Math is hard, but in the era of the smartphone, most of us can mitigate our lack of arithmetic skills with the digital abacuses burning holes in our pockets.

As such, the Defense Department is considering allowing calculators to remove at least one barrier to military service.

With recruiting numbers continuing to suffer across all branches except the Marine Corps, the Defense Department is considering updating its longstanding admissions test known as the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or “ASVAB.”

“The Department recognizes that much of the current high school instruction for math, as well as the SAT/ACT, allows students to utilize a calculator,” a Pentagon official told Military Times. “Allowing the use of calculators during the quantitative portions of the ASVAB will align ASVAB assessments with current instructional methods and other large-scale standardized test practices.”

The spokesperson added that the possible move would not be meant to make the test any less challenging, but instead would bring ASVAB standards into the modern era of instructional methods and training objectives.

Should the Defense Department proceed with allowing calculators, officials do not expect the move would open up entry into the military for recruits with less-than-adequate math skills. Instead, it would indicate that those who pass the test are capable of doing so by modern standards.

“Applicants will still be required to have a general knowledge of arithmetic reasoning and demonstrate mathematical comprehension,” the spokesperson noted. “The final product will provide a valid assessment of quantitative capabilities of the recruiting population.”

Observation Post is the Military Times one-stop shop for all things off-duty. Stories may reflect author observations.

Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.

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