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"I learned to support people and take the fear away" – Jenny's Story

14 May 2019

By Lizzie Green, Communications Intern

Jenny, from Havant, works at an NHS hospital as a Healthcare Support Assistant and Circulating Nurse. She recently worked with National Numeracy to become a Challenge Champion, helping inspire and motivate colleagues at her trust to improve their numeracy and face their fears about maths. We spoke to Jenny about her previous perceptions of maths, and how she uses numeracy at work.

How do you use numeracy in your job? 

I have been in healthcare support – in theatre it is called a circulating nurse – for more than ten years. With any kind of emergency care, timing is very important. There are some cases where you only have ten minutes to get the patient ready for theatre. So timing is crucial for that patient’s life.  

Numeracy helps you to be employable as well. Often you don’t think you are doing maths but the calculations that you do are really important. You don’t realise you are doing maths – it’s automatic. 

How did you used to feel about maths?

I wanted to do my nurse training and I needed to pass maths to move forward with my career. But the first thing I thought about maths was “err, no”. I was nervous, scared and unsure. 

Initially the maths teacher and I didn’t get on very well and that was difficult. My colleagues were not able to help and quite a few would say “Oh no, don’t ask me about maths”. I remember when I failed the maths exam and was really heartbroken. 

How did you move forward?

Eventually one colleague was really helpful, and took the time out to look at the work and helped me when I needed it the most. I also went to a different college… and this time I passed.  

And practising using the National Numeracy Challenge website is very useful, it’s an eye opener, it gives you that confidence to be able to stay calm. 

Why did you decide to become a champion? 

When I became a Union Learning Representative (ULR) I realised that it is really crucial to be able to help people in the hospital to get on to that ladder where they can go from Level 1 to Level 2 in their maths.

Sometimes when my colleagues tried to get on to a maths course they were told there was no funding. It is good to be able to signpost people in the direction of the National Numeracy Challenge. Prior to this there was just the option of college, but now I can tell them about this resource which is there, on the National Numeracy webpage – that you can give a try any time! 

Does your confidence ever stop you from helping others? 

When I became a trainer – I’m not actually a teacher – I learned to support people and take the fear away. I still get fearful myself – most people hate maths and get really nervous of the subject – but it is about helping them to break down that fear, signpost them in the right direction, using myself and my fear as that example. 

It is good for people to know that there is help when they are struggling and see that if I can do it then they can do it too. 

How do you feel about numbers now? 

My experience of maths has changed dramatically, and I say to people “Give it a go.” To be honest maths is not as hard as we make it out to be.  

Going from someone in the class from with the fear of failure, to doing this training with National Numeracy and being able to relate to what you are actually doing with real life, how I feel about the subject now is completely different. 

I look at it from a different angle. I realise I can relate to it, so it has become easier. The stand-off between me and maths is no longer there. I’m no longer afraid to approach it head-on because I’m actually doing it, often without knowing that I’m doing it! 

Start improving your numeracy – register on the National Numeracy Challenge now!

National Numeracy has developed an online tool to help you improve your numeracy and boost your confidence. This interactive website is free to use at home, at work or on the move. You can assess your current level of numeracy – completely anonymously – and then begin an online journey to getting the Essentials of Numeracy. 

Find out more about maths anxiety

What is a fear of maths, how does it affect people and their lives, and what can you do to help? National Numeracy has collected a variety of research, stories from real people, and advice about maths anxiety.