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Breaking down the maths barrier with the Big Number Natter

4 May 2023

By Ishraq Li-Rahman, National Numeracy Training Officer 

Greetings, maths-lovers and maths-avoiders alike! This May, we're celebrating National Numeracy Day, and we want you to be part of the equation.

We know that numbers can be divisive for some; but don’t just grumble about the matter, host a Big Number Natter! It's time to chat about maths with friends, family, and colleagues, turning maths fears into maths cheers!


Whether you're a maths whizz or a number novice, talking about maths with others can help us all feel more comfortable and confident. To help you host a Number Natter we've summed up a few tips to help you kick off your conversations:

  1. Listen Up and Be Patient: When discussing maths, some people might feel anxious, stressed, or nervous – and that's totally normal. Be patient and listen, acknowledging their feelings and giving them space to express themselves. Let them know they're not alone, and many others feel the same way. Sometimes, all it takes is a friendly ear to help someone feel supported and seen, and ready to tackle their fears. This can go a long way in helping them overcome their maths anxieties - a problem shared is a problem halved, after all!
  2. Embrace Mistakes and Find Common Ground: If your natter buddy isn't feeling confident with numbers, remind them that they're not alone. Sharing your own experiences with maths, both positive and negative, can help create a connection and foster understanding. We all struggle with something, and mistakes are just part of learning.
  3. Real-Life Maths vs. School Maths: "Why was the maths book sad? Because it had too many problems!" Lots of people have bad memories of maths classes, but everyday maths is different. Chat about the practical side of numbers, like organising your schedule, budgeting, or measuring out that perfect cup of coffee. Encourage your friends to think of other ways they use numbers in their daily lives.
  4. Growth Mindsets for the Win: Everyone can improve, no matter where they're starting from. Encourage a growth mindset by talking about how past struggles don't define anyone's maths abilities – experiences shape our abilities, not some elusive "maths gene". A rough time in school doesn't mean that someone is doomed to a life of number-crunching nightmares. Ask them about a time they faced a challenge and powered through, like learning to drive or picking up a new hobby. Maths is just like that!
  5. Sharing the Maths Love: Some people might be puzzled by others' struggles with maths. Encourage them to reflect on the reasons behind their own confidence, such as supportive parents or a good education. It's important for everyone to appreciate that maths anxieties are common and often stem from personal experiences, not a lack of ability.  
  6. Follow Up: After your Big Number Natter, check in with your friends, family, or colleagues down the line to see how they’re feeling about maths. Offer ongoing support and encouragement, and keep the conversation going to help them continue building their confidence with numbers.

So, this National Numeracy Day, let’s get everyone talking! Acknowledge anxieties, promote a growth mindset, and celebrate the practical side of maths in our everyday lives. Ready to dive in? Check out the resources below to help you host an unforgettable Number Natter. Happy chatting!

More on the Big Number Natter

Build your confidence with the National Numeracy Challenge