I for one fail to see why there are adults in first world countries (my only experience is in the United States, but in theory should be applicable to the rest of the first world, and parts of the second and third) who can't do some (or in a few cases, any) of the four basic operations on reasonably small numbers (3 digits or less for multiplication and division, 4-5 for addition and subtraction).

For those of you wondering, yes, I'm gifted at math and enjoy it. But I have literally seen people who cannot add 2 and 4. I tutor students in math at my high school to earn my state-required service hours (20 over the course of four years; met long ago) and International Baccalaureate-required CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service)hours. Most of them understand the basic operations, and, if we're lucky, all the courses up to, but not including, their current one.

Every once in a while, we get a student or three who cannot do the basic operations, and in many cases, cannot tell the difference between them. I doubt they'd get very far without at least some understanding of math. What's really sad though is that most of them, even the worst of them, understand the concepts quickly when they're explained (or they're really good at feigning understanding). Their only real problem was that they never tried. There are of course a few who have deeper problems with math, such as trying to learn precalculus without knowing much algebra. That one took a few weeks.

Also, why is it that it is perfectly acceptable (at least in the US) to be terrible at math, but not acceptable to be terrible at language arts? If I'm a math and computer geek, am I really going to need to know exactly what Shakespeare meant in Hamlet's (infamous) soliloquoy ("To be or not to be...")? I plan on going into engineering, where the most I'd use those arcane language arts skills is in reports, proposals, presentations, etc. At my high school, it is possible to graduate without passing algebra 1. There are literally over 20 different math tracks there. But everyone is required to take 4 years of English, which, regardless of level, is basically four years of literary analysis. End rant.