The post Computer-Based Estimation Game Could Improve Math Skills appeared first on Education News.

]]>Children often struggle with math in school, but a recent study by a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University gives parents a new reason to believe they can help their kids succeed.

The research paper, published in The Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, explains how young children can significantly improve their math skills by carrying out a series of simple computer exercises unrelated to math symbols and numbers.

Numerous previous studies have suggested that video games improve cognition, reasoning, and mathematical abilities in young kids, particularly those around pre-school age when the brain is undergoing an important period of development. One of the latest findings reveals how even the most basic digitized number games could make learning mathematics easier at this stage.

The Johns Hopkins department of psychological and brain sciences showed that 5-year-old kids who played a five-minute computer game — and played it in a specific way — achieved significantly higher results than their peers on a pre-defined set of math exercises.

The ‘intuitive number’game did not feature any math symbols, but instead used a series of colorful dots, reports IFL Science. The researchers had a group of 40 children to whom they showed a series of split-screen pictures that featured blue dots on one side and yellow dots on the other. The 5-year-olds were required to determine, without counting, whether there were more blue or yellow dots.

The researchers divided the kids in groups. They gave one group of the children the most difficult screens first and worked their way toward the easiest. A second group had the hardest and easiest screens in random order. A third was given the easiest screens first and were led progressively to the hardest — a sequence that best resembles the way in which the adults learn.

According to the scientists, writes Jonathan Pitts of The Baltimore Sun, only five minutes of the simple estimation task each day can boost kids’ abilities to grasp values and quantities. The game shows children that they can be intuitively good at mathematics without forcing new skills or techniques upon them for the first time. They also argue that even the youngest baby possesses an inherent sense of understanding quantity, telling the difference between what is more and what is less using his/her “approximate number system.”

Lisa Feigenson, a professor of psychological and brain sciences and a senior author of the study, commented:

“These findings emphasize the sense in which core cognition, seen across species and across development, serves as a foundation for more sophisticated thought.”

Feigenson, reports Cheyenne Macdonald of the Daily Mail, admitted that further work will follow to determine whether this kind of quick improvement lasts for a significant period of time, and whether it enhances other types of skills.

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]]>The post UK Funding Experiement Chinese Math Teaching Method appeared first on Education News.

]]>The UK Department of Education will grant $54.3 million (USD) in funding to 8,000 primary schools across the country to help them implement the methods of teaching math that originate in China.

The 2012 Program for International Student Assessment showed that 15-year olds in China were a year ahead in the subjects of maths of their British peers. According to the rankings, Britain took 26th place, writes Rimjhim Naudiyal of Exam Watch. After the survey results were revealed, the British government decided to bring home 120 teachers from China as a part of the ‘Shanghai Maths’ project to share expertise with their British colleagues.

As the BBC noted, in the beginning 700 British teachers will be trained to support schools in maths mastery, which was adopted for the first time in the country back in 2014. The National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics has trained about 140 primary school educators to adopt the new approach, and 35 school-led centers of excellence in maths tutoring — the so-called math hubs — will lead the project expansion.

Speaking at the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education, UK Schools Minister Nick Gibb said that the Chinese method of math teaching should become a standard fixture in England. In Glasgow last week, Gibb added:

”We are witnessing a renaissance in maths teaching in this country, with good ideas from around the world helping to enliven our classrooms.”

One of the leading coordinators of China-UK math exchange program, Lyu Jiexin from Shanghai Normal University, commented that the British initiative is a step toward the improvement of teaching. As reported by The Hindu, the project leader emphasized that the UK does not intend to copy/paste the Shanghai style of math tutoring. The government aims to renovate its math education standards completely. In the future, the focus will be on understanding the material, not on just memorizing it:

“Teaching for mastery focuses on deep conceptual learning, developing secure foundations that students can buil throughout their education.”

When a piece of mathematics has been fully grasped and mastered, continued the project coordinator, it can be used further as a foundation for new, advanced mathematical learning. On the contrary, if the student just memorizes a math problem without understanding it, then the foundation will not be solid enough to gain additional knowledge. In the end, rote learning would have a negative impact on the future of these students.

The general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, Russell Hobby, said:

“Support for the more effective teaching of maths is always welcome, especially when it is not forced on schools.”

Hobby also commented that the success of the project would depend strongly on a sufficient number of motivated and well-prepared professionals to deliver it. He recommended the government invest in teacher recruitment and retention.

Charlie Stripp, director of the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics, also welcomed the idea. According to him, the project expansion was great news for math education in the UK. Teaching for mastery, he concluded, would be exciting not only for the educators but also for the students, notes The Free Press Journal.

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]]>The post Calculus Self-Perception a Barrier to Women in STEM Tracks appeared first on Education News.

]]>A study published in PLOSone suggests that women are less likely than men to continue with a STEM-related education after taking calculus than men are.

Predictions from the US President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) suggest that over the next decade, close to one million additional STEM graduates will be needed to meet the growing demands of the workforce.

First-year college and university math courses have been found to act as a bottleneck for STEM majors, with introductory courses such as Calculus I causing many students to leave the STEM field. The authors say that while the course is not the only hurdle STEM majors must face throughout their education, it is one of the most challenging and one of the first hurdle they will come up against.

The study, “Women 1.5 Times More Likely to Leave STEM Pipeline after Calculus Compared to Men: Lack of Mathematical Confidence a Potential Culprit,” found that not only are women 1.5 times less likely to continue a STEM-related education than men are after taking a mainstream college calculus course when academic preparedness is controlled for, but they also were more likely to report not understanding the information presented within the course well enough to feel comfortable continuing compared to men.

The common belief is that students are leaving STEM majors because of a lack of academic ability, with the calculus course working to “weed out” those incapable of performing the math necessary to succeed in a STEM career. However, the authors suggest that, instead, the path of moving from a STEM major to a non-STEM major is generated from a number of issues including conceptual difficulties, poor instruction, inadequate preparation, and language barriers.

When women and men who have above-average mathematical abilities were compared, the authors found that on average, women were more likely to begin and end the term with significantly lower confidence in their math skills. The report suggests that this finding could be a reason for the high departure rate of women in STEM-related areas.

Of survey participants, 35% of women reported their reason for not continuing on to Calculus II as “I do not believe I understand the ideas of Calculus I well enough to take Calculus II,” in comparison to 14% of men. Of those interested in pursuing a STEM major, 32% of women cited this as their reason in comparison with 20% of men.

The report states that a perception of one’s ability plays a role in the decision-making process for women but not as much for men, and that previous research does not show an actual difference exists in women’s mathematical ability.

The authors suggest that if women were to continue on the STEM career path after completing Calculus I at the same rate as men, the number of women who then enter the STEM workforce would increase by 75%.

The report goes on to say that if the retention of STEM majors were to be increased by just 10%, considerable progress would be made toward the goal of increasing the number of graduates in this field. Similar suggestions have been made for the United Kingdom.

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]]>The post Wayne State Drops Math Requirement, Pushes Diversity Instead appeared first on Education News.

]]>A public research university in Detroit has decided to no longer require students to take a math class in order to graduate, while at the same time faculty members continue to push for the creation of a “diversity” course.

Wayne State University, with an enrollment of around 27,000 students, will now let individual departments determine whether or not a math course is a necessary part of curriculum.

“We felt the math requirement was better left to the various programs and majors to decide and to decide what levels of mathematics would be needed,” Monica Brockmeyer, associate provost for student success, told the Free Press. “We still continue to support mathematics at Wayne State.”

Campus officials noted that the decision was made in part due to a feeling that the current math requirement, in which students must take one of three different math courses, asks students to complete a course at the same level required by most high school math departments, writes David Jesse for *The Detroit Free Press*.

Students were informed of the decision in an email from campus officials, who said that math would not be a requirement until fall 2018, or until the adoption of a new general education program by the university.

While the university looks over its general education curriculum, which is expected to continue into the fall, professors at the school are calling for the addition of a three-credit “diversity course” that would be a requirement for all students.

In a May 2016 memo written by the university’s General Education Reform Committee, the authors state that the courses would offer students the ability to examine diversity on a domestic level and to then consider how it applies to real world challenges on a local, national, and global scale, writes Jennifer Kabbany for *The College Fix*.

Not everyone approved of the decision. Ashley Thorne, the executive director of the National Association of Scholars, a group that supports liberal arts education and academic freedom, said that general education requirements were put in place in order to ensure that students learned what the college felt to be important information. She added that deciding to drop the math requirement shows that the school’s “leaders do not have their priorities straight.”

She went on to say that diversity is a concept, not an academic subject, and therefore is not a core part of the college curriculum.

“Focusing on individuals’ race, ethnicity, sex, and sexuality in this way has been demonstrated to lead to racial animus, segregation, stigmas, discrimination, and poor academic performance. It also politicizes education.”

The committee’s proposal also called for the creation of “quantitative experience courses.” While it is unclear whether the courses would replace the math requirement, the goal would be for them to help students better understand quantitative representations such as graphs and tables and to then use this information to communicate.

Of the 27,578 students enrolled in the school, 18%, or 4,881, are black. Meanwhile, 7%, or 2,057 are Asian, and 54%, or 15,004 students, are white.

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]]>The post Rare Calculus Classes Raise Questions on Advanced Study appeared first on Education News.

]]>According to the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, fewer than half of all high schools in the United States offer calculus courses, and only 63% of them offer physics courses.

The reasons high schools have stopped offering these courses are attributable to a lack of resources, shortage of experienced staff, and insufficient demand. Students are unable to succeed at a higher-level coursework if a strong foundation is not laid in mathematics and the sciences.

Megan McNulty of Deseret News writes that there is also a racial disparity in schools that lack access to core science and math offerings. 25% of the schools with the highest black and Latino populations did not even offer Algebra II, while only a third offered chemistry.

Some are wondering if the lack of upper-level math and science courses is such a bad thing. Many students end up deflating their grade point averages after struggling with upper-level math that they do not need for their college majors or later careers.

For example, according to Desert News, a report by the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School found that 30% of New York City high school students in the class of 2014 failed the Algebra I exam. Those who failed at the first time took the test two more times, and the pass rate for repeat failures fell to 20% percent. More than 2,500 students took the Algebra exam more than five times. The authors of the study call this the “Algebra Whirlpool.” Data like this suggests that educators might need to reassess what subjects are considered as part of a core curriculum.

Additionally, in a column for Forbes, Steven Salzburg of Johns Hopkins University has recommended getting rid of calculus classes in high school altogether to make space for computer science and statistics courses. “My daughters are taking the same courses I took long ago: algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. These are all fine subjects, but they don’t serve the needs of the 21st century,” Salzburg writes.“What math courses do young people really need? Two subjects are head-smackingly obvious: computer science and statistics. Most high schools don’t offer either one. In the few schools that do, they are usually electives that only a few students take.”

Nonetheless, high-level math coursework remains relevant who are entering college. US News writes:

“Colleges view chemistry and Algebra II as vital indicators of students’ ability and aptitude. And these two courses are essential to preparing more students for a future in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) that offer high-paying jobs and add to our nation’s economic potential.”

The Foundation for Excellence in Education launched its own Course Access program that allows students to select courses for themselves from an online catalog. The program is designed to “maximize the use of resources, better serve students and ensure districts are evolving with the needs of the 21st-century student.” For interested readers, more information about Course Access is available online.

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]]>The post Harvard Study Finds DreamBox Software Boosts Math Skills appeared first on Education News.

]]>The Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard University has released a report showing that intelligent adaptive learning technology can improve math achievement for students.

Researchers at Harvard found that the effects of DreamBox Learning’s Intelligent Adaptive Learning platform, an elementary math program that provides individualized instruction based on a student’s aptitude level, benefited young students’ performances in math by four percentile points. These gains were made after only fourteen hours of using DreamBox.

“DreamBox’s technology and curriculum are informed by decades of research about children’s natural development and growth in mathematical reasoning,” says Jessie Woolley-Wilson, President and CEO of DreamBox Learning. “These research findings suggest that students at the 50th percentile who use DreamBox consistently for about an hour each week could end the year performing near the 60th percentile on assessments that are widely used and well-respected in the industry. This new report from CEPR validates the effectiveness of DreamBox’s approach in supporting students whether they start below, at, or above grade level.”

The study examined the impact DreamBox usage had an individual test scores of nearly 3,000 students in grade 3-5 in two different school districts in California and Maryland. The results concluded that DreamBox usage considerably increased students’ achievement in math. Moreover, these districts were comprised of culturally and economically diverse students, which make the results of the study that much more definitive.

DreamBox Learning was founded in 2006 in Bellevue, Washington. The company’s learning platform has since won 40 top education and technology industry awards, and it is in use in all 50 states and throughout Canada.

DreamBox technology captures every decisions a student makes and adjusts the student’s learning path. Each of the learning routes provided to students represents a path tailored to a student’s unique needs. The program recommends that student engage with it for 60-90 minutes each week for the most effective results.

“We’re dedicated to the success of each unique student and are committed to continually studying the effectiveness of DreamBox in terms of measurable impact on individual learners,” said Dr. Tim Hudson, vice president of learning at DreamBox Learning. “The strength of these predictive correlations is reinforced by the fact that this study analyzed the individual pre- and post-test scores of thousands of students, regardless of how much of the DreamBox curriculum they had completed. Because we want to be strong partners who complement the work of schools and teachers, we’re proud to see these new, compelling results in the upper elementary grades.”

The Harvard study represents the power that new learning technologies can have in accelerating student achievement. Specifically, DreamBox allows students to gain a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts and lays a strong mathematical foundation that will serve them later in their academic careers. Instead of digitized textbooks, the learning technology enables students to engage with mathematics in dynamic ways to facilitate deeper learning.

The Harvard study on DreamBox Learning is available online.

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]]>The post About 1 in 3 HS Seniors Prepared for College Math, NAEP Shows appeared first on Education News.

]]>According to the latest scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), only 37% of American 12th-graders are academically prepared for college math and reading. These numbers mark a dip from two years early when an estimated 39% of high-schoolers were prepared academically.

The biggest declines in proficiency came at the bottom tier, with growth in the share of students “below basic” in their abilities. In 2013, 35% tested at “below basic” in math, whereas that number has increased to 38% today. This marks the first drop in math scores in a decade. In reading, the average score was 287 out of 500, considerably lower than the average score of 292 in 1992.

Furthermore, the average scores among students in the bottom 10th percentile, as reported by Lauren Camera of U.S. News, dropped precipitously by four points in math and six points in reading. The reading scores for these students hit its lowest level since the test began its assessment of students’ abilities.

“These numbers aren’t going the way we want,” said Bill Bushaw, the executive director of the National Assessment Governing Board, the organization that released the scores. “We just have to redouble our efforts to prepare our students to close opportunity gaps.” The Education Department has also urged educators to double down on their efforts to prepare students for college effectively.

Policymakers and educators worry that students’ lack of preparedness hampers their college education. Unprepared students who go to college often burn through their financial aid and waste time taking remedial classes that do not earn credits toward a degree.

The results of the report were demographically split as well. In reading and math, Asian students performed the best, with around 48% of them scoring above proficiency levels. White students scored next best, while black and Hispanic students scored at the lowest levels in reading and math. Only 12% of Hispanic and 7% of black students tested as either proficient or above in math, notes Leslie Brody of the Wall Street Journal.

The report did not contain all bad news, however. High school graduation rates are rising, and 42% of test-takers said they had been accepted into a four-year college. Additionally, the dropout rate has improved for every racial and ethnic group. The report also found students did worse on these tests if their parents had not received a high school education, a phenomenon that disproportionately affects students of color.

Additionally, officials at the Department of Education are cautioning against extrapolating bleak conclusions from these results. Despite sounding concern, the acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, Peggy Carr, said that the drop in scores among students may be because more students are taking advanced level coursework, which is much more challenging. Moreover, since dropout rates are declining, the test was given to low-performing students who historically would not have even been in class, thus depressing the results.

The results of the 2015 assessment are based on a nationally representative sample of thousands of 12th-grade students from 740 schools, including private institutions.

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]]>The post Girls Still More Math-Anxious Than Boys, Study Says appeared first on Education News.

]]>According to a new study, more girls have negative feelings about math, and those emotions can result in “mathematics anxiety.”

But researchers at the University of Missouri, the University of California-Irvine, and the University of Glasgow in Scotland announced that they believe several issues that do not include math performance contribute to higher mathematics anxiety in more girls than boys.

“We analyzed student performance in 15-year-olds from around the world, along with socio-economic indicators in more than 60 countries and economic regions, including the U.S. and the United Kingdom,” said Dr. David Geary, Curators Professor of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri College of Arts and Science.

The research showed that girls’ math anxiety was not connected to the level of engagement their mothers had in science, technology, engineering, and math careers. It was also not related to the inequality of genders in the countries studied by the researchers, writes PsychCentral’s Janice Wood.

In more gender-equal and developed countries, the gender difference in math anxiety was larger. Also, boys’ and girls’ math performance was higher overall.

The study found that in 59% of the countries that were analyzed, the differences in gender anxiety were over twice the number of gender differences in math performance. These statistics, say the scientists, indicate that factors other than performance are the cause of higher math anxiety in girls than boys.

Geary says the study points to the fact that gender differences in the areas of mathematics anxiety and performance are complex.

Mathematics anxiety is defined as “negative feelings experienced during the preparation of and engagement in math activities,” writes the BBC.

The Glasgow University School of Maths and Statistics Professor Dr. Libert Vittert said that math anxiety can affect a student’s future job prospects.

Vittert added that she was told by a teacher when she was about 14 that it would be a good idea to stop taking math classes because she was unable to understand the subject. Dr. Vittert pushed on to receive a degree in pure mathematics from MIT and now has her Ph.D. She believes it is important to keep girls interested in STEM subjects.

In some cases, parents have an expectation that boys will do well in math and other STEM subjects. This assumption does, however, create an underlying mindset in girls that they are not good mathematicians, says Snow McDiggon of Parent Herald.

The fact is that women are underrepresented in many STEM fields, writes Jennifer Harrison for Gadgette. And even though many women are excellent mathematicians, females many times feel more anxious about math.

Highlighting role models in STEM-related fields is one way to start helping girls feel more empowered in mathematics. Also, parents and teachers alike can begin to be intentional in their encouragement of their females students’ and daughters’ performance in STEM classes.

But PsychCentral quoted Stoet, who said:

“Policies to attract more girls and women into subjects such as computer science, physics, and engineering have largely failed. It is fair to say that nobody knows what will actually attract more girls into these subjects. Policies and programs to change the gender balance in non-organic STEM subjects have just not worked.”

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]]>The post Stanford Report Touts Benefits of Visual Element to Math Education appeared first on Education News.

]]>Researchers at Stanford University have released a report titled “Seeing As Understanding: The Importance of Visual Mathematics for our Brain and Learning” that aims to dispel the notion that visual math, such as pictures, finger-counting, and diagrams, are only for lower-level tasks, and that higher-level math deals exclusively in symbols, notations, and words. They present evidence to suggest that visual mathematics may help students of all levels see, understand, and extend mathematical ideas.

Generally speaking, students who prefer visual thinking are regarded as having special needs, and children grow up thinking that counting on their fingers is an immature approach to mathematics. However, several mathematics organizations such as the National Council for the Teaching of Mathematics (NCTM) and the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) have long advocated for visual representation of mathematics in the classroom. Stanford’s new study reaffirms these groups’ advocacy and urges the necessity of fostering visual thinking.

Scientists argue that the human brain is comprised of “distributed networks,” and when humans handle knowledge, different areas of the brain are activated and communicate with one another. When we study mathematics, brain activity is distributed through many different networks, including two visual pathways. The failure to exploit these pathways through visual mathematics potentially hampers students’ mathematical abilities.

Notably, researchers found that students with structural disadvantages such as low-incomes, lower-literacy rates, etc., perform just as well as their more advantaged peers after a 15-minute session with visual exercises. The researchers emphasized the importance of students learning numerical knowledge through linear representations and visuals. According to the report, the dorsal visual pathway in the brain is the core region for representing the knowledge of quantity.

Additionally, a yet-to-be published study from researchers at Stanford demonstrates that children between the ages of 8 and 14 are developing part of the ventral visual pathway, an important brain “network.” This development indicates that as children learn, the visual processing parts of their brain become more interactive. If this interaction is not stimulated by visual activities, parts of children’s brains will not reach their full potential.

A section of the report is devoted to exploring finger-counting. There is a specific region of the brain, the somatosensory finger area, that is dedicated to the perception and representation of fingers. Often, when doing mathematical problems, our brain’s “finger-area” is stimulated whether or not we are using our fingers. The researchers urge mathematics educators to take advantage of this “finger-activity”; children who develop proficiency counting on their fingers will further brian development and promote future mathematics success. Regrettably, argue the researchers, most educators discourage finger-counting.

Despite the evidence, millions of students in the United States do not engage mathematics through visualization and representation. Most students approach it as a numeric and symbolic subject. The evidence, however, gathered by the report will help students and educators to “understand the impact of visualizing and seeing to all levels of mathematics, and suggests an urgent need for change in the ways mathematics is offered to learners.”

The full report is available online.

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]]>The post Report Sheds Light on Adults’ Use of Education in the US appeared first on Education News.

]]>The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the primary federal entity used for analyzing and reporting data having to do with education in the United States, has released the results from its Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). This program is a large-scale study of adult skills and life experiences relating to education and employment.

The PIAAC conducted surveys of 3,660 adults ranging from 16 to 74 over the course of a year, measuring these individuals’ levels of literacy, problem-solving skills, and numeracy, a metric used to evaluate basic mathematical and computational skills.

In literacy, American adults perform at a rate consistent with the international norm. Additionally, the United States has a larger percentage of adults performing at the top and the bottom of literacy skills compared with other countries.

In numeracy and in problem-solving skills, the United States as a whole performed below the average. The United States features a smaller percentage of individuals at the top levels in numeracy and a larger percentage of adults at the bottom in problem-solving skills than other places evaluated by the PIAAC.

Specifically relating to the United States, American adults who perform at the top proficiency level in literacy, in numeracy, and in problem-solving skills are those aged between 25 – 34, rather than those in other age intervals.

A strong performance in literacy and numeracy is indicative of employment. In literacy, 15% of employed individuals performed at top literacy levels, while 12% of employed adults performed that well in numeracy. Adults who are unemployed or out of the labor force performed at much lower levels in literacy and numeracy.

Unsurprisingly, 75% of unemployed U.S. adults lack a high school accreditation; of these individuals, a third performed at the lowest level of literacy. Among these undereducated Americans, white Americans outperformed Hispanic and black Americans in literacy, in numeracy, and in problem-solving. Unemployed Americans performed no worse than the unemployed of other countries.

Among adults between 16 – 34, there is a strong correlation between one’s education and one’s performance in the workforce. Generally speaking, the higher level of education completed, the higher an adult would perform at top proficiency levels in all three of the areas. These statistics correlate with race. Much smaller percentages of black and Hispanic young adults performed in the top proficiency levels than their white peers. This disparity bespeaks an inequality of resources and opportunities available to young people in communities of color.

Interestingly, the correlation between education level and performance tapers off as age increases. For example, there were no measurable differences between adults ages between 66 – 74 and performing at the highest proficiency levels, who had a Bachelor’s degree or an advanced professional or graduate degree. As mentioned, the level of degree attainment correlated with performance among young Americans. These statistics indicate the changing nature of American education and underscore the necessity of a college degree in contemporary America.

The full report of the findings can be found online, and the data is of interest to anyone who wants a better understanding of Americans’ levels of basic competencies and how these relate to issues of age, education, employment, and race.

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