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Changing attitudes is key to influencing behaviour and skills.


People start to see that it is not alright to be bad at maths.

They recognise the importance of numeracy skills.


Children stay at school.

Adults sign up for classes and training if needed.


Children are taught well at school.

Children who need extra help are able to get it.

Adult classes are advertised, provided and made accessible.

Numeracy must be taken seriously. Although this may seem obvious, it is also an indication of the radical change in attitude that is needed if the UK population is to become fully numerate.

The importance of numeracy needs to be understood by everyone and everyone needs to realise that they can become numerate. Maths is not something that you either simply can or cannot do. Maths is challenging and demands persistence in order to progress, whatever level you are working at.

In order to achieve, learners need to persevere to overcome the challenges that are a part of learning maths; and they will only do this if they believe that it is possible, and important, to achieve in maths. 

The strange thing is that people who CAN do maths often say that they can’t. For example, a builder might say ‘I can’t do maths’ but will actually use maths perfectly well every day doing things like calculating areas, ordering materials etc.

value belief and effort


A new drive is needed to spread positive messages that numeracy is a vital life skill, that it can be learnt and that dismissive attitudes are harmful. Backing for this must come from politicians, business, education, the media and individuals, including parents and teachers. Government should support practical projects designed to understand and change public attitudes.

This recommendation has been supported by a number of organisations and government reports. For example the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee’s Adults Literacy and Numeracy report (2014).

How can you make a difference?

  • Be aware of what you say about maths, especially around children
  • Challenge people that you hear saying ‘I can’t do maths’
  • Let us know if you hear prominent figures making thoughtless, negative remarks about maths
  • Speak to young people about the value of maths in everyday life and work

Work so far

National Numeracy has sparked a new debate about numeracy and society’s attitude to maths. We have been driving home the message that numeracy is vital for everyone by: