How did you used to feel about maths?
I struggled with maths a lot. I went to three different schools and I couldn’t keep up with the maths in any of them. It seemed like no matter how hard the teachers tried to help me I couldn’t grasp it. I didn’t pass my maths GCSE the first time.
I went on to work in bars and pubs and back then we didn’t have electronic tills, so you’d have to work out people’s change in your head. If I didn’t have a calculator around it would make me feel quite stressed and anxious.
What made you decide to revisit your maths skills?
One of the pre-course requirements for a PGCE primary at my university was to go onto the National Numeracy Challenge website and get a minimum of 80/100.
I thought it was going to be easier than it was, some of the questions did really make me think. It was challenging but I enjoyed it.
How did you make the time to practise?
With just an hour to spare here and there sometimes I’d think, ‘I really can’t be bothered’, but there was a bigger picture - I knew needed a teaching qualification to get where I wanted to be.
I’d put my son down to nap and do an hour of ironing whilst watching videos on YouTube and on BBC Bitesize. Other times I used the websites where explanations and calculations were written out for you to follow.
I found the resources on the National Numeracy Challenge really did help, I liked that there were a lot of different links.
If you can watch an hour of Netflix, you can dedicate a little hour to doing some maths. It won’t take long to learn and understand – you just have to dedicate yourself to it.
“I just wasn't learning in the right way for me”
Do you feel differently about yourself now?
I used to think I was really bad at maths but now I’ve realised I’m actually really good. Having failed my GCSE more than once before, when I did finally pass and got the highest out of all the people who took it in my entry I was so proud of myself. I am a Teaching Assistant and on my way to becoming a teacher. I feel so confident with all of this, I come home with a bounce in my step that I was able to overcome something and do it.
Has it made a difference to your confidence in general?
It’s affected all areas of my life. When I’m out with my husband and see a sale in a shop I know I can work it out in my head. I know that when my son starts school I’m not going to struggle, I’ll be able to help him with his maths. It’s helped me to fulfil my dream – I’m 28 and I’m going back to university to be a teacher.
Did you learn anything about yourself during the process?
I definitely realised that just because I thought I was bad at something it did not mean I actually was – it just meant that I wasn’t taught it in a way that my brain could handle it. I just wasn’t learning in the right way for me.
Do you find using numbers in daily life easier now?
At school we would always say, “we’re never going to use this, this is a waste of time, algebra, working out area.” But as I got older I realised a lot of maths is in everyday life. I used to think algebra has no purpose at all, but if you’re going on holiday you can say a+b+c=d, where a=flights, b=hotel and c=travel insurance, and then d=total price. Getting the right amount of paint, getting the garden done, how many bricks to buy for paving – people think, “oh the builder can work out how to do it” but you won’t know if you’re being ripped off!
Start improving your numeracy – register on the National Numeracy Challenge now!
National Numeracy has developed an online tool to help you improve your numeracy and boost your confidence. This interactive website is free to use at home, at work or on the move. You can assess your current level of numeracy – completely anonymously – and then begin an online journey to getting the Essentials of Numeracy.
Find out more about maths anxiety
What is a fear of maths, how does it affect people and their lives, and what can you do to help? National Numeracy has collected a variety of research, stories from real people, and advice about maths anxiety.