Changing attitudes is key to influencing behaviour and skills.

Attitudes 3 steps

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. 

Value, belief and effort

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.


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).

Read our report - The Essentials of Numeracy: a new approach to making the UK numerate