Average Parent is No Better at Math or Science Than a 6th Grader

How many of your childhood math or science lessons do you remember today? If the answer is barely any, you aren’t alone. A recent survey of 2,000 U.S. parents finds the average parent these days has the math and science skills of an 11-year-old.

Respondents were asked what grade they would be placed in today if they had to take a placement test, and the average answer was sixth grade for both math and science.

It’s unrealistic to expect anyone to remember everything they were taught in school as a child, of course. Yet the extent to which many American adults feel clueless when it comes to academics is shocking. In all, 42% say they would be “lost” trying to teach their child mathematics. Another 35% express the same sentiment regarding scientific topics.

Parents put to the test

This research, commissioned by Mongoose, feels especially timely considering how millions of parents suddenly find themselves taking on a more active teaching role with their kids home from school due to the pandemic. Time to dust off the old multiplication tables.

When asked how they performed academically as a child, 55% remembered struggling with math and close to 40% said the same for science topics. On that note, it seems the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Math (49%) and science (31%) are among the top subjects listed by parents when asked what topics their kids struggle with today.

Over half (58%) of respondents say they’ve been asked by their child for help with a math or science problem. Junior may clearly be better off looking elsewhere for a tutor. For instance, just under 40% of parents can’t say what STEM stands for (science, technology, engineering, math).

How about the formula for calculating speed? Despite that lesson being a standard sixth grade level topic, a full 20% of parents can’t recall that formula. (In case you forgot, it’s distance divided by time). Similarly, only 36% believe they are capable of calculating the circumference and diameter of a circle diagram. Also, less than a third can name a correct example of “potential energy” (a stretched rubber band being one answer).

Remote learning not so helpful when kids are struggling

Most parents (72%) worry that the switch over to remote learning this year may end up hurting their child’s developing math and science skills. Among that group, 62% feel remote learning just doesn’t provide enough “hands on” academic experiences. Another 64% agree that science and math lessons often require one-on-one instruction between student and teacher. That’s something that is exponentially harder to attain through a computer screen.

Overall, 80% of U.S. parents are in agreement that hands-on learning and experiments are essential ingredients when it comes to fully understanding math and science topics. Also, 76% believe their child personally benefits from hands-on learning experiences across all school subjects.

Of course, it’s never too late to get back to learning (or re-learning). Many parents (72%) say they plan on learning math and science right alongside their kids this school year.

Via StudyFinds