where lateral thinking comes in. We get creative with the information that we already have. We look for patterns, we create our own system of understanding the problem, and like creativity, we think outside the box.


Lastly, working with others is extremely vital for the success of solving a problem. When like-minded people collaborate to work towards a mutual goal, it makes the work more meaningful and engaging. Not only does it speed up the process of problem solving, you get to meet amazing people and form new friends that empower each other. 

So, there you go. These are just some of the wide range of aspects that often get overlooked. And this is proof that STEM is not just about maths but an intertwined landscape that stimulates every part of our brain.

And it is simply fantastic.