Math requirement for RNs? - page 5

I have a question for both practicing RNs and students alike: It's come to my attention recently that some nursing schools are on longer verifying that their students can do basic 4th grade math. ... Read More

  1. by   SummitRN
    I made a point of never using a calculator for the drug tests but finishing first. I get some people aren't good at math, but nursing math is the very definition of simplistic. In the real world, when exhausted in the wee hours, I may check myself with a calculator. I'm worried that those who cannot do basic arithmetic have no ability to check against typoing the calculator.

    Cursive is a terrible waste of elementary curriculum far better spent on typing... or almost anything other than cursive. It belongs in an elective art class.
  2. by   Julius Seizure
    Quote from Tacomaboy3
    I still don't understand why statistics is a prerequisite for some nursing programs...I think the only value in it is understanding research articles or conducting research.
    I think this is the exact reason for it. That and one less pre-requisite to complete when you start grad school (which of course they want you to do). It wasn't required in my undergrad but apparently I am the minority on that.
    Last edit by Julius Seizure on Apr 20
  3. by   FolksBtrippin
    Quote from chare
    You would think so. However, judging by some of the questions posted here by students asking for help, one tends to wonder.
    Okay, so let's say someone made it through high school without knowing how to add and subtract, divide and multiply. Maybe it happens.

    To get into nursing school, they are still going to need college math (or algebra or whatever they are calling it), chemistry, statistics. In all of these classes, you are not going to pass without knowing how to add, subtract, multiply, divide.

    So you can't say we don't already have a pretty solid way of ensuring nurses know 4th grade math. We have multiple redundant methods of ensuring that nurses know 4th grade math.
  4. by   llg
    Quote from FolksBtrippin
    I don't know what you mean here. A high school diploma or GED should be verification that you can do basic math.

    I don't know of any nursing schools that don't require that.

    On top of that you need college math and chemistry.

    Why on earth would you need to test whether someone who knows algebra and chemistry, knows how to add and subtract?

    That's like testing someone who knows how to read and write on the alphabet.
    The whole point of the thread is that it is now possible to graduate from high school and graduate from college without being able to do the basic math because students are being allowed to use calculators for every homework assignment and test. The TEAS test, NCLEX, etc. all allow the use of calculators now -- and many schools allow calculators all the time, too. So a student can have a 4.0 average in college and still not know how to divide 425.5 by 18.2. Or multiply 1/3 by 1/5.

    In a few years, we may also be seeing nurses who can't read a hand-written note left by a colleague telling her how to change an unusual dressing. Or won't be able to read a copy of a hand-written note on a paper charge form ... or the history written by hand on the transport team record ... of the note sent to the school nurse from a parent ... etc.
    Last edit by llg on Apr 20
  5. by   llg
    Quote from Julius Seizure
    I don't think anyone is arguing that the scholastic ability to do basic math is too high a bar to expect nurses to clear. I certainly am not saying that. I would love to see high and STANDARDIZED entry standards for all levels of nursing.

    But I DO disagree with the idea that doing math by hand in the clinical setting is somehow superior to doing math with a calculator. Of course, you need to understand the concepts behind your calculations and have the ability to recognize something looks wrong if you hit an extra button and get a weird answer (always a good idea to check your calculations twice). You can use a calculator and your brain at the same time. Its the same as when medication barcode scanning came out - great safety tool, but you still need to use your brain. That doesn't mean there is something wrong with barcode scanning....it means that nurses need to stay vigilant even when using tools to help them do their jobs better. These are not two mutually exclusive things.

    I don't see what is so disturbing about nurses using the tools at their disposal, and why you wouldn't teach them the same way during their schooling.
    I haven't seen/heard anyone say that calculators should not be used in everyday practice. The real question is: Should nurses be able to do it without calculators in the event that one is unavailable? I use calculators all the time ... but I could do it by hand if I needed to. I know how to multiply & divide fractions and decimals. Many of today's students don't know how and couldn't do it if they had to. That is what some of us are concerned about.
  6. by   llg
    Quote from RNBSN2017
    I feel that this is more of an education system issue, rather than a nursing issue.
    Thank you for your response. I am happy to read that you were required to demonstrate basic math competence as part of your education. Unfortunately, not everyone has had to do that.

    ...and it is a nursing issue because it is the nursing profession's responsibility to establish the minimal requirements for practicing nursing. Should the ability to do basic calculations be required for a license? Should we verify competence at those skills for new hires? etc.
  7. by   ItsThatJenGirl
    Quote from llg
    The whole point of the thread is that it is now possible to graduate from high school and graduate from college without being able to do the basic math because students are being allowed to use calculators for every homework assignment and test. The TEAS test, NCLEX, etc. all allow the use of calculators now -- and many schools allow calculators all the time, too. So a student can have a 4.0 average in college and still not know how to divide 425.5 by 18.2. Or multiply 1/3 by 1/5.

    In a few years, we may also be seeing nurses who can't read a hand-written note left by a colleague telling her how to change an unusual dressing. Or won't be able to read a copy of a hand-written note on a paper charge form ... or the history written by hand on the transport team record ... of the note sent to the school nurse from a parent ... etc.
    Is this all anecdotal or is there some sort of evidence? As a current college student it would be impossible to have a 4.0 without basic math skills.
  8. by   llg
    Quote from ItsThatJenGirl
    Is this all anecdotal or is there some sort of evidence? As a current college student it would be impossible to have a 4.0 without basic math skills.
    Kind'a in the middle. Many schools are letting their students use calculators 100% of the time: that's a fact. So while it might not be possible at your school, it is very possible at other schools. As long as the student can type the numbers into the calculator correctly, they don't have to know what to do with the decimals in a multiplication or division problem.

    The TEAS test has recently changed their policy and now let students use calculators -- and for a least 1 school, their TEAS pass rates increased dramatically. The school's investigation into the sudden jump in TEAS schools showed that the students were now able to succeed in the math portion of the test (using calculators) where before, they had much lower scores on that section without the calculators. I talked with some students in that school and they admitted they did not know how to handle decimals with multiplying and dividing and that they never could have passed the TEAS without a calculator.

    The school said it allows students to use calculators all the time so that it doesn't matter whether the students can do the calculations by hand or not.

    That led me to ask here whether other schools are doing the same thing ... allowing their students to pass through their programs without ever having to show competency in basic arithmetic. Based on the responses in this thread, it looks like that is the case. Students have to know how to set up the equations, but don't have to actually multiply or divide the numbers themselves.

    Also, I have been teaching hospital orientees for many years -- and I see many orientees who can't do calculations with fractions or decimals unless they have a calculator.
  9. by   Julius Seizure
    Quote from llg
    The whole point of the thread is that it is now possible to graduate from high school and graduate from college without being able to do the basic math because students are being allowed to use calculators for every homework assignment and test. The TEAS test, NCLEX, etc. all allow the use of calculators now -- and many schools allow calculators all the time, too. So a student can have a 4.0 average in college and still not know how to divide 425.5 by 18.2. Or multiply 1/3 by 1/5.

    I disagree that "basic math skills" revolves around the ability to divide 425.5 by 18.2 or multiple 1/2 by 1/5 without a calculator. That is not the world that we live in today. Basic math skills means knowing how to use your calculator to do those math problems and understanding the concepts behind them. The dreaded "common core math" is about just that: understanding HOW numbers work is more important than being able to do long division by hand or knowing all your multiplication tables by rote.
  10. by   pixierose
    Quote from Julius Seizure
    I disagree that "basic math skills" revolves around the ability to divide 425.5 by 18.2 or multiple 1/2 by 1/5 without a calculator. That is not the world that we live in today. Basic math skills means knowing how to use your calculator to do those math problems and understanding the concepts behind them. The dreaded "common core math" is about just that: understanding HOW numbers work is more important than being able to do long division by hand or knowing all your multiplication tables by rote.
    Being a former teacher, I have to agree with this. While I agree, to an extent, that nurses should have the ability to do basic math ... well, these basic math skills begin being taught around 2nd, 3rd grade. And calculators are indeed introduced in grades as early as 3rd grade. Even with our state standardized testing ... for many of the questions there is that little calculator icon on top.

    These are the students entering colleges, traditional nursing schools (for the most part).

    This is the reality of education today.

    I think we we need to adjust our thinking: understand how those numbers work. Why does that med calc look off? Why does it look right? Yes, my school made us learn the equations. We had to show the work. But I used the calculator (several times to double check my work). If I didn't know how to develop the equation, I wouldn't have my answer.

    But I think some of the worse things I have seen? Mistakes by docs, the MAR, pharmacy, with outrageous dosages. And nary a critical thought to be seen by the nurse giving the med.
  11. by   ItsThatJenGirl
    Quote from llg
    Kind'a in the middle. Many schools are letting their students use calculators 100% of the time: that's a fact. So while it might not be possible at your school, it is very possible at other schools. As long as the student can type the numbers into the calculator correctly, they don't have to know what to do with the decimals in a multiplication or division problem.

    The TEAS test has recently changed their policy and now let students use calculators -- and for a least 1 school, their TEAS pass rates increased dramatically. The school's investigation into the sudden jump in TEAS schools showed that the students were now able to succeed in the math portion of the test (using calculators) where before, they had much lower scores on that section without the calculators. I talked with some students in that school and they admitted they did not know how to handle decimals with multiplying and dividing and that they never could have passed the TEAS without a calculator.

    The school said it allows students to use calculators all the time so that it doesn't matter whether the students can do the calculations by hand or not.

    That led me to ask here whether other schools are doing the same thing ... allowing their students to pass through their programs without ever having to show competency in basic arithmetic. Based on the responses in this thread, it looks like that is the case. Students have to know how to set up the equations, but don't have to actually multiply or divide the numbers themselves.

    Also, I have been teaching hospital orientees for many years -- and I see many orientees who can't do calculations with fractions or decimals unless they have a calculator.
    Yikes! It's a totally foreign idea to me. We use mental math all the time - even today in my Micro class when we were doing bacterial counts with dilution factors. No calculators allowed. I guess I'm lucky.
  12. by   SummitRN
    Quick handrwitten notes to colleagues are usually done in print, not script.

    My handwriting is nearly illegible even when using print. I doubt I could easily write script (despite all the recesses I missed to work on my handwriting, which did no good).

    Should I be allowed to be a RN?

    Or does my ability to do algebra, geometry, calculus, and physics in my head make up for that?
  13. by   DoGoodThenGo
    This lowering or removal of math standards for student nurses must be coming from private/for profit schools of nursing.

    College/university nursing programs still must adhere to state mandates regarding math requirements for students seeing to be awarded an associate of bachelor degree.

    Schools do test pre-nursing students and many do not allow calculators.
    https://www.keene.edu/academics/prog...mple/download/

    Where calculators are allow such as the TEAS ATI (but not TEAS V), but a basic four function version only is allowed.

    Use of calculators for TEAS, SAT or whatever standardized test and or in college level courses likely reflects a simple truth; for a decade or more even primary school students have been allowed to use the things.

    Those of us who are "boomers" likely recall the drill; math was taught one way, and that was the way your teacher assigned. You memorized times tables/multiplication wheel, struggled through long division, fractions and decimals, the lot. For those to who maths came easily all was good. However the often "show all work and use assigned formulas only" left no small number of students failing or doing badly. They could get the right answer if left to their own devices but "Sister Benedict" wasn't having any of that.

    Gradually the focus of primary, secondary and even in some cases post secondary math is not the how you get there, but that the answer is correct. If you need a calculator to do so, then so be it.

    Same as with nursing math/med dose calculations. If you went to school say prior to the 1980's or 1990's (give or take) it is most likely you learned "ratio and proportion", show all work, and use only standard assigned formulas. For some students (see above comment) this wasn't a problem, but for those that didn't "get math" or just needed to do things their own way (but still get the correct answer), many instructors were having none of that either. Dimensional analysis has proved a God send for many nursing students.

    Even back in the days of IVs with roller clamps Lippincott and other nursing manuals had charts one could Xerox or consult to get drip rates. Thus the concept of "cheat sheets" isn't exactly new.

    However one universal truth about math remains; the more one works with numbers and understands things it is easier to comprehend the various relationships between not only numbers but what you are doing. Understanding the relationship between numbers allows a professional nurse to at once (hopefully) catch some off the wall number that pops up after she or he presses that "equal" button.

    In any event, hospitals and other healthcare facilities have long ceased relying upon whatever educational credentials a new or even experienced nurse brings. Nearly everyone takes a maths exam now, and some places may or may not allow calculators for all or part of the test.

    Computers/calculators are only good as the information being fed into them; if you put in garbage, that is what you'll get out.

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