The world is getting more and more obsessed with mathematical facts.
A recent Pew Research Center survey found that just 6% of Americans know how to calculate a specific number, and only 12% know how many days it takes to cross the equator.
This lack of math knowledge may explain why the 2016 US presidential election was so polarizing.
Voters were left out of a national debate about climate change, inequality and how best to combat terrorism.
In fact, most people don’t have a clue how to do a simple multiplication.
The lack of basic math skills may also explain why a new study finds that one in five Americans struggle to learn how to divide an integer.
For the first time, researchers from MIT, Princeton and Stanford have found that the gap between math skills and knowledge of other types of knowledge is widening.
They looked at data from 1.7 million American adults and found that about one in seven Americans (15%) have a low-level mathematical ability and another 16% have a high-level math ability.
In the study, the researchers analyzed two measures of math skills: “basic mathematics ability,” or how well people could handle basic mathematical concepts like multiplication, division, division by zero, and square roots, and “higher math ability,” which includes more advanced concepts like fractions, percentages and trigonometry.
The study found that high-ability individuals also scored higher on a measure of how well they understood mathematical concepts.
The results show that people with high math ability are more likely to understand complex mathematical concepts than low-ability Americans.
“The average [math ability] scores were not significantly different between groups.
But when we look at the scores on the composite measure of math ability, we found that people who scored higher in the high-compass measure had significantly higher math scores than people who did not score high,” said lead author Mark Rosenblum, an associate professor in MIT’s Department of Statistics.
Rosenblam and his colleagues examined two measures: one for basic math ability and the other for higher math ability (also known as “high math ability”).
People who scored high on the high math test scored higher than those with low math ability on a composite measure that included basic and higher math skills.
“We were surprised that people scoring high on both measures had higher math abilities, and this suggests that people are using higher math capabilities as a surrogate measure of general ability,” Rosenblamp said.
The researchers found that higher math achievement predicted people’s general math ability more strongly than higher math education or other factors.
Rosenbaum said that understanding math is more important than knowing how to multiply or divide a number.
“I think a lot of people don.
They just want to be able to multiply and divide things,” Rosenbaum explained.
“So they’re very happy to have that extra level of math skill, because it makes the math a little easier to understand.
But the ability to do math is actually much more important to understanding the world.”
The study is published in the American Mathematical Society’s journal Mathematical Inquiry.