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Help with talking about maths for The Big Number Natter

17 Apr 2022

Beth Barnes, Senior Training Officer, National Numeracy

Whether you love it or loathe it, everyone has something to say about maths! For National Numeracy Day this year, we want everyone to have a Big Number Natter during May. 

Talking with friends, family or colleagues about any subject helps, particularly if you find it a bit tricky or scary. Having a chat about numbers is no different - and it's also a great first step towards improving numeracy. So, I have put together some helpful hints about how to have a conversation about maths, to support your number natters.

Beth Barnes, Senior Training Officer, National Numeracy

It’s important to remember that it is very common to feel anxious, stressed or nervous when faced with numbers. If someone feels this way, be patient and listen, acknowledge their anxieties and give them the space to talk about their feelings. It is helpful for them to understand that their feelings are not unusual. For many, having their worries acknowledged and feeling supported, can be a powerful first step towards overcoming their anxieties.

For those who don’t feel confident with numbers, it can be helpful to know that many people struggle with maths – they are not alone. Remind them that we all find things difficult sometimes and that it is ok to make mistakes. Ask them to think of something else that they found difficult and persevered with, such as learning to drive or developing a new skill. Maths is like any other skill, where making mistakes is part of the learning process.

For many, their negative feelings towards maths stem from their school experiences. It can be helpful to talk about the difference between the maths that’s really needed in life and the maths that people often associate with school memories like algebra and trigonometry. Talk about how numbers are really used in life like organising appointments, managing a budget and dealing with measurements. Encourage them to think of some other examples of where they already use numbers in their everyday life and work.

You can also take this opportunity to encourage a growth mindset. Growth mindset is believing that whatever your starting point, you can improve. Talk about how everyone can improve, even if they’ve struggled in the past. The reasons some of us struggle with numbers are to do with our experiences, not any kind of natural ability or ‘maths gene.’ If someone has had a bad experience in school, it doesn’t mean they ‘can’t do maths.’

You may find that some people feel very positively about maths and find it difficult to understand why others struggle. Encourage them to think about why they feel confident with maths, such as supportive parents or a good education. It is important for everyone to appreciate that it is very common to feel anxious about numbers and this is due to our experiences rather than a lack of a natural ability.

So, give everyone the space to open up about their feelings, acknowledge anxieties, encourage a growth mindset and talk about how we really use maths in our everyday life and work this National Numeracy Day. Just click the links below to get all the resources you need.

Join The Big Number Natter with these free resources


Sign up for National Numeracy Day and we'll send everything you need
o get staff or members involved in The Big Number Natter

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We have free resources to help you, your family and friends start nattering about numbers.
And keep an eye on social media and join in with #BigNumberNatter –
there's lots more to come! 

Individuals: Get free resources


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