Poor numeracy is a huge and neglected problem.
According to the most recent Skills for Life survey,
almost 17 million people in the UK have numeracy
skills below those needed for the lowest grade at
GCSE – for literacy the comparable figure
is 5 million…

What is the issue landing

1. Adults who struggle with numeracy are twice as likely to be unemployed as those
who are competent.

Poor numeracy is linked to all sorts of negative outcomes, such as this. There are lots of other examples in What the Research Says

2. Recent studies have shown that numeracy is a bigger indicator of disadvantage than literacy

Despite the importance of numeracy, there is far greater energy and funding put into literacy provision - as we highlight in Numeracy – Hidden behind literacy?. Comment on basic skills often refers only to literacy. Literacy – although itself crucially important – gets almost all the attention. Numeracy is neglected, overlooked, even denigrated.

3. Having a numerate population is vital to the UK building a strong economy and
competing globally.

Much has been said about the UK slipping down global rankings . It is worth noting that in those countries that are doing well it is not socially acceptable to say ‘I can’t do maths’. While cultural comparisons are complicated, we believe that attitudes to maths and numeracy are vitally important and that the acceptability of ‘I can’t do maths’ is highly damaging.

4. Boring ‘classroom maths’ has a lot to answer for!

What people mean by ‘maths’ is important. For too many it means merely ‘doing sums’ in a classroom. Numeracy is much broader than this but does crucially depend upon a firm foundation of early number understanding. Unfortunately many people bring with them from school a fear and loathing of maths. It does not need to be this way.

5. Yet EVERYONE can do maths…

Being good at maths is simply part of being human, just as being good at speaking our native language is. As mathematician and science writer Keith Devlin points out, mathematical ability is a part of language ability – both forms of development are about identifying pattern, which we explore more in What’s strange/unique about maths?

You may be interested in this…

National Numeracy press release

Numeracy Hidden in Skills for Life Survey Results?

The headlines of the long-awaited Skills for Life survey were released as part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’‘New Challenges, New Chances’ paper.

The long term effects

The long-term cost of numeracy difficulties report

A KPMG report for Every Child a Chance Trust identifying a £2.4 billion cost to public purse each year

Share this on: