Study: 40% of adults have difficulty with basic maths

SHOCKING research on adult numeracy has shown that 40% of Irish adults have difficulty with basic maths calculations.

The study by the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) asked people to complete basic calculations based on the primary school curriculum. Forty percent of the 1,000 people surveyed got half or all of the questions wrong.

The research showed that those who leave education early struggle most with numeracy and those with third level education are most at ease with figures.

Social status also determines numerical ability, the study shows, with those in the ABC1 classes much more likely than C2DEs to get the answers right. Farmers scored somewhere in between both groups and overall, men performed better than women.

According to NALA, this research highlights the fact that two distinct sub-groups of the population – those who left school at primary level and C2DEs – have lower levels of numeracy skills overall and may require specific help.

Fine Gael says these figures make a mockery of the Government’s assertion that the dawning of a smart economy will forge Ireland’s future growth.

NALA director Inez Bailey said new television advertisements will be encouraging people to disregard any stigma and make contact with adult education services.

“This research highlights once again that those who left school early have lower levels of numeracy skills overall and may require specific help and encouragement to allow them to function effectively when faced with everyday numerical challenges. We have no doubt that this campaign will encourage people throughout Ireland to take the first step into education and ultimately change people’s lives,” she said.

“As low-skilled jobs become less available, these people are now at the greatest risk of unemployment and already form the greatest group who are unemployed. Those with higher education and training levels can adapt their skills for new and emerging work. This is rarely an option for the very low skilled, who with less opportunities are forced into State dependency,” she said.

Last night, Fine Gael education spokesman Fergus O’Dowd repeated his call for the Government to ensure that maths is only taught by teachers who studied the subject in the final year of their degree.

“The figures revealed by NALA are a shocking reflection of this Government’s track record in maths education. If 40% of the population have difficulty with everyday maths, including questions from the primary school curriculum, it is a troubling indication of the extent of our unmet training needs,” he said.

“If we are to improve the current situation and enable students to leave school with a solid comprehension of the subject and confidence in it, we need to ensure that a greater number of maths teachers have maths as a subject in their final year of study.”


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