Math skills needed

The Observer

Jan. 10

You step up to the counter, the clerk rings up your purchase, you hand him money … then watch, half in amusement, half in annoyance, as he informs you, “Computer’s down. Can’t make change.”

In your head, you have done the math and know how much change you are due. The clerk, without a computer, is lost.

Many New Yorkers have had the experience. Too many young people in jobs that should require basic skills are ignorant of simple arithmetic.

Mentioning that tends to upset many educators. And, in fairness, it needs to be emphasized that the vast majority of high school graduates have good skills in math and many other subjects. Often, their homework is beyond what their parents can help with.

Still, lack of basic financial skills among many young New York residents is a legitimate worry.

A Champlain College study of personal finance education in schools throughout the nation released in 2018 gave New York a B-plus grade for its efforts to require students to take a half-year course in economics to graduate. It is estimated students receive about 15 hours of instruction in personal finance — but it isn’t clear how New York measures student achievement in financial literacy. Regents tests do not always include personal finance questions and it isn’t known if all schools teach and require recommended courses.

Most people, including educators and policymakers, agree our schools need to be better.

Personal finance is one area that should be emphasized in any general school improvement campaign. Frankly, anything less than an A-plus effort on it is an enormous disservice to our young people, who may pay for their lack of knowledge as adults.