Study: Americans Rank Last in Math Ability

March 19, 2015

12:00 pm

According to recent research published by the Educational Testing Service, a global nonprofit educational testing and assessment organization, the United States of America places last in math competency per the results of a recent international standardized test. This recent research, however, falls in line with a similar survey released in February from the Pew Research Center, which showed that the U.S.’s STEM education is still pretty mediocre.

This is bad news for a country hoping to lead the way through innovation. Despite the fact that jobs in the likes of engineering or those that deal with Big Data are among some of the best jobs in America, it seems that many of our own citizens may not even be qualified for those jobs (considering that competency is dependent on math ability).

The research from ETS looked at the global results from a standardized test by the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). Per the results, Americans age 16 years to 34 years ranked in last place in math ability. If you look at the charts below, the blue bar represents the averages scores of Millennials between the ages of 16 years and 34 years, while the red dot on the bar represents the average for 16- to 24-year-olds. You can see that the U.S.’s averages are far below that of leading countries Finland and Japan.

The results are worrying, especially considering that a worse score for those in the 16- to 24-year-old age group means that those just coming out of high school are coming from an environment where we’ve supposedly tried to make gains in our STEM curricula. What’s even more shocking about the research from ETS is that the United States doesn’t fare too well in literacy, either.


Again, in literacy, both Japan and Finland come out at top. So, what can we do to improve the quality of our overall education system? Perhaps we should consider much higher and rigorous standards for teachers in training (something both present in Japan and Finland).

(H/T Vox)


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Ronald Barba was the previous managing editor of Tech.Co. His primary story interests include industry trends, consumer-facing apps/products, the startup lifestyle, business ethics, diversity in tech, and what-is-this-bullsh*t things. Aside from writing about startups and entrepreneurship, Ronald is interested in 'Doctor Who', Murakami, 'The Mindy Project', and fried chicken. He is currently based in New York because he mistakenly studied philosophy in college and is now a "writer". Tweet @RonaldPBarba.

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