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# Speaking of Precision

Speaking of Precision is a knowledge preservation and thought leadership blog covering the precision machining industry, its materials and services. With over 36 years of hands on experience in steelmaking, manufacturing, quality, and management, Miles Free (Milo) Director of Industry Research and Technology at PMPA helps answer "How?" "With what?" and occasionally "Really?"

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### NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

Posted July 20, 2012 12:00 AM by Milo

Listen to the ~3 minute broadcast here: NPR clip

Here's what manufacturers want when they say "We need people with math skills" :

North American Tool's Jim Hoyt: "I'll write a few numbers down, mostly numbers with decimal points, because that's what we use in manufacturing, and have them add, subtract or divide by two"

"And often they can't do it. Having basic math knowledge, especially of decimals, is important because of the precise inputs of modern CNC machines."- NPR reporter.

(Read the CNC screen to get an idea why decimals are important.)

The inability to add, subtract, and divide decimals is keeping a lot of people unemployed, and a lot of advanced manufacturing jobs unfilled.

What is sad is that the student that NPR quotes at the end of their interview as having been successfully trained in math is unconvincing that the math skills problem is anywhere near solved: in fact, he remains proof of the lack of math understanding we face as employers.

He is clearly confused, and doesn't seem to understand the values of the numbers he is speaking about.

If "the vernier caliper reads to a hundred thousandths of an inch (0.100″) ," how can he be reading in ten thousandths of an inch (0.0001″) as he tells the reporter?

A vernier caliper, regardless of 50 line or 25 line type can read to thousandths (0.001″) not ten thousandths (0.0001″).

"…some of these parts are small- as small as 10 thousandths. If you don't know what 10 thousandths of an inch is, just take a strand of your hair and that's like twenty or thirty thousandths of an inch."

Really? Doesn't he actually mean twenty or thirty ten-thousandths?

A human hair is on average 0.0039″, read 3.9 thousandths of an inch. Not 25 or 30 thousandths.

(Actually its about 100 µm but I'll not start down that path…)

So how does 0.0039″ come out to the "25 or 30 thousandths of an inch" claimed by the student?Maybe he meant 25 or thirty ten-thousandths 0.0025-0.0030″.

But that is not what he said.

Thirty thousandths is 0.030 in. - that is off by a factor of at least ten. Unless he meant 30 ten-thousandths.

How would you like to have an error of a factor of ten on say the fuel injector on your car, or the nozzle that delivers your medicine or portion controls your food or drink or that deploys your air bag in the event of a crash?

Our industry makes critical human safety medical parts, brake and airbag parts for automobiles, as well as parts for numerous aerospace and munitions and food service applications.

We need people who don't confuse 0.003″ to be 0.030." It's kind of important.

Thanks to NPR for showing just how pervasive the math skills problem really is- even after "bridge training," they still don't get it.

Now you know the problem that manufacturers are facing.

NPR has just given you the proof.

And why doesn't anyone ever ask, "Why aren't the high schools held accountable for the fact that their graduates can't do the math?"

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#1

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/20/2012 3:49 AM

Yes...You need to be able to add and subtract decimals accurately... BUT
It takes time and training to understand the relevance and get used to the numbers involved and the implications.
You could take a mechanical engineer, machinist or accountant and they'd get confused with micro nano and pico Farads used in electronics.
You can't let anyone loose on an NC Mill, you have to expect to do some training, everyone will make some mistakes early on.

If the piece was saying that qualified machinists couldn't do it then I'd be horrified, but some poor kid off the street under interview conditions is going to get flustered.
Del
(Disclaimer:- I didn't look at the clip and I a softy old cat and Kris made me do it)

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#2

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/20/2012 8:12 AM

Milo, you misunderstood what was said. You wrote:

If "the vernier caliper reads to a hundred thousandths of an inch (0.100″) ," how can he be reading in ten thousandths of an inch (0.0001″) as he tells the reporter?

When he said "...the vernier caliper reads to a hundred thousandth of an inch..." he was saying it reads to 0.00001 inch. I.e, 0.001 is a thousandth of an inch, 0.0001 is a ten-thousandth of an inch, 0.00001 is a hundred-thousandth of an inch. So yes, if the caliper reads to 0.00001 inches, you would use it to measure 0.0001 inch dimensions. [No one who has used a caliper would say a vernier 'reads to' 100 thousands of an inch (0.100"), you'd say it reads to a tenth of an inch (0.1").] -- The only thing here I wonder about is, why aren't they using digital calipers - or better yet, digital micrometers - instead of vernier calipers? But we only hear a few minutes of the interview, so maybe they usually do.

As to the part about the thickness of a hair, it seemed to me that he was just speaking 'in the vernacular', i.e., he knew he was speaking to a non-technical reporter who might not understand the exact dimensions he was talking about. He was trying to get across the fact that they work with very small thicknesses and distances, so he used a notion familiar to everyone - that hair is extremely thin - to make his point. It's not like framing a house where a carpenter is measuring in eighths or sixteenths of an inch most of the time.

My overall impression from this report is that, once again, we find how disastrous it has been to get rid of 'shop class' from the high school curriculum. What good is all that new crap that has been added over the past 10 or 20 years, when young people graduate without the ability to do simple arithmetic? Or read a blueprint? Or know how to use a lathe or drill press?

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#3
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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/20/2012 9:37 AM

I agree with Usbport. I think that this is actually an ambiguous communication problem of the media of spoken English. Unfortunately for us and this reporter, spoken English is the obligatory media of a radio broadcast.

As for the question of public schooling I come back to my much earlier opinion. Failure should be a scholastic option. A High School diploma is worthless if nobody fails. The teachers and schools are at most a third of the problem. Blaming them tries to remove the responsibility of the parents and most importantly the students from the problem. Students incapable of learning or who refuse to learn should not be given the same credential as those who do learn.

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#5
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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/20/2012 10:03 AM

Redfred, you said "Students incapable of learning or who refuse to learn should not be given the same credential as those who do learn."

I believe this is harsh and oh so very true. Students incapable of learning or who refuse to learn... and the parents do not want to believe the student's destiny is in their own hands, they want to believe their failures can be assigned to someone else.

In my trade, employee candidates never have a complete skillset for an open position, there is always something that will be on their plate they are unfamiliar with. I tell the likely hire that this shortcoming is alright, I can teach you the missing bits... as long as you care. I have never been able to teach anyone to care.

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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/20/2012 10:48 AM

... as long as you care. I have never been able to teach anyone to care.
Exactly!
A while back I confronted a dead eyed youth who had thrown down some litter as he walked out of school... he gave me the stare and said
"I just don't care".
I released my grasp on his collar... completely pointless.
But at least he can look forward to a fullfilling career in customer services.
I mentione this to my brother in law who used to be a head teacher. I said if I was in charge i'd make the kids who were staying behind in detention do litter picking as a punishment and to clean up the area. he said you can't do that these days, the parents would complain and there would be a health and safety outcry.
there is a nice little stream there with kingfishers and other wildlife... it's choked with litter and I don't expect the kids whold ever notice a kingfisher if it lander on their nose and pecked 'em in the eye.
Del
(Grumpy old man rant over)

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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/20/2012 11:06 AM

You can't tell other people how to raise their children.

My twin sister was going through a divorce about 7 years ago, And her older boy had just graduated from High School.

Out of High school for 9 months and still no job. My sister asked me to help him out. I stopped over. on a Saturday, and as he put it, he didn't want to flip burgers...

I asked him what is he doing about it, his mother answered for him, he's putting out resumes. I responded, How many? Allot, she replied. I told my sister I'm talking to her son. And again asked him, his reply, allot. After pressing him, it was about a resume a month.

I asked about what was in his resume, he responded. Asked if he had any references, he mentioned a name, which my sister responded, he's unemployed also. How can he do that? Does he have a job? His reply, call him and ask him yourself and my sister gave up.

I didn't, I said I'll call him. He turned white as a sheet. I got his friends answering machine, which every other word was just vile, vulgar language. I put it un the speaker phone, my sister turned white as a sheet as I walked to my nephew with my open hand 4 inches from his throat asking how he could be so stupid, or is it that he was too lazy to get a job to have a reference like that. btw, He actually took after his dad.

I told him we are going to fill out applications tomorrow, his reply, tomorrow's Sunday, nothings openon Sunday. I told him, B.S. thats because you never looked before.

Well, My sister didn't talk to me for 4 months, My dad said, she complained that I was too hard on the kid. I told dad, "Some people have to be careful what they ask for."

Well my nephew's right now is he's well suited in an occupation for his skill-set. He's 26 years old, and flipping burgers.

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#8
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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/20/2012 11:38 AM

Hi Usbport. I didn't misunderstand, I took him at what he said.

Words and numbers either have meaning or they don't. I've worked in shops and mechanical testing laboratories enough years to know that there is no VERNIER caliper that reads to 0.00001."

If you have worked with such a 0.00001" reading VERNIER caliper, please advise and I will retract.

I agree with you that no one who has used a caliper would say what he says. As for speaking in the vernacular, the vernacular does not specify three decimal places, nor should the 'vernacular' be off by an order of magnitude. When one gives a number to three decimal places one implies that one knows that that is the value of the thing so described.

The point was, this was from a student who had supposedly mastered Math, at a magical math remedial program who is now touting him to be math certified for manufacturing work, yet what he had to say was incorrect, inaccurate, and confusingly a barrier to actual understanding.

On another forum, a commentor rightly pointed out that this error is really based on our continued use of imperial units; I think he's right, but having an error of a factor of ten, i really really wonder...

Milo

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#20
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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/21/2012 5:50 PM

You know Milo, I don't slip decimal places when working in imperial units. In decimals two numbers can look the same but be very different, that doesn't happen working in imperial units except when we get down to decimals.

I should add that it is not my intent to belittle the problem.

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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/21/2012 6:22 PM

You must not do a whole lot of math! How many steps does it take you to calculate the density of a cube that is 2' 513/16" on a side and weighs 517 lb? Now how many steps does it take to find the density of a cube that is 757.2 mm (or 0.7572 m)on a side and has a mass of 235 kg? Does it float in fresh water?

That last question is one that any educated person should be be able to answer (without the use of the internet, except maybe to look up the meaning of density for those not scientifically inclined), given a little time. I've never been in favor of tests that require answers in very limited time. I know most of my strengths and weaknesses, and speed has never been one of my strengths. Patience and persistence on the other hand, are. That's why I said "given a little time".

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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/21/2012 7:42 PM

In fact, as a structural designer and engineer I did quite a lot math, although not as finely as you suggest, we tend to round up. I don't mean that I wouldn't use decimals when it was better for me to do so. I've been retired for ten years so I'm not as practiced as I was but I think I would have been able to convert 2' 513/16" to a decimal in my head.

As a side issue, did you mean density=weight per volume, or density=mass/volume? Another verbal problem in imprecise use of language although I understand that the weight/volume is an American thing.

When I was young, it was a standing joke that structural guys multiplied 2x2 on a sliderule, got 3.99 and rounded it up to four for convenience.

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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/21/2012 8:44 PM

You missed the whole point of the discussion. Fractional Imperials are for carpenters, who are a Closed user Group. Meaning, nobody outside needs an effortless mastery of these traditional measures.

In engineering? Not on your life! If and when somebody presents you with foot, inches, furlongs, seamiles, knots or some martian lenghts, convert the crazy things into metric and set working.

An interesting example for inelegant screwup. A martian lander was designed metric, its braking rocket in Imperial. No one noticed, everybody assumed. The 1/2 billion craft augered into the ground.

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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/22/2012 12:42 PM

I don't know what engineering you are familiar with but buildings and structures are still designed and built using US Customary units, yes, ft and ins and fractions and all.

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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/22/2012 1:01 PM

There are residues of the many different measurement systems humanity has used over time in a whole lot of different endeavors. The pin lead spacing of a DIP integrated circuit is 0.1 inch (aka 2.54 mm). Naval velocity is still measured in knots and often naval depths are still fathoms. Equine races have all sorts of different units. Even the anointed metric system has changed over time. When I first went to college the two metric standards were meter, kilogram, second (MKS) and centimeter, gram, second (CGS). Now they've been less intuitively smashed together into the SI system and one day it will be changed again.

The only true constant is change. Without it there can only be death waiting for us.

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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/22/2012 1:39 PM

"Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward, All in the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.

The league equals three statute miles equals 5280yds. It also equals 2640 US and UK fathoms.

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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/23/2012 7:52 AM

"The league equals three statute miles ..." On land.

At sea, a league equals three nautical miles miles, or 6,076 yards.

This blog is, after all, Speaking of Precision.

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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/21/2012 8:48 PM

After teaching physics & related stuff for 32 years, I retired 17 years ago, and soon after, began working in aerospace. I was (and still am) appalled to find that aerospace does NOT use metric units! At least everything is in decimal inches... No feet and no fractions other than decimals.

I never did really get comfortable doing any math in fractions. I used a sliderule enough to get pretty good at estimating that last digit, and thereby at estimating to a tenth of a division on most decimal scales, without using a vernier. I could never do that on a fractional scale.

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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/22/2012 12:30 PM

President George H W Bush wrote an executive order that all government work must be in SI It didn't happen because many of the companies included the cost of the conversion in their proposals. Others took exception because of the cost, and bid on customary units. The government and other clients chose the lower cost so we still use US customary units except for companies that sell overseas.

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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/23/2012 8:02 AM

We tried a number of times to integrate it in the defense since the 70's.

I was (and still am) appalled to find that aerospace does NOT use metric units!

This happened over 10 years ago and we still are not ready. And it tends to spook the reason for change or making a full commitment.

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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/25/2012 10:58 AM

You missed the whole point of the discussion. Fractional Imperials are for carpenters, who are a Closed user Group. Meaning, nobody outside needs an effortless mastery of these traditional measures.

In engineering? Not on your life! If and when somebody presents you with foot, inches, furlongs, seamiles, knots or some martian lenghts, convert the crazy things into metric and set working.

An interesting example for inelegant screwup. A martian lander was designed metric, its braking rocket in Imperial. No one noticed, everybody assumed. The 1/2 billion craft augered into the ground.

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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/25/2012 11:07 AM

An interesting example for inelegant screwup. A martian lander was designed metric, its braking rocket in Imperial. No one noticed, everybody assumed. The 1/2 billion craft augered into the ground.

If there was blame to go around, it would have to be to the Program Manager. It was his responsibility to pass along and recieve the updates to/from his Project Managers.

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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/25/2012 11:23 AM

Imperial/metric is unlikely to get sorted this side of a decimal day. The only solution I see is for people to clearly state units, and for other people to read them. I'd hazard a guess that the two groups are the same. It's that cliche of the word assume (ass + u + me). Last bit isn't personal to you or anyone phoenix. Sadly, I think we've all come a cropper with that - hopefully not on such chatastrophic scale as mentioned . We live in a world that doesn't even agree on date format.

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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/25/2012 12:01 PM

The last few exchanges shine light on the problem of assuming the reader "gets it", because "everybody knows it".

It ain't so at all. My main work was in electronics, and I read a lot of data sheets and Application Notes. When it comes to component and trace sizes, it still drives me batty and suspicious at times.

Good example: .089 [2.25] From experience I know, that the first is a decimal fraction inches, the second is in millimeters.

Bad example: .026 That's it. No hint, as what that is. If it is similar to another I use, I assume that it is similar size, and cross my fingers behind my back. If it is clearly a different size component, the guessing game starts. I about convince myself, it is all in decimal fraction inches. Then I stumble upon a remark: "Dimension does not include moldflash of 0.15mm PER SIDE". OOPS. Inches components can be placed on metric boards.

Back to square one. And all that in a truly Closed User Group.

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#36
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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/25/2012 12:36 PM

The last few exchanges shine light on the problem of assuming the reader "gets it", because "everybody knows it".

No, not all the time.

When I worked in the shipyard, back in the early 90's. Our main contracts were defense.

I was told, (don't know if it was true) the government past a mandate that by the year 2000, every military contract will be in metric.

Heres what happened;

• Dual dimensions shortly was dropped due to it cluttered up the drawings.
• 12 MM hole was called out on the drawing, fitter asked, what 12MM, the reply was " 'bout 1/2 inch."
• I saw a fabricator walk in the yard with his tape measure extended about 46 inches, with his thumb on the measure, I asked what he was doing? His reply was, have to cut the plank 3 lines past 43 inches.
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#38
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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/25/2012 12:42 PM

When Britland went metric/decimal, there was a long time of revolt to all this 'euro stuff'. A consequence is that many of us switch units fairly easy. We don't always expect something to be in either decimal or metric. Both systems still get widely used (there are exceptions, especially in food labelling). Maybe America is just going thru a simlar adjustement period ?

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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/25/2012 12:47 PM

Its tough having the USA being the leader in holding back world progress and efficiency by staying with imperial standards.

Maybe America is just going thru a simlar adjustement period ?

I was told the we will soon be all metric, and this was in the 60's in grade school

and now, 50 years later..........

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#40
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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/25/2012 1:36 PM

...that'd be half a Century ago ?

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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/25/2012 1:49 PM

OR to be more precise, to the second.........Stardate -356225.9239599189

for you less informed, here the Translator

As I remember it, ..... It was a Monday, because it rained that day, with winds out of the NNW at 15 KPH, MPH,

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#42
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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/25/2012 2:28 PM

I was splarfing something bad, then I realized you got me on another ; Wind direction. It's always stated as where it's coming from, but I can't stop myself thinking of it as where it's blowing to. I already know I'm deeply disturbed, but in a boat I'd want to know where I'd end up - extrapolating source of wind and it's effect is all to much. Hot air rises ? Aghhhhh....cold air sinks (although the antigravity types may wish to differ). It's pretty amazing I can even get out of bed without arguing myself to death !

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#43
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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/25/2012 5:25 PM

At least! I was convinced we would convert (metric is so obviously better...) when I was in high school in the '50s. I kept the faith through all the years I taught physics ('till '95). That's why I was so flabbergasted to find that the aerospace industry is still using inches. We did manage to get wine (and at least some other alcoholic beverages) converted to metric. I never did understand why the brief attempt to change fuels failed. That's so far back I don't even remember when...

"splarfing"?????

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#44
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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/25/2012 5:47 PM

"splarfing"?????

Sort of splutter/laugh splurt/laugh
... what you do with a mouthful of your preferred beverage when something/someone makes you laugh.
It's a portmaneau word manufactured at the KrisDelTM linguistics facility in downtown Etherville.
Having used it you will now be invoiced accordingly
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#46
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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/25/2012 6:00 PM

..and it won't be in Drachma !

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#47
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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/25/2012 6:01 PM

Thanks Del! Gotcha! I'm not sure how we'd say that in American...

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#48
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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/25/2012 6:06 PM

Do you have a deep hill to hide within ?

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#49
In reply to #48

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/25/2012 8:53 PM

I'm not sure what the relationship is (if any) between gotcha and gertcha...

I'm surprised to see my spell-checker accepts gotcha, but not gerthcha.

Just in case, 'gotcha' is short for 'I got you', which in turn is short for 'I understand what you just said'.

In fact I do indeed have a pretty deep hole in my hillside. Do I need to hide?

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#50
In reply to #49

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/25/2012 8:59 PM

No need to hide - it's a daft Cockney speak. I don't think it even has any rhyming slang subtext. Just a slightly mad song in a Cockney accent. Look on it as revenge for line-dancing (which is oddly popular here) .

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#51
In reply to #50

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/25/2012 9:26 PM

I'm afraid I prefer (and can usually understand) the kind of music sung by Julie Andrews. At least I'm old enough to be able to use my poor hearing as an excuse for not understanding...

It just occurred to me that you are responding in real time! What are you doing awake at 2AM? Or are you not in GB?

Dick

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#52
In reply to #51

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/26/2012 3:46 AM

...it's one of life's mysteries . Yeah, it's GB, but Etherville has it's own clock going on....

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#45
In reply to #43

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/25/2012 5:58 PM

Sorry folks, but you may as well all give up;

Mid 80's and betwixt jobs I'm doing some University teaching. First year engineering students doing a beam bending experiment. Simple enough, clamp a metal beam, progressivley load it and measure the deflection (then hopefully make a nice graph)....

Simple dial gauge, the sorta thing with a needle going thru the middle. First brain ache - 'what units is it in'.....''well why don't you chuffing lay it along the bench beside a ruler and see what happens ?' 'does your ruler have metric on one side and imperial on the other ?'

Students get standard hand-out sheet. "Set up gauge so it's positioned to zero". Chins head on wall as they try to clamp it all in place. "Look, you're looking for deflection, not some absolute measurement. Why fool around for an hour trying to get zero ? Stick the ******* in contact, and subtract that reading from next ?" Blank faces.

Having finally got them to realize the starting point of the gauge didn't matter too much, having got them to see how to decide if it measured in imperial of metric, we had to do graph paper. I had to walk right on the spot before I had any dilemma about killing myself or them first. That is in no way unusual. The ability of first year university students defies all belief.

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#37
In reply to #35

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/25/2012 12:38 PM

In general. it's a huge internet problem. Posts that assume we all know what an acronym means, all the unstated 'obvious'. It's impossible to cover all the bases, but at least CR4 affords decent length chat so all this stuff can become clear. Anybody asking a question has seriouisly got to read all replies (hard as it may seem at times). Nobody in their right mind would use a solution from the first book they picked off a library shelf (or whoever they asked). It's the irony of the info-age; We have more stuff to sift in order to find the 'best' answer.

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#4

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/20/2012 9:54 AM

This problem is wide spread, I'll give (2) examples, one in manufacturing, the other in the need in education.

1.) When I was a CNC program in a shipyard, I would recieve drawings from Engineering (The shipyards Engineers were actually injured workers that were placed at a desk job, because of a lifting restriction). Engineering worked on CADAM, I would get the drawings and the line continuity was dismal at best. Sure the gap was maybe 0.0005 but it was still poor. Without redrawing it, or correcting it, I would try and resetting the tolerance setting to 0.001 on the translation, which created another set of problems such as tangencies or circular interference.

I would complain point the problem out, and the response was.....thats not even the thickness of a hair. That makes no difference.

These pseudo engineers were using \$100,000/seat/year CADD system as nothing more then a glorified drafting table.

2.) Education is the other thing, And I am glad it's being address, I heard on the radio yesterday morning, that our state (Wisconsin) are using more stringent testing methods.

Where once we scored I believe 80% in math the old way, We now score something around 67% with the new criteria. It's not good news, but it seems the environment thats been created is that we are too hard on our children. Because of the old way, easier for the chilren, Hence lower quality output,

I like to add, just a week prior, a resolution I believe in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, It was being discussed to make the workload easier for the students, (Because the students were complianing of the hard work). Thats right lower the bar!

Now there is one thing that was drilled into me in college, and that in math, there is no grey area, its either right or wrong.

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#9

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/20/2012 2:16 PM

Technology is the problem and it's use in our schools and at home for the lack of math skills. It's too easy to let a calculator do the number crunching. Most of what asked was skills taught early in lower grades. So what little they learned in math in the earlier grades is lost as they are allowed to use calculators. They become dependent on calculators to do the math for them. Just as many have become dependent on the cell phone. Which is now their calculator also. You don't retain skills if you let machines take them over for you. Good example of that would to take someone with good CNC skills and put them on an old manual Bridgeport mill to make a part. It's not the same theses skills are being lost.

I believe the school boards are looking at most jobs having to do with computers. If they can push the buttons and get the answers they pass.

As far as Metric verses English they need to know both. And how to get from one to the other. World is getting smaller so to say. I don't think the change to one system is going to happen soon. They been talking about it since i was in grade school 50 years ago.

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#10
In reply to #9

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/20/2012 3:09 PM

Excellent observation.

When I was an engineering manager, Graduates didn't matter what college did not understand fundamentals, such as kinematics.

If they were to do the calculations long hand, with out the use of calculators or spread sheets. on some of there exams. to also show the work. This would help tremendously.

BTW, Technology is a trap, I also notice and I was going to start a thread under similar lines. Such as how spell check has lessened my grammar and spelling ability.

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#11
In reply to #10

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/20/2012 11:16 PM

Oddly enough the lack luster spell check we have here and it regular tendency to not work or work poorly has helped my spelling and grammar considerably!

I hate having to proof read my proof reader to make sure its doing its job at least a well as I am and thats a low standard as is.

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#14
In reply to #10

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/21/2012 1:24 AM

"If they were to do the calculations long hand, with out the use of calculators or spread sheets. on some of there exams. to also show the work."

As you have just illustrated very well, even correct use of a spell checker does not guarantee correct English, and you can't possibly have used a grammar checker. For example, with and out are both correctly spelled words, but you presumably meant without. Likewise for spreadsheets. Surely you meant their, not there...

Two of your three periods should have been commas.

Many know that my English isn't exactly perfect, but I do re-read everything I write and correct most of my errors before I press "submit".

We need not only better math skills, but also better language skills!

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#15
In reply to #14

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/21/2012 3:11 AM

Being English, my English is, by definition correct.
Any "errors" you may fine (sic) have simply been inserted for comic effect.

I like the episode of the Simpsons where Bart is being evaluated for a swanky school.
When asked 'do you know long divison?'
He repies, 'I know of long division'
Del

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#30
In reply to #14

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/23/2012 7:54 AM

My point exactly.

With Spell Checker and Grammar, I post these as note without the use of the spell checker or grammar check, whether have the software or second check.

But if you think that my lack of both spell and grammar check.........you haven't seen my I am just glad you haven't seen my penmanship. It is a poor habit that is worsening.

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#55
In reply to #30

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/27/2012 2:59 PM

I nearly always work on a Mac, where the spell checker works (in both English and Spanish, without any intervention on my part) even in places like the CR4 editor.

Same here on the penmanship! It used to be possible to read my signature. Now it can still (I think) be used to authenticate, but anyone who can actually read/decipher it is truly an expert!

Unfortunately, the same seems to be happening with my keyboard 'skills'...

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#56
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### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/27/2012 3:21 PM

I thought my 2nd grade grammar school teacher paid me a compliment, when she inform me in front of the class as she returned my (D+) penmanship assignment when she stated:

"Well Steve, with penmanship like yours, your well on your way to signing prescriptions as a doctor."

it was only later that I realized, it was no compliment....

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#12

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/21/2012 12:02 AM

The problem with our educational system began years ago,when the government created a quota system.

Schools were required to graduate a certain number of X,or Y,or Z in order to keep their federal funding.The emphasis shifted from educating the kids, to getting them out the door.This resulted in a lowering of the standards in order to achieve the numbers.

I believe in giving everyone an equal chance at a quality education, but do not lower the standards so that everyone can pass without trying, even graduating without the ability to read and write.

What if sports teams had the same quota system applied?

Would the quality of the teams increase, or decrease?

How about the Olympics?

They would have to lower the pole vault so that everyone could leap over it, regardless of ability or skill, or training.

As the old fashioned teachers retired, the base of quality teachers dwindled, and they were replaced by quota graduates that were likewise given a free pass in critical areas of education.

They realized it was important to get their numbers out the door, regardless of the quality of the graduate.

I am sad for all of the wasted potential of our younger generation; all of the engineers,scientists,physicists, and doctors that will never be discovered.

The USA is falling behind other countries, and we are headed down hill at an accelerating rate.And there appears to be no way to stop it.

IMHO, and of course, I could be wrong.

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#13

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/21/2012 12:24 AM

Pure metric is simple. I started out with that. As you mix in Imperial, it is getting interesting. Then it comes the 1/4, 1/8, 1/16 arithmetic. Then you introduce the bastard decimal fractions of the inches. Unless you stick to one, confusion city.

The schools, I am sorry to say, are substandard. My kids went to a decent high school. Then I caught them doing the same quadratic equations the third year, by 4 different methods?!? I had to teach them the ONE method getting consistent results, and ignoring the teacher sowing confusion. Later I learned many examples of such wasteful exercises straight from the teacher's colleges via textbooks. Then I read a book about the late and great Richard Feynman. Late in his life he agreed to evaluate math textbooks for the school district. He found garbage and garbage and exploded.

I worked hard to keep the interest in my kids up. Now they are ok. But, I can see well, that many kids get disconnected. Heck, I would be disconnected from the incoherent garbage. Luckily, I tend to do it my way, and ignore the instructions, when they do not make sense. Working, among sane grownups, was like an asylum at the beginning. After that, reasonably fine.

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#16
In reply to #13

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/21/2012 3:27 AM

It may not work, but adding fun can help. In the case of money, drop in some trivia about where all those symbols came from. 'd' fro penny being from Roman 'denarius' etc.

I'm amazed at how many kids can't work percentageges. Break it down to 'per cent' (ie 'for every hundred') and it starts to gel. Something about trivia sticks in peoples heads. Bust the jargon and you often find it gets things rolling.

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#17

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/21/2012 9:34 AM

The infantile education system in this country is grossly inadequate. There are great teachers, but they are working under the constricted curriculum that only allows teaching for the test. (How many awesome teachers taught you life skills and ideas that could not be measured by a standardized test?) Their jobs and the school's funding hinge on these scores.

The most glaring and obvious problem I see is the education system's inability to see how screwed up they really are. Our illustrious administrators would never claim responsibility for their dismal failure. They would simply claim, "21 million prescriptions of ADHD medication is obviously not enough," while too ignorant to ask, "What the (bleep) happened to recess?" or ""Maybe we're really boring these kids to death?" (There's no time for recess, when your teaching for the test!)

A cursory examination of how children learn would reveal that the education system in the US is seriously flawed, but it is not a problem that can't be solved with a couple million pounds of drugs (and of course replacing all of the 74th edition text books, published last year, with the new 75th edition.)

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#18

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/21/2012 9:34 AM

By the time I was 15, handling calipers and micrometers was normal to me. By 18 I had a technician's diploma and High school diploma in my hand. Could have started a useful professional life with it. Circumstances allowed further education.

Still, what I learned early is still with me, quite useful. Like measuring, calculating in the head (including % exactly or sloppily) and estimating (in head again). These skills are not magic, but need to be learned.

The present day educational system is Teacher College centric. What do they teach there? Theory and more theory. Anything practical is disdained and excluded. You see the results coming out of the schools. For most, a grand waste of time.

Do not simply take this at face value. Meet teachers and probe them. You will be surprised.

By the way, The One Size Fits All system is one of the last remnant of the steam engine Industrial Revolution age. All education did throw it overboard, save public education. And that will go the way of the dodo bird too, not soon enough.

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#19

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/21/2012 1:02 PM

Calculators (now smart phones), permissive schools, and lazy, or non-existent, parents are the problem here.

Give 99.999% of the people on the planet a vernier caliper or mic and ask them to measure something. They'll look at you like you are crazy. Give a kid an analog watch and ask them what time it is.

The educational system, and parents, have become enamored with the "information age". Why would you want little Johnny to have a job where his hands get dirty?

We can all share the blame.

I went to school in the 50's and 60's. My kids in the 70's and 80's. And now we have three more in 2nd, 3rd and 8th grades. The education the three small boys are getting now is dismal.

Grade schoolers now learn to count with their fingers. Calculators are common place.

When's the last time someone counted back your change?

We've been on this path for a long time, now it's come home to roost.

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#53

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/27/2012 12:03 PM

Kris, #45 made my earlier point eloquently. Unless you catch them early teens or before, their real life connections are already withered.

Small kids learn by copying. Conceptualizing comes later. If we have some things to conceptualize. we may be fine. But, if not, How do you conceptualize, what you do not know at all?

Bad concept: all theory, no practice.

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#54
In reply to #53

### Re: NPR Proves The Math Skills Problem Manufacturers Face

07/27/2012 12:14 PM

I agree,

I like to add because times are different from where you had to use your imagination with a lack of resources to entertain to today where its nothing more than push buttonn entertainment with very little thinking because its all laid out for you.

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