Can you solve this problem? 375 + 948+ 22 + 659 = ?
What about this one? 645 x 2.45 = ?
Or, how about, if a= 15” and b= 20” what does c equal in the formula
If you couldn’t unfortunately you are not alone. And as a result American businesses are suffering due to these poor math skills. According to Niala Boodhoo of NPR, “…today’s manufacturing work requires strong math skills…. And job applicants who want to go into manufacturing often don’t have what it takes”, as stated in the audio report for July 10, 2012 For Manufacturing Jobs, Workers Brush Up On Math.
Many may read this and think “Well I am not going into engineering or manufacturing so I don’t need to know this stuff, I am going to be a carpenter/plumber/welder.” Hate to burst your bubble but if you could not do those problems above you would not even make it as an apprentice plumber, nor as a carpenter or electrician. The inability of our children to come out of schools doing basic math hurts our ability to be competitive not just in science and engineering positions but in core jobs that we need on a daily basis for our society to function. Take a look at this quote from a plumber:
The one incident I still remember to this day is when we were putting up a pipe and it had to be placed on an angle between two other pipes. The guy I was working for had me go up and down a 20 foot ladder at least ten times before he was able to get it right! I tried to reason with him by explaining that there is a mathematical formula that will PRECISELY figure the required angles. Heck! Just whip out a simple protractor and you’ll save yourself a whole lot of time! I could not believe it when his exact words lashed out, “That is a bunch of mumbo-jumbo!” Needless to say, I was the one who paid the price over the years for his, and many others’, ignorance of basic math and geometry; the exact, indisputable, and finite rules of mathematics. (Source: Why Learn Fitter Math.)
That is the cost of lack of math skills. How many times have you been at a cash register and the clerk was unable to make change, struggling to even count out the change properly despite being told the answer by the cash register? And I cannot tell you how many times I have heard in HR classes the question “Will there be math on the test?” I hate to tell you this but basic math is an important skill for HR positions too.
Who is responsible for this problem? That is not an easy answer. No, that is not true. It is easy. It is our fault as parents for not insisting our children learn math, because we can’t do it ourselves. It is the educational system’s fault for not finding a more effective way to engage children with math. It is business’ fault for not insisting that the educational system and parents produce better students in math.
Who suffers because of this problem? Business suffers because we are unable to find qualified candidates to fill positions. That reduces profitability. Customers suffer because products and services are more expensive. Society suffers because our standard of living is reduced. Parents suffer because we see their children struggle and not be as successful as they could be. Lastly our children suffer in missing out on fulfilling their potential.
How do we solve this problem? Everyone has to step up and do their part. No rocket science, though a dose of that might make it more interesting.
Who do you think bears the ultimate responsibility? What can be done about it?