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Harry Baker: “Everyone is on their own personal journey with maths.”

20 Oct 2023

Mathematician, poet and National Numeracy ambassador Harry Baker appreciates the importance of numbers in everyday life, but even he makes mistakes when it comes to measurements sometimes…

Harry Baker

“When me and my wife Grace got married we had a wedding list. We saw a baking tray and put it on the list, thinking: ‘Wow, this is so cheap, it’s amazing, we need one for the house.’ It was one of the first things that was bought because it was so cheap,” explains Harry.

“When it arrived it was miniscule. The picture had had no context at all, it just looked like a rectangle. I think it had said it was 10 by 12 and that was centimetres whereas I’d thought it was inches. In my naivety I’d thought: ‘That will be regular baking tray size,’ but it’s just tiny and ridiculous!

“But it’s actually one of my favourite gifts that we had for our wedding because of that. I still don’t know to this day what it is meant to be used for, but I just use it if I ever want to cook a single veggie sausage!”

Numeracy is useful for planning travel

Cooking aside, Harry is keen to stress how useful everyday numeracy is, especially when it comes to working out the best travel deals.

“I travel all around the country for gigs so I find it genuinely thrilling that as part of my tour I managed to do the London to Oxford bit for £2.70,” Harry smiles.

“That kind of thing I have a real nerdy love of. But also the time management side of things – working out where I need to be and when, and if I can visit a school in Reading on the way to an evening gig in Bath coming from Margate in the morning. I quite enjoy that side of things, day to day scheduling, time management and trying to save money.”

It’s OK to ask for help with maths

Harry – who put together a maths and rap activity sheet for children for this year’s National Numeracy Day – has a message for everyone when it comes to everyday number confidence.

Check out the Number Confidence Week hub

“I think it’s about reminding people that everyone is on their own personal journey with maths and we can help each other out," Harry says. "For me, at any point doing maths, when someone explains it to you, it’s so much easier than trying to learn it out of a book with no context. That human element is so important, because you can work out where someone is at and what that missing piece is and try and slot it in.

“If we can encourage people to ask for help and if we can help each other out, then everyone benefits from that. My hope is that we can break down some of that stigma around saying: ‘ActuaIly, I don’t know, can you help me with this?’ In maths and all areas of life that’s only going to benefit everyone if we can be more open about that, and feeling like maths is working for you rather than against you.”

Try the National Numeracy Challenge