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Everyone’s terrible at maths, survey finds

A recent study commissioned by Nationwide Building Society has revealed that more than one in four girls want to drop maths at 14, that less than half of 12-13 year old students surveyed could correctly calculate their change from £100 when paying for shopping worth £64.23, and that 76% of those who would choose to drop maths at GCSE said they either “couldn’t do maths” (31%) or “found it boring” (45%). They also tested respondents on their ability to identify the best value in a multi-buy situation, thus firmly conflating ‘the ability to do maths’ with ‘the ability to do arithmetic’.

It’s not all bad news though – teasing out the stats finds that a similar proportion of the 2000 12-13 year olds surveyed would choose to drop English at GCSE given the choice (I do wonder which subjects they would like to study) – 25% for Maths versus around 23% for English. They did find differences between the responses from girls and boys, with more girls choosing to drop Maths and fewer choosing to drop English. However, the newspaper coverage also fails to mention that 89% of the wannabe-maths-droppers recognised the relevance of maths to life after school.

It’s probably worth bearing in mind that the press release was commissioned to mark the launch of ‘Talking Numbers’, part of Nationwide’s education programme to raise numeracy in schools – so it probably benefits them to paint a dreary picture. One part of the programme (not yet online) is their ‘Rock Club’ teacher resources, which will require students to plan a music gig and work out all the related mathematics.

Further reading

More than one in four girls want to drop maths at 14, survey finds, at the TES (with a big photo of a calculator, which is what you would need if you couldn’t do 100 – 64.23 in your head)

Pupils ‘cannot count out change’ due to poor maths skills, at The Telegraph (with a massive photo of some coins and banknotes, in case you’re not sure what they look like)

Less than half of young people can accurately identify they’ve been given the right change, at the Nationwide Media Centre (no pictures, sadly)

Sums that stump half of teenagers: Youngsters are so bad at maths they cannot work out if they have been given the correct change in shops, at the Daily Mail (includes a version of the test questions for you to have a go, plus photos of girls looking stressed out in a maths exam, and young people handing each other ten pound notes)

One Response to “Everyone’s terrible at maths, survey finds”

  1. Paul Coombes

    I agree with your “benefits them to paint a dreary picture” conclusion. What we cannot tell from these statistics is whether the situation is worse, better or the same as it was in the past.
    Anyway, the best bits of this article are the comments in brackets in the Further Reading section.


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