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National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
NCES is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education. Their published report, Literacy, Numeracy, and Problem Solving in Technology-Rich Environments Among U.S. Adults compiles results from an international assessment of adult competencies in 2012. The report includes data from 23 participating countries.
In three basic skills, literacy, numeracy, and problem solving, the U.S. scored well below average. This means that adults in other countries are more skilled in these key areas.
While populations in other countries gaining skill sets is reason to celebrate, our own country lagging behind is cause for concern. If we wish to be competitive in a global economy, we need to educate our students better.
As Rebecca Alber at Edutopia reminds us, literacy is more than reading and writing. Literacy is the ability to understand and communicate with advanced reading, writing, speaking, and listening, all of which are more necessary now for all workers than ever.
Reading, writing, and giving presentations to the class are vital parts of any curriculum. Math, science, history classes, and more may incorporate literacy skills to best prepare U.S. students for the workplace.
Simply put, numeracy is the ability to understand and work with numbers. It is mathematical literacy, and the ability to process, communicate, and interpret numerical information in a variety of contexts.
In a 1997 report, Effective Teachers of Numeracy, researchers in the U.K. identified timeless teaching strategies to increase numeracy skills among students. The most effective teachers used words and visuals to communicate information to students. They connected different areas of mathematics in one lesson, rather than keeping each unit separate. They also made a point of challenging and stretching all of their students, not just the seemingly more able ones.
The most effective teachers emphasized the development of mental skills and mathematical reasoning. In today's workplace, a solid understanding of mathematical concepts and how they relate to each other keeps workers competitive.
Problem solving and critical thinking go hand in hand. Students benefit from creative endeavors and creative thinking. Problem solving may be performed both in groups and as individual projects. Hands-on projects, such as designing a quilt using geometry skills, give students the opportunity to find and solve problems. These habits and skills are then used in the workplace.
What You Can Do
It's never too late to develop additional skills. Taking a class at your local community college may help you achieve more and be promoted at work. The United States should take the worldwide data quite seriously as we think about how we run our schools, but current workers and adults need to continue learning on their own, as well. Education is a lifelong journey.
Tell Us What You Think
Will you start honing your literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.