Researchers find that many adults feel much of the information taught in high school was useless, and wish they were required to take more practical courses.

NEW YORK — A Florida bill up for consideration would require students to take a class about money management in order to graduate. It’s a class most adults wish they could have taken, according to a recent study that found the average American uses just 37% of what they learned in school in their daily lives.

According to the survey of 2,000 American adults commissioned by H&R Block, nearly six in ten adults (57%) feel a course on money management and budgeting in high school would have been helpful for them. Another 44% would have liked a class explaining how to file taxes.

The feeling is understandable: the average respondent said they learned over half of their job-related skills on the job, rather than in school. In fact, 84% of people said they learned things in school they’ve never utilized after they graduated.

The survey posed several either/or questions to the participants, forcing them to choose between a practical course or a traditional course. When asked if they’d rather take a tax preparation course or a traditional calculus class, only 13% said they’d rather take the calculus class. Between household repairs and algebra, just 17% chose algebra.

“It’s clear from the results that a lot of Americans aren’t as confident as they’d like to be when it comes to many day-to-day life skills, including how to file their own taxes,” says Heather Watts, senior vice president and general manager of digital at H&R Block, in a statement.

Researchers put together a list of the grade-school lessons that Americans found particularly useless in their everyday lives, with the Pythagorean Theorem, knowing the number value of pi, and the periodic table leading the way.

After money management and filing taxes, the top skills the respondents said they wished they had learned better in school were how to manage emotional and mental well-being, how to manage credit and loans, and how to negotiate.

It’s also clear that many Americans don’t retain much of the things they’re taught in grade school. Researchers found the average educated American forgets about 40% of what they learned, and uses just 37% of the knowledge and skills in their every day lives on average. Nine in ten respondents agree that life would be much easier if they’d been taught more practical skills — a major reason why the average person doesn’t feel that they truly grasp “adult” life skills until they’re 29 years old.

As for the rest of the lists compiled by the researchers:

Money management and budgeting (57%)
How to properly do taxes  (44%)
How to manage emotional/mental wellbeing (42%)
Understanding credit and student loans  (39%)
How to negotiate (39%)
Time management (35%)
Household repairs (34%)
How to make conversation/personal relationship skills (33%)
Car repair and maintenance (31%)
How to find a job (30%)
Pythagorean theorem (48%)
Knowing PI is 3.14 (40%)
Periodic table (40%)
The types of rocks (37%)
The difference between protons, neutrons, and electrons (37%)
Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell (35%)
Naming the presidents in order (35%)
Osmosis (32%)
How to make paper snowflakes (30%)
Photosynthesis (30%)
The survey was conducted by market research firm OnePoll in December 2018.

About Ben Renner

Writer, editor, curator, and social media manager based in Denver, Colorado. View my writing at

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1 Comment

  1. joesph dighwn says:

    I am using this for a speech and this was so helpful, thank you so much.