I work for a Journalism school, doing computer work. Our student body is largely out of high school, into college, and I would guess by and large, they’re all Bachelors of Arts majors. Which means they’ve opted to take language courses rather than math/science. Which is fine, but it tells you that these students largely aren’t math people.

For years, some of the faculty here at the school have complained about the lack of basic math skills possessed by the students, but no one really had a firm grip on those skills, or knew what to do about it. Finally, last Spring term (2011), an Electronic Media instructor decided to address this, and gave her 16 students a math test each week, with the requirement that they get all the answers right, and then would be allowed to skip all subsequent tests. Doing so was required for the class, so failure to pass any of them would result in failure to pass the class. What were these “terrible” math problems? Largely, they were percentages. One of them based on the graphic for this post. Something like: “The devil makes it through 500 of the 666 slides. What percentage of the total is that?”