The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

April 4, 2013

Math problems are a problem for job-seekers, employers say

WASHINGTON — Before job-seekers fill out an application for work making foam products for the aerospace industry at General Plastics Manufacturing Co. in Tacoma, Wash., they have to take a math test.

Eighteen questions, 30 minutes, and using a calculator is OK.

They are asked how to convert inches to feet, read a tape measure and find the density of a block of foam (mass divided by volume).

Basic middle school math, right?

But what troubles General Plastics executive Eric Hahn is that although the company considers only prospective workers who have a high school education, only one in 10 who take the test pass. And that’s not just bad luck at a single factory or in a single industry.

Hahn, vice president of organizational development, said that the poor scores on his company’s math test have been evident for the past six years. He also sits on an aerospace workforce training committee and said that most other Washington state suppliers in his industry have been seeing the same problem.

“You could think that even for production, do you really need to know math?” said Jacey Wilkins, a spokeswoman for the Manufacturing Institute, an affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers. “But the truth is, you do, because these jobs are incredibly complex and integrate multiple functions and systems.”

Indeed, in working with machinery and making products with precision, “people really do need a basic understanding of math,” she said.

But math has been a problem.

The United States ranks below average in math compared with other developed countries and regions participating in the Program for International Student Assessment test.

As the economy begins to perk up and businesses start to hire, a lack of basic knowledge about mathematics could present a problem to people looking for work.

“Manufacturers are willing to train people about the specifics of their machines and technology,” said Linda Nguyen, CEO of Work Force Central, a partnership of government, business, education and community organizations that trains workers in Tacoma and surrounding Pierce County. “But they can’t afford to hire someone who needs to relearn basic math.”

Educators are aware of what manufacturers like General Plastics face. They’re looking for ways to make math relate to the real world so students will grasp why it’s necessary and stick with it. Some want to change the way it’s taught.

Math learning also will change with the Common Core standards, a state-led effort to set educational standards in math and English for kindergarten through high school. Forty-five states have adopted them.

They’ll match with what students need to know for success in college and jobs, said Sam Houston, president and CEO of the North Carolina Science, Math and Technology Education Center in Research Triangle Park near Raleigh, and a veteran North Carolina public school administrator. North Carolina is among the states that have adopted the Common Core.

“In the hands of a trained professional,” Houston said, “the Common Core should give everyone a better means to answer the question, ’Why do I need to know this?’”

For manufacturers like Hahn, changes in teaching math can’t come soon enough.

“Manpower training for manufacturing is a critical issue right now,” he said. “The development of highly skilled workers is essential if we are to produce good products and grow our industry.”

1
Text Only
World, nation, state
  • Rare summer relief for gasoline prices

    The gasoline price roller coaster is running a strange course this summer.

    August 2, 2014

  • Poll finds public ready to close book on 2 wars

    Three in four Americans think history will judge the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as failures, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll that shows that about the same percentage think it was right to pull forces from the two countries.

    August 2, 2014

  • Rain of asteroids melted early Earth, boiled its oceans

    When you look up at the moon’s pockmarked face, you’re actually staring at Earth’s early history. The rain of asteroids that pummeled the lunar surface hit our planet too - it’s just that erosion and plate tectonics blotted out the evidence. In fact, no rocks anywhere in the world survived to tell the story of the first 500 million years of Earth’s 4.5 billion-year existence, a tumultuous period of frequent impacts known darkly as the Hadean.

    August 1, 2014

  • As U.S. job market strengthens, many don’t feel it

    For millions of workers, happy days aren’t quite here again.

    August 1, 2014

  • Energy boom brings new focus on rail, pipeline safety

    The sharp increase in U.S. oil production and its promise of energy independence is coming with a disastrous byproduct: spills that threaten lives, communities and the environment.

    August 1, 2014

  • Deep-sea octopus goes without food for 4.5 years while watching eggs

    Talk about extreme parenting: Scientists have found a deep-sea octopus mama that faithfully guards the same clutch of eggs for an incredible 4 1/2 years — a record.

    July 31, 2014

  • Study finds 35 percent in U.S. facing debt collectors

    More than 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reported to collection agencies, according to a study released Tuesday by the Urban Institute.

    July 30, 2014

  • U.S. blasts Israel for Kerry criticism

    The Obama administration pushed back strongly Monday at a torrent of Israeli criticism over Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest bid to secure a cease-fire with Hamas, accusing some in Israel of launching a “misinformation campaign” against the top American diplomat.

    July 29, 2014

  • Outlook on Medicare finances improves

    Medicare’s finances are looking brighter, the government said Monday. The program’s giant hospital trust fund won’t be exhausted until 2030 — four years later than last year’s estimate.

    July 29, 2014

  • Plan to simplify 2015 health renewals may backfire

    If you have health insurance on your job, you probably don’t give much thought to each year’s renewal. But make the same assumption in one of the new health law plans, and it could lead to costly surprises.

    July 28, 2014

House Ads
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
AP Video