American consumers can’t add well enough to manage their money, writes Bob Sullivan on MSNBC’s Red Tape Chronicles. He cites the Department of Education’s National Assessment of Adult Literacy:
*Only 42 percent were able to pick out two items on a menu, add them, and calculate a tip.
*Only 1 in 5 could reliably calculate mortgage interest.
*1 in 5 could not calculate weekly salary when told an hourly pay rate.
*Only 13 percent were deemed “proficient.” Worse yet, only 1 in 10 women, 1 in 25 Hispanics and 1 in 50 African Americans made the grade.
Twenty million Americans “pay someone to file their 1040EZ, a one-page tax form with around 10 blanks to fill out.”
Johnny can’t calculate because Johnny’s teachers don’t know math, Sullivan suggests.
*In 18 U.S. states, not even one elementary math class is required for certification.
*Some teaching colleges allow admittance as long as students have math skills equal to their future students — that is, as long as they could pass a 5th grade math test.
*It’s possible in some states to pass the teacher certification exam (Praxis) without answering a single math question correctly.
*In Massachusetts, there’s a special program to reacquaint teachers with math. The man who runs the program says half of teachers can’t answer basic questions involving fractions and has concluded that many elementary teachers are “phobic” about math.
High school seniors who say they want to be elementary teachers have below-average math scores.
Innumeracy has led consumers into disaster, Sullivan argues.