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"I felt so frustrated" - Alba's story

3 Mar 2021

By Lizzie Green, Communications Assistant

Alba works at Brighton General Hospital, where she took the National Numeracy Challenge as part of her Care Certificate.

She spoke to us about her maths journey, noticing the importance of number confidence in everyday life, and her advice for anyone else who feels out of practice with numbers.

I never liked maths when I was younger. My mum was a maths teacher, so she tried all the time to make it easier for me, but it never really worked and there was added pressure to be good at it. I preferred biology and science and assumed that I did not need to worry about maths so much, but over time I realised that I needed maths for those too! I think people easily forget how many applications numeracy has.

Often it might feel like learning maths is a waste of your time, but in the end, you appreciate that you need it for so many things in the future. As I got older I realised there were so many examples of where we use it, not just at work but in day-to-day life too: when you manage your money and savings, work out your income, or calculate discounts when you are shopping. That doesn’t mean I am a fan of it though, and definitely still needed to work at it!

As part of my Care Certificate, a requirement was to take the National Numeracy Challenge and have the Essentials of Numeracy. I had done a bit of maths up to degree level, so I didn’t think much of it and just wanted to get the module done so I could tick it off my Care Certificate. However, the first time I took the Challenge I didn't get the Essentials. I felt so frustrated, and above all, so rusty. I thought to myself: “Gosh, this is the maths that my mum used to give me when I was nine, I should find this so easy!” Some of my colleagues felt the same way so we sat down together. I knew that if I took my time, I would get there.

It was such a good way to refresh my knowledge, and my mum even offered to give me a few lessons again too!

Not getting the Essentials the first time really brought home the importance of brushing up on my skills. We do maths all the time at all points in our lives, and we have the knowledge there, but we just need to bring it out of us again and build that confidence back. I eventually passed and felt so relieved.

Even though I have now completed the numeracy module of my Care Certificate I’m not going to stop there. The Challenge will be extremely helpful going forward because I want to use it to help me prepare for studying for both Functional Skills and I also want to go on to take an Occupational Therapy course.

It has shown me that despite not getting the Essentials the first time, that did not mean that I was bad at maths, and with a bit of a push I will eventually be less scared to face it. Especially in my line of work as a Health Care Assistant, it’s always good to feel confident and have numeracy skills to demonstrate a good standard of care.

My advice to anyone else who felt a bit rusty about engaging with maths later in life, is to use the National Numeracy Challenge as a refresher. It is a great way to make sure that you have the level of maths you need in daily life, and a level which is good for your job. You can use it and keep learning in your own time too, which is the best bit! I recommend it to anyone.

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 online tool designed to improve your number confidence.   

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

National Numeracy Challenge "how do you feel about maths?" on a desktop computer