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Jan 21, 2015

# How do we overcome innumeracy? Let us count the ways…

ROCKWALL,TX. (August 19, 2014) Innumeracy, the mathematical equivalent of illiteracy, has been a much discussed problem in educational circles for many years. American students do not score well on international ratings in Math and Science, thus TAAKS, STAAR, Common Core and other programs have been developed in an effort to address this problem.

As parents, we just want our children to do well at a skill that will be important to their future happiness and success. A recent article in the New York Times illustrates the problem of innumeracy like this:

“One of the most vivid arithmetic failings displayed by Americans occurred in the early 1980s, when the A&W restaurant chain released a new hamburger to rival the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. With a third-pound of beef, the A&W burger had more meat than the Quarter Pounder; in taste tests, customers preferred A&W’s burger.  And it was less expensive. A lavish A&W television and radio marketing campaign cited these benefits. Yet instead of leaping at the great value, customers snubbed it. Only when the company held customer focus groups did it become clear why. The Third Pounder presented the American public with a test in fractions. And we failed. (Emphasis mine)

Misunderstanding the value of one-third, customers believed they were being overcharged. Why, they asked the researchers, should they pay the same amount for a third of a pound of meat as they did for a quarter-pound of meat at McDonald’s. The “4” in “¼,” larger than the “3” in “,” led them astray.” (New York Times July 2014, Why Do Americans Stink at Math, Elizabeth Green)

As revealed in this article, innumeracy can affect just about every aspect of our lives. So…what are we to do? There is no quick answer; however, as parents we can affect our children’s success in math in a great number of ways.

1. Engage in mathing with your children. We have talked about this in the past, but it bears repeating. Spend some time daily with your child playing games that involve math and reading some of the great children’s books about math.

2. Use daily activities to introduce them to different uses for math.

3. Ask your children questions that require mathematical thinking during the day.

4. Encourage them to see that math, along with reading, will be one of the most important skills they will learn, and it will be used throughout their lives.

5. If your child shows signs of struggling, address the problem quickly. Don’t let it become an emergency situation as they face higher math. Math is a cumulative skill, and small gaps in the early years become barriers to mastering more difficult concepts in high school.