Across the pond, a worrying survey has found that adults don’t remember a lot of math from their school days, and it might be impacting their career.
YouGov, an internet-based market research company, surveyed 2000 adults about their math skills. They found that 20% of adults did not know how to work out fractions or percentages – that’s one fifth of adults, if you fall into this category.
The survey also showed that 35% of those who took part could not calculate the mode, 31% could not work out the median, and 28% could not figure out the mean, in an equation. Furthermore, 27% of adults did not know the area of a circle.
Even basic arithmetic skills are lacking in grown ups. A quarter of those surveyed could not remember how to do long division and 23% forgot how to do long multiplication. Another 27% were unable to work out the square root of an equation.
Why does this matter? It may not make a difference to the person suffering from mathematical amnesia but it makes a huge difference to their managers.
In the article, which reported on the survey. Dr Nick Smith, who founded the Oxford Open Learning Trust said that: “Most employers will discount any applicant who seems weak in key skills like writing and arithmetic, whatever the job. Every study has shown that there is a direct link between our proficiency in basic skills, career advancement and prosperity.”
It’s not just your career that suffers, not knowing math could place hurdles in your daily life: Adding the tip to a restaurant bill, working out the best mortgage from your bank and helping your child with your homework are the kind of mundane tasks that become extra arduous when math skills are lacking.
A separate UK survey revealed that adults were concerned about their lack of math skills. The questionnaire found that more than a third of adults wanted to improve their math. Around 37% wanted to do this to manage their finances better, and 46% wanted to help their kids with their schoolwork. Other adults wanted to improve their math so that they could cook better or have a better understanding of the figures quoted on television.
A few experts commented on the findings:
“Knowing your numbers isn’t just for the classroom; it’s a valuable skill that lasts a lifetime…Understanding what we spend and what we earn to a greater extent could be the difference between a balanced budget and an uphill money struggle,” Mark Rennision, group finance director of Nationwide Building Society, said.
“Math is the lifeblood of good money saving, helping you understand when you’re getting a good deal and when you’re being ripped off.” Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said.
So how can you improve in math? Maybe take a look at your child’s homework while it’s still manageable and stay involved as they get older. Even if you don’t know the answers, working with your child will mean that they learn not to panic when not all of the numbers add up.
Do you struggle with your child’s homework? We would love to hear from you.
Marina Gomer is a journalist and mother of one. She lives with her family in Sydney, Australia.