If American students are to remain competitive in world markets, they must become more knowledgeable about mathematics and science, Sen. Scott N. Howell, D-Salt Lake, believes.

He is drumming up support for SB159, a bill that would require Utah's high school students to take three years in each of the subject areas as a graduation requirement. State standards now call for two years each of math and science to graduate. The bill was passed by the Senate Education Committee.The increased standard would not become effective until the 1994-1995 school year. A waiver could be provided for students who, for sufficient reason, did not want to meet the three-year requirement.

Howell said the three-year lag would give the state time to gear up to meet the bill's requirements, including finding more teachers certified to teach in math and science areas, look at such issues as the current lack of laboratory facilities and to determine how to pay for the additional classes.