40% of Irish have difficulty with numeracy


SOME 40 per cent of Irish people have difficulty with everyday maths calculations, according to research published today.

Researchers asked 1,000 adults two maths questions taken from the primary school curriculum, and also presented them with four basic calculations which people would be required to do on a daily basis. Four out of 10 of those surveyed got half or all of the questions wrong.

While men performed slightly better than women, education level emerged as the strongest factor determining correct responses among the public. The research shows that those who leave education early are most likely to struggle with numeracy, and those who complete third level are most at ease.

When participants in the survey were shown two value pack products and asked which they thought was better value, a quarter gave an incorrect answer or did not know.

Other tasks those surveyed had to undertake included calculating the area of a rectangular field (44 per cent got this wrong), calculating how much extra an MP3 player would cost when VAT at 21 per cent was added (44 per cent also got this wrong), and estimating when shown a petrol gauge how much petrol was left (27 per cent did not know).

The research was conducted by Millward Brown Lansdowne for the National Adult Literacy Agency (Nala), which today launches a new TV advertising campaign with a view to encouraging and facilitating more adults to improve their numeracy and literacy skills.

Developed and funded by An Post, the advertisements profile three individuals who have overcome their problems with writing and maths, and are intended to encourage people to make contact with adult education services by ringing the Nala freephone support line.

Fine Gael education spokesman Fergus O’Dowd said the research was a clear indication the Government was failing to deliver its many promises to create a smart or knowledge economy.

“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,” he added.

“The Tánaiste has been talking about doing something in this area since she was appointed, but her wishy-washy approach to the issue of bonus points for maths does not inspire confidence in her commitment to turning this problem around . . . The Tánaiste must, at the very least, confirm her commitment to introducing bonus points for maths in 2012.”