Growing a more qualified workforce: one small idea
My first job was as an engineer in a small German computer company in the Black Forest. One day, I discovered that my fellow engineers couldn't tell which was larger: 13/32 or 3/8. I thought that was rather odd.
Of course, they could eventually tell which was larger: they'd use their slide rules or long division (this was quite a while ago) to determine that 13/32 was 0.40625 and 3/8 was 0.375, and then the answer was obvious. While they were doing all that division, I'd simply convert 3/8 to 12/32, and it was equally obvious but much faster to tell that 13/32 is larger than 12/32.
It turned out that they had never studied fractions in school, at least not the way I had. They never learned how to divide 27/48 by 72/14 nor how to add 3/4 and 5/9 quickly and easily. I was sure I had spent much time in school, perhaps a couple of years, learning and practicing such things.
After a bit of discussion, we determined that the only real purpose for fractions was to calculate using inches, miles, quarts, and the like—in other words, to use what I was taught to call the English system of units. I'm pretty sure I spent additional time learning how many cups in a gallon and how many yards in a mile.
Given that we in the USA sometimes read how our students aren't as well prepared as those from other nations, what would happen if we were able to skip all those months of teaching and practice with fractions and the English system of units and learn basic concepts better or move forward into more advanced concepts sooner? Would that help our students catch up with the rest of the world? Would that help US businesses have more qualified workforces in the future?
If you're an researcher, I invite you to determine if this idea might have merit.
If you're in business and think it has merit (especially if we get valid research that indicate it does), I invite you to advocate for a nation-wide conversion to the metric system to help our school systems and, ultimately, our workforces.
What do you think?