American millennials — those born after 1980 — ranked worst among developed nations in math, tied with Italy and Spain, according to a study released Tuesday by the Educational Testing Service. The U.S. ranked 16th out of 22 countries in literacy, and in problem solving, the U.S. was last again, tied with Slovakia, Ireland and Poland.
The poor results come as the country has an increasing number of people graduating with a college degree.
Millennials were the target group because they are the most recent products of their countries’ education systems.
Nick Cabot, a UNC education professor, said he thinks more education might not be the solution to poor performance — it could be part of the problem.
He said curricula tend to focus on preparing students to pass a test rather than emphasizing retention and complete understanding of the subject.
“The United States is always worried about covering material in order to pass some kind of test since No Child Left Behind was passed in (2001),” Cabot said.
The U.S. routinely scores poorly in math skills compared to other countries — it was vastly behind others in a 2012 study from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies.
Another issue Cabot believes is hurting the country’s millennials is that teachers try to cover too much material.