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Americans can't count, and not so good at tech -- report

According to a report by the OECD, America comes only above Italy and Spain in math ability. We're below average at technological problem-solving. Is this surprising?

Counting on change?
James Martin/CNET

So many complex minds claim that they can solve the alleged budget crisis.

One report, though, may have an insight which many have overlooked.

It seems that America isn't much good at math. You know, the adding, subtracting, and multiplying thing? We're terrible.

You might think, though, that dividing is still a strength. No, it is not. At least if you believe the latest report (PDF) from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (Thank you, Quartz, for discovering this gem.)

The results make for grim reaping.

The reputation America has sown for not always being cerebral reveals itself in numbers suggesting we are below average at math.

Indeed, the numeracy proficiency of 16- to 65-year-olds is almost the worst of the countries surveyed. Only Italy and Spain -- two countries where they don't like to pay their taxes, coincidentally -- come below the United States.

Cyprus, Ireland, the Slovak Republic, and even England are above the land of the free.

You might think, though, that we have computers to do all the math work these days. What America is good at is technology.

Well, the OECD decided to look at "Proficiency in Problem-Solving in Technology-Rich Environments."

America did poorly. Again, we sank below the average. We did, though, manage to catch up with Ireland and the Slovak Republic.

Peculiarly, the age group where the US most lacks technology skills is among young adults. Of the 20 countries surveyed, American young adults were dead last.

If you're thinking about moving to hotbeds of mathematical and technological intelligence, you'll be wondering where they are. Finland and Japan appear to be hotbeds of skill. Which is a touch odd, given the relative declines of Nokia and Sony.

It is, of course, questionable whether skill always leads to results. Trent Dilfer once quarterbacked a Super Bowl-winning team.

However, looking into the future, there is a sense that America might be hobbled by its relative lack of math and technology smarts.

Could this be why Mark Zuckerberg is desperate to change the immigration laws, so that he can hire more foreigners?

My rudimentary calculation says, "No, he just thinks they're cheaper."