N6376M
Topic Author
Posts: 2310
Joined: Tue Aug 12, 2003 12:54 am

The US Is Doomed

Sat Oct 02, 2004 6:54 am

I've spent the better part of yesterday and today interviewing administrative assistant candidates. One of the requirements is that the person have basic math skills. In order to confirm that an applicant have such skills I asked them to answer the following, How many seconds are there in a year?

I gave them the following:

60 second in a minute
60 minutes in an hour
24 hours in a day
365 days in a year

I also allowed them to use a calculator.

I interviewed 10 people for this position.

- 4 of the 10 left the answer blank not being able to even figure out how to structure a calculation.

-3 of the 10 multiplied 60 x 365 and came up with 21,900 as their answer.

- 1 just wrote in a number that made no logical sense to me (I can't figure out what combination of numbers she multiplied)

- 2 candidates got the answer correct.

Now here's the scary part. All had college degrees.

OMG - if college 80% of college graduates can't figure out how to do simple math (WITH A CALCULATOR) where the hell are we going as a country?

The position paid $35,000 a year to start plus benefits including 100% paid for medical (for the employee and 40% for all covered dependents), employer paid for long and short term disability, life insurance and a 401(k) plan with 3% employer contribution plus a 3% match on your contributions.

I must have received over 50 applications for the position after a three day ad in the local newspaper. I eliminated all the applications with typos and grammatical errors and anyone who couldn't write a readable letter of introduction.

If this is what college grads are capable of, what can we expect of people with only high school degrees?
 
HOMER71
Posts: 2142
Joined: Fri Jul 20, 2001 10:56 pm

RE: The US Is Doomed

Sat Oct 02, 2004 6:59 am

If she's good-looking, does it matter?  Big grin

Actually, there's 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds in a day, but I digress...
"On spaceship earth there are no passengers...only crew."
 
N6376M
Topic Author
Posts: 2310
Joined: Tue Aug 12, 2003 12:54 am

RE: The US Is Doomed

Sat Oct 02, 2004 7:05 am

Homer, I had actually first thought of asking the question of how many seconds in a leap year and not providing any of the givens but everyone told me that it would have been unfair. I also didn't want to give a calculator.

I don't think that I would have gotten a single correct response under my original plan.
 
theCoz
Posts: 3933
Joined: Mon Aug 16, 2004 11:06 am

RE: The US Is Doomed

Sat Oct 02, 2004 7:07 am

I'm shocked to see that, yet somehow...not too surprised.  Wow!
 
FlyVirgin744
Posts: 1282
Joined: Tue Jul 27, 1999 8:35 am

RE: The US Is Doomed

Sat Oct 02, 2004 7:20 am

I'm in school for engineering, and while I'm not the best math student, the stuff I have to solve is insane. And then I read something like that, shoulda changed my major.
Sometimes I go about in pity for myself and all the while a great wind carries me across the sky.
 
LHMark
Posts: 7048
Joined: Fri Jan 21, 2000 2:18 am

RE: The US Is Doomed

Sat Oct 02, 2004 7:26 am

Hire the one with the big T*ts
"Sympathy is something that shouldn't be bestowed on the Yankees. Apparently it angers them." - Bob Feller
 
mdsh00
Posts: 4024
Joined: Mon May 17, 2004 11:28 am

RE: The US Is Doomed

Sat Oct 02, 2004 7:29 am

Are you kidding me?? That is VERY scary! How many seconds in a year is so simple using the "fence" method (yes I learned that technique from chemistry and physics).

that is sad. But I think what is more important...where did they get their degrees from and what were there degrees in?
 
desertjets
Posts: 7693
Joined: Fri Feb 18, 2000 3:12 pm

RE: The US Is Doomed

Sat Oct 02, 2004 7:34 am

Doesn't really shock me at all. We live in a math phobic society and anything involving numbers tends to scare aware a lot of people... to the point that nearly half of those you interview couldn't even set up the problem. Despite the fact that it took me less than 30 seconds to think throw the problem, set it up, and solve it. Probably would take me a minute or two to do it by hand writing out the multiplication by hand. In college you can get away with taking surprisingly little math, and even in science and social science courses do very little work involving quantitative reasoning. I would also suspect that if you gave them a more advanced problem more would be able to successfully solve it. Oftentimes with students taking advanced mathematics courses is that they forget the algebra but have the theory down solid.
Stop drop and roll will not save you in hell. --- seen on a church marque in rural Virginia
 
oly720man
Posts: 5813
Joined: Fri May 21, 2004 7:13 am

RE: The US Is Doomed

Sat Oct 02, 2004 7:45 am

Same in the UK. Everyone hates maths (and physics and chemistry and anything where you have to think.) It's probably subjects where the parents go "aaaaaaggggggghhhhhh" and it rubs off on the kids.

My wife's a teacher and in some schools people have been amazed that she can do maths (this is a K12 level school)
wheat and dairy can screw up your brain
 
Espion007
Posts: 1652
Joined: Mon Dec 15, 2003 9:29 am

RE: The US Is Doomed

Sat Oct 02, 2004 7:55 am

wow-whats so hard about getting 31,536,000??
Snakes on a Plane!
 
garnetpalmetto
Posts: 5352
Joined: Tue Oct 21, 2003 1:38 am

RE: The US Is Doomed

Sat Oct 02, 2004 8:10 am

Good lord. I was a political science major who only took two math classes throughout my collegiate career - calculus (which I got a D+ in) and statistics (where I did much better than calculus) and even I know how to use factor-label method  Wow!

So uh...that job still open? I'll relocate  Wink/being sarcastic
South Carolina - too small to be its own country, too big to be a mental asylum.
 
N6376M
Topic Author
Posts: 2310
Joined: Tue Aug 12, 2003 12:54 am

RE: The US Is Doomed

Sat Oct 02, 2004 8:13 am

What the hell is the fence method?
 
mdsh00
Posts: 4024
Joined: Mon May 17, 2004 11:28 am

RE: The US Is Doomed

Sat Oct 02, 2004 8:32 am

It was something taught to me in High school Chemistry. It might have different names but it's a good way to make sure that you have your units down straight when you make conversions. Very useful for physics and chemistry, and the MCAT.


Basically you set up those time conversions in ratios.

(60 seconds/1 minute)X(60 minute/1 hour)X(24 hour/1 day)X(365 day/1 year)= 31,536,000 sec/1 year.

So basically the fence method is a more organized way to calculate that. all units except seconds and years cancel out, and you just have to multiply across.

I personally don't like math very much but that conversion you asked for was so basic that its sad they couldn't do it.
 
Greg
Posts: 5539
Joined: Sat May 28, 2005 1:11 am

RE: The US Is Doomed

Sat Oct 02, 2004 8:37 am

Totally irrelevant interview question...unless you're hiring for a statistician. What kind of firm do you work for?

When I hired my secretary..I handed candidates my Planner..and said.."How would you organize my day?"

There was always one or two that knew exactly what could be moved (internal meetings) and what couldn't (court dates). Narrows the field considerably...

How many seconds in a year? Who cares if they know math. I'd be more concerned what image they project on your behalf....demeanor, communication, and attitude. If you deal with clients....that's what's King. Not knowing the square root of their Social Security Number.

36K plus benefits is a sucker salary anyway. At least in the legal arena. My new admin accepted my offer at $47K plus incentives. He's 26 and went to a vocational school (but in all fairness has freakishly strong clerical skills).

 
garnetpalmetto
Posts: 5352
Joined: Tue Oct 21, 2003 1:38 am

RE: The US Is Doomed

Sat Oct 02, 2004 10:03 am

MDSH - I believe what you're describing is more properly called, as I said earlier, factor-label method.
South Carolina - too small to be its own country, too big to be a mental asylum.
 
mdsh00
Posts: 4024
Joined: Mon May 17, 2004 11:28 am

RE: The US Is Doomed

Sat Oct 02, 2004 10:10 am

Garnetpalmetto

Yeah! Thats what it was officially called. I remember now.
 
N6376M
Topic Author
Posts: 2310
Joined: Tue Aug 12, 2003 12:54 am

RE: The US Is Doomed

Sat Oct 02, 2004 10:36 am

Greg,

Given the legal profession's reputation for billing "irregularities" I could see how knowing how to do simple math would be an irrelevant to an attorney - in fact, it might be a plus.

In any case, I think that the ability to do simple math is a relevant skill. I ask my assistant to do any number of tasks that require math skills including preparing my expense reports. If they can't add, subtract, multiply or divide with the use of a calculator, I don't believe that bodes well for their ability to handle other tasks that require the most minimum of thought.

In case you never figured it out, the reason why we learn algebra in middle school is not because we will go around solving for X in the real world, but because it teach one how to think.

-76M
 
AGC525
Posts: 956
Joined: Sun Sep 12, 2004 9:50 am

RE: The US Is Doomed

Sat Oct 02, 2004 12:08 pm

So how is the US doomed? I'm sure there's dumbasses in every country
American Aviation: From Kitty Hawk to the Moon in 66 years!
 
prosa
Posts: 5389
Joined: Sat Oct 27, 2001 3:24 am

RE: The US Is Doomed

Sat Oct 02, 2004 12:34 pm

How many seconds in a year? Who cares if they know math.

It's not so much that the job applicants know how to do math (if you can call simple multiplication with a calculator "math"), it's whether they know how to think out the solution to a problem.
"Let me think about it" = the coward's way of saying "no"

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