Literacy and numeracy in young adults

  Forum Editor 11:37 19 Apr 2014

I was in a shop earlier this morning, and I saw an elderly man trying to buy something that cost £99.99. The shop was advertising a 10% discount on all items over £50 for one day only.

The electronic tills had failed, and the young (about 25 yrs) assistant was trying to calculate 10% of £99.99. 'It's £9.99' said the man, 'I owe you £90'. We waited, while the assistant laboriously made the calculation with a hand-held calculator. He got there in the end, but it was a real eye-opener.

They say that in a recent survey of 15-year-old children conducted in 65 countries the UK was 26th in maths, 23rd in reading and 20th in science. We came a long way behind Shanghai, for instance.

I wonder why?

  rdave13 12:28 19 Apr 2014

Too many electronic gadgets that do the 'thinking' for you, perhaps? Yet it's amazing for me watching these youngsters texting at great speed on mobile phones.

  fourm member 12:57 19 Apr 2014

It's a big mistake to think that computers and calculators remove the need to be able to do mental arithmetic.

It's as much about developing orderly thinking as getting the right answer.

  sunnypete 13:23 19 Apr 2014

Personally, I should have expected £10 off...

  TopCat® 13:24 19 Apr 2014

My wife is better than me on calculation when shopping and usually knows how much the total will be before the till receipt is handed to her.

This downward trend has sadly been going on for some years now. I believe it should be mandatory that young children starting school should have a good grounding in the essential three R's that later schooling and life will demand. Once a good grounding standard is reached then the modern gadgets, like calculators, can be then be used in higher education.

FE, I'd wager that old gentleman certainly remembered his early teaching which obviously included mental arithmetic. TC.

  kad292 13:32 19 Apr 2014


"texting at great speed on mobile phones"

Gadgetry ,that is a valid point,'txt' language is a recent variant of the written one and lends itself to speed,like the shorthand used by secretaries,that may indicate why spelling is a problem,transliterating from what they read and write on a phone to writing an exam paper. I recall a text message sent to a workmate,about seven years ago, which was impossible to decipher,degree in cryptanalysis or not.

  lotvic 14:22 19 Apr 2014

I wonder how today's youngsters would cope with percentages of £ s d ?

  wiz-king 15:37 19 Apr 2014

When I were just a lad (1960) all we had was as set of 4 figure tables by Godfrey & Siddons (with the back page of formulas removed). All exam questions were written so that if you knew how to work out the answer then mysteriously things cancelled out and you ended up with a simple sum. We were taught a lot of mental shortcuts on how to deal with base10, base 11, base12 and even base16 numbers.

We did not have the modern 'sound byte' mentality that I think stops people from concentrating now days, no wall to wall coloured video images only National Geographic magazine, even the comics only had colour on the front page.- weren't weren't we done by!

  TV-Repairman 15:44 19 Apr 2014

I know many people in their fifties who are extremely illiterate; some because of dyslexia and some, presumably, because they never actually learned their own native language - for various reasons.

So the problem is not confined to the young people.

  Fruit Bat /\0/\ 16:15 19 Apr 2014

Saw this problem with apprentices 20 yrs ago

They could not "guesstimate" and didn't realise when their calculator put them 10 times out because they had entered the . in the wrong place.

agree entirely with wiz-king those mental short cuts were extremely useful.

  bremner 16:28 19 Apr 2014

Wiz king

I remember National Geographic and why we looked at it :)

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