Maths challenge

In June, Today Tonight put Australia to the test with a national spelling bee, now we find out how the country measures up in maths.

You and the family can take part by taking the challenge below.

It's a double edged sword. We embrace technology because it makes things easier but calculators on all of our modern devices allow our understanding of numbers to be devalued.

Maths standards have been on the slide for years.

A study involving eight universities has labelled maths standards "dangerously low". Australia is floundering behind countries like Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Canada.

The quality of students studying maths at university is also falling. Incentives like cheaper HECS fees have done little to bolster course numbers.

Stuart Palmer from the Mathematics Association is worried. He says there are too few mathematics teachers for students in beginning high school.

As the federal government pushed the education revolution the average 15-year-old was six months behind in ability compared to other developed countries.

In ten years we had gone from fifth to 12th in first world countries as the Prime Minister warned we could become the "the runt of the litter".

So let's test that theory. Generation verses generation. Have we really let maths slip?

The under 29's are generation Y, 30 to 49-year-olds Gen X, and 50 and above the Baby Boomers.

They sat a basic maths test without a calculator.

Today Tonight's headmaster is Scott Flansburg - better known as the Human Calculator.

Scott travels the world teaching students numbers can be both understood and enjoyed. Scott is in the guinness book or records for being able to count faster than a calculator and recently visited our shores as part of the Commonwealth Bank Maths Challenge.

Eighty percent of generation Y failed to get the right answer from 24 times 67.

Three quarters of the group found 24 x 99 too hard without a calculator - the answer 2376.

Overall, just like Today Tonight's spelling challenge, Generation Y didn't perform well.

On top - the baby boomers scored best with 80 per cent of the answers correct. This was followed by 59 per cent for Generation X and just scraping a pass mark was Generation Y with 52 per cent.

Scott Flansburg believes today's students are too results focussed and lack the fundamental understanding of how numbers work.

Channel Seven finance editor and sunrise co-host, David Koch, says don't blame the students for poor results.

"We sit down and talk to our kids about healthy habits, about you know, limiting your drinking, eating healthily, how to behave, common courtesy. How many parents have sat their kids down and said lets talk about maths, let's talk about money," David said.

The Mathematics association agrees with Kochie that more relevant mathematic teaching is needed and that the Australian Cirruculum has been a step forward in getting states to work towards similar testing in years 11 and 12, yet they could go further and follow the Victorian model where students sit a test with a calculator section and another part of the test without.

Math Challenge