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Barnsley local joins celebrities to prove that numbers count

19 May 2022

Barnsley local Penny Hazlewood has joined celebrities championing the benefits of maths, including Scottish Bake Off winner Peter Sawkins and the nation’s favourite number crunchers Rachel Riley and Bobby Seagull.

Image of Penny with the quote: "I just thought: it's now or never. Lockdown made me re-evaluate my life priorities."

After getting “rusty” during the Covid-19 lockdowns, Hazlewood got the confidence to sign up for other training courses and change careers, after brushing up on her maths skills with charity National Numeracy’s free National Numeracy Challenge.

She is now so passionate about helping other overcome their number worries that she has become a ‘National Numeracy Hero’ helping the charity support adults and children get on with numbers so they can get on in life.

Sharing her story for National Numeracy Day on Wednesday 18 May is part of the first nationwide conversation about numbers, The Big Number Natter. It aims is to make maths less scary.

Only 2 out of 10 adults (19%) often discuss numbers or maths with their family and friends, according to a new survey of over 2,000 adults, conducted by YouGov for National Numeracy.

Like many others stuck at home at the start of the pandemic, Hazelwood initially filled her time watching box sets and doing DIY. However, when the 50-year-old’s thoughts turned to what she was going to do after lockdown, she realised she needed to work on her number skills.

Hazlewood said: “What took my confidence away was lockdown. I seemed to forget a lot of things. I was pretty good at maths, but then you just let it slip and your brain turns to mush!

“When I was doing everyday things like working with bills, it seemed to get harder. When you stop using your brain, things just go rusty, don’t they?

“For 18 months during lockdown I didn’t particularly need maths, but I knew I was going to go back to work. It’s nice to know, after taking the National Numeracy Challenge, that you’ve still got the skills.”

The real-time feedback and encouragement the free National Numeracy Challenge website offered was a favourite feature for Hazlewood: “The National Numeracy Challenge shows you which questions you got wrong, and it explains the correct answer. It’s good that you can fill in the gaps and improve your confidence.”

Taking the Challenge also helped give her the confidence to take other courses during lockdown in administration, customer service and children’s mental health.

So, after 17 years working in gas and electricity sales, she changed careers, applying for a job in the civil service and landing a role at the Home Office.

Hazlewood said: “I just thought: it’s now or never. Lockdown made me re-evaluate my life priorities. Sales is just so much pressure from every direction.

“I brought up my son on my own and I paid my debts off. You get to that point where you want to enjoy going to work rather than thinking ‘am I going to hit my sales targets today?’ I wanted to do something that I wanted to do, not what paid the bills.”

Among the famous faces also taking part in The Big Number Natter are Bake Off’s Peter Sawkins and Lottie Bedlow; Strictly Come Dancing’s Katya Jones; the Deaf Chef, Sam Egerton-Kemp, who will be nattering in Sign Supported English; finance influencers Mr MoneyJar Jordan Green and Lord Sugar’s business partner Amani Zubair; and Tom Crawford, famous for his YouTube channel Tom Rocks Maths.

National Numeracy Day’s website offers a host of free, fun and helpful activities, events and resources for adults and children to get involved, from tip sheets to download and videos to watch.

Try the National Numeracy Challenge

However you feel about maths, you’re not alone. The National Numeracy Challenge is a free and easy-to-use website you can use to improve your confidence with numbers, in your own time and at your own pace.

It’s ideal for brushing up, checking your level, or for catching up on learning you missed, and it’s all about the maths you need in daily life and at work – no algebra or trigonometry.

Image showing the Challenge on a computer monitor