Harnessing the Power of Numerical Reasoning to Build the 21st Century Workforce

In this blog post, Wyn Davies – Global Product Manager, Mary-Ann Hanson – Sr. Research Director and Kama Dodge – Sr. Research Associate at Pearson TalentLens look at the differences between various forms of “numerical reasoning” tests and how these differ to the sort of math tests taken in school.

In a rapidly changing world, replete with an explosion of technology and an emphasis on data-driven organizations, the ability to interpret numerical data and reason with numbers is highly important at many levels in numerous roles across a variety of organizations in both the public and private sectors.

What is Numerical Reasoning?

When you think of math, numerical calculation is likely the first thing that comes to mind. Calculation is the act of adding, dividing, multiplying, or subtracting numbers of various magnitudes and in various formats (e.g., integers, decimals and fractions). This is, in fact, what many numerical assessments measure – the rote application of formulas and rules to make calculations, sometimes referred to as number facility.

Numerical reasoning, on the other hand, goes beyond calculation and involves higher-order mathematic skills. It focuses on determining how to approach and solve problems that have numerical content. It includes the ability to evaluate the situation, select problem-solving strategies, draw logical conclusions, develop and describe solutions, and recognize how those solutions can be applied.

What is the relationship between tests assessing Number Facility and Numerical Reasoning Ability?

Academic grades in mathematics tests demonstrate an ability to learn and apply mathematical formulae and techniques, but they do not necessarily measure the ability to manipulate and reason with numerical data. However, because it is almost impossible to measure numerical reasoning without tapping into basic math content, a knowledge of number facility is required.

A study was carried out into the relationship between test scores when a group of individuals completed two Pearson tests: one focusing on arithmetic computation and the other focusing more on numerical reasoning. The correlation-coefficient of DAT Numerical Ability (a test that focuses on arithmetic computation and number facility) vs. NDIT (a test measuring numerical data interpretation and reasoning), recorded a moderately high correlation score of r = .55.

Why is Numerical Reasoning Important?

Numerical reasoning ability is important for success in a variety of jobs. For example in more than 30% of the over-900 occupations in the O*NET national job description database in the USA, numerical reasoning ability is rated as important or higher. For 22 of these occupations, numerical reasoning was rated very or extremely important (www.onetonline.org). Employers seek candidates who can apply the math they have learned constructively and critically, rather than simply by rote. Most importantly in-depth research shows that cognitive ability and reasoning tests are the best predictors of actual job performance – higher than school and college test grades.

Introducing NDITTM Numerical Data Interpretation Test

In order to help organizations ensure that their employees have the numerical reasoning skills needed for success in crucial roles, Pearson TalentLens has developed the Numerical Data Interpretation Test (NDIT). NDIT focuses on the interpretation and manipulation of the types of numerical data routinely encountered in the workplace. NDIT is based on sophisticated approaches to test development, administration, and scoring.

NDIT is a timed item-banked test containing content of high relevance to real numerical problems encountered at work, which improves applicants’ testing experience and fairness impressions. The questions vary in difficulty and format, including multiple-choice and open-ended items.

How Does NDIT Differ From Other Numerical Tests?

In addition to NDIT Pearson TalentLens also publishes other numerical ability or reasoning tests that include:
DAT Numerical Ability assessment measures number facility.
DAT Numerical Sequences (published 2018) requires the test taker to find the missing number in a sequence. The numerical sequences presented follow a logical rule based on elementary arithmetic. An initial sequence is presented from which the rule must be inferred. Numerical Sequence tests are similar to matrices tests of which Raven’s is the most well-known. This test may be suitable to measure aspects of numerical reasoning for individuals with only a limited knowledge of math or who have low verbal ability.

ANRA measures sufficiency of information and estimation of quantities. ANRA is like a test of numerical critical thinking and it has a high correlation co-efficient (r = .44) with the Watson-Glaser (a test of verbal critical thinking ability).

What Evidence is Available to Support the use of NDIT?

A white paper written by two of our Research IOs that explains more about NDIT and its correlation with other test scores will be published soon.