In a New Survey, Americans say, “We’re Not Good At Math”

On behalf of Change the Equation, Ogilvy PR conducted a survey to gauge Americans’ attitudes toward their math skills.

Calculating the effects of America’s math problem: Many Americans admit that there have been times that they’ve found themselves saying they can’t do math and have had difficulty figuring out the sale discount at a store or calculating the waiter’s tip at a restaurant. In fact, the overwhelming majority of Americans believe that the lack of emphasis on developing good math skills will have a negative impact on the future of our economy.

Americans say “we’re not good at math.”

Three in ten Americans (29%) report that they are not good at math.

  • Women are significantly more likely than men to say that they are not good at math (37% vs. 21%).
  • Younger Americans are the most likely to believe that they are not good at math (18-24 years old, 39%; 25-34 years old, 36%).

Further, over a third of Americans (36%) admit that there have been many times that they’ve found themselves saying they can’t do math.

  • Women are significantly more likely than men to agree with this statement (43% vs. 29%).
  • Younger Americans are the most likely to report that there have been many times that they’ve found themselves saying they can’t do math (18-24 years old, 53%; 25-34 years old, 53%).

In fact, the majority of Americans admit having difficulty when faced with applying math in everyday situations.

Six in ten Americans (63%) report that they’ve had difficulty doing some type of math, including estimating distances or weight (35%), figuring out how much savings they need for retirement (34%), and calculating tax (24%).

One in five Americans admit that they’ve had difficulty managing a household budget (20%), figuring out the sale discount at a store (19%), or calculating the waiter’s tip at a restaurant (18%).

  • Women are significantly more likely than men to report difficulty figuring out the sale discount at a store (23% vs. 16%) and calculating the waiter’s tip at a restaurant ((21% vs. 15%).

Some Americans (14%) report that they’ve had difficulty splitting a bill with friends.

Many Americans report feelings of anxiety and frustration when faced with having to do math.

Nearly a third of Americans (30%) say they would rather clean the bathroom than solve a math problem.

Although some Americans report positive feelings when they have to do math like feeling confident (36%), knowledgeable (34%), at ease (30%) and prepared (20%), one in five Americans report that they typically feel frustrated (21%) or anxious (18%) when they have to do math.

Many Americans also report that when they have to do math, they typically feel inadequate (15%) or worried (13%).

Women are significantly more likely than men to report negative feelings when they have to do math including feeling:

  • Frustrated (26% vs. 16%)
  • Anxious (22% vs. 15%)
  • Inadequate (20% vs. 10%)
  • Worried (15% vs. 11%)

The overwhelming majority of Americans believe that having good math skills is important. 

Nearly all Americans (93%) agree that developing good math skills are essential to being successful in life.

The overwhelming majority of Americans (95%) report that it is just as important for the next generation to be good at math as it was when they were growing up.

Nine in ten Americans (90%) report that the lack of emphasis on developing good math skills will have a negative impact on the future of our economy.

Methodology

An online survey was conducted using the field services of Toluna. The study reached a national sample of 1,000 American adults ages 18 and older. The margin of error for the total sample is ±3.1% at the 95% confidence level.  This means that if we were to replicate the study, we would expect to get the same results (within 3.1 percentage points) 95 times out of 100.