Rachel shares her feelings towards maths and how a chance encounter with the Challenge website has changed her life
Tell us a bit about your experiences with maths before using the National Numeracy Challenge website
I've had a successful career and I'm currently a senior manager in the Civil Service. I have to regularly make complex decisions, put together budgets, interpret data and work out performance targets. However, I've struggled with numeracy all my life.
Originally, I wanted to be a teacher but I didn't have the maths qualification and never really found the right resources. I felt that maths was too difficult, which impacted on my confidence and was a barrier to me progressing in life. It's been my Achilles heel, so I've just put it to one side and focused on other strengths.
However, I felt the time was right to brush up on my number skills. I stumbled across the Challenge website whilst browsing through a brochure for adult learning courses. Given that I'm not currently in a position to access a classroom-based course, I thought I would give it a go.
How has our online service helped you?
It's no exaggeration when I say that it has been, potentially, life-changing.
I am highly motivated to learn and completely appreciate the importance and value of numeracy. For me, the issue was around confidence and accessibility. The Challenge has assisted with this and l love that it can be used at work or at home and in bite sized chunks, as long as you have access to the internet. And it's free!
It's far more useful than an academic qualification, in my opinion. I was pointed towards another online learning resource a while ago but it was still quite academic. The Challenge helps you learn by using real-life scenarios and situations.
Overall l have found the Challenge to be user-friendly and the resources that are linked to the website are second to none. It provides encouragement and narrative all the way through. I just wish I'd known about it years ago as I've been desperate to improve my numeracy for a long time.
What advice would you give to others using the Challenge for the first time?
My tip for using the resource is to work through the sections chronologically, even if you think you understand certain areas. It can help enormously to go back to the basics, to refresh learning or identify gaps. I'd also recommend lots of practice, especially if confidence has been an issue. The feeling of achievement (and relief!) when you understand something that didn't previously make sense is incredibly rewarding.
Learning something new can be difficult. However, it helps if you break it down into manageable sections and plan when you are going to practice. It's similar to building up your physical fitness. You wouldn't rush to do a marathon until you had improved your stamina and motivation over a period of time. The same principle applies to mental fitness.
What are your goals now for the future?
I intend to continue using the Challenge to improve my numeracy and I have a specific goal; which is to reach Level 1 by September. Hopefully I'll then keep going and reach Level 2 and be able to say I've got The Essentials of Numeracy.
It's all about attitudes of mind and confidence. I've got the motivation, I've got the time and now I've got the resources. l cannot commend the service highly enough and Ben, whom l spoke with on the phone, was extremely helpful and friendly, which reinforced a positive experience. It's given me the opportunity to gain essential life skills and I'm delighted to have discovered it.
I will definitely recommend the Challenge to colleagues and I can even see how this might benefit the service users that we work with as they are members of society who are often marginalised.