How did you come across the National Numeracy Challenge?
Last year I completed an NVQ in business studies which involved mandatory courses in maths, English, and IT. I passed English and IT no problem; but when it comes to maths I didn’t realise how poor I was. My trust had recently partnered with National Numeracy and when I received an email from the charity and I saw an opportunity to try and get to grips with it, the email fell into the right place at the right time.
How did you feel about maths?
Ever since I was at school, maths has never been my strongest subject. But saying that, I worked in commercial aviation for 16 years and part of that I did aircraft dispatch. You do not have the luxury of a calculator trying to work out required calculations for the aircraft Captain, when you are on a windy taxiway at 4 AM and it’s snowing! You have to do it in your head. So I knew I had the skills if I pushed myself but was just lacking confidence in doing things practically.
Are there any moments that you remember freezing up?
Some time ago I played darts for a local pub and you’ve got to do lots of calculations in your head for scoring, 10 from 20 was fine, but 16 away from 54 I was just hoping somebody would shout the score out. My mind just went blank, I’d have a complete mental block, I couldn’t subtract those figures.
How did the website help you?
It was interesting to see that when you actually complete the test, it will show how much you improved since the previous week. It’s a really useful tool, it’ll show where your weaknesses lie, and then you can look at that area on the website to work on it. It’s very user friendly, it’s not difficult to go through to work out exactly what you’ve got to do. You get a certificate and it’s all pretty straight forward.
How long did you spend using it?
I mainly used it at work. About 30 minutes in my lunch break every Thursday. You always get five or ten minutes spare no matter how busy you are in a day. You can stop it whenever you want and go back to it.
This time going in to the exam I know I will feel better … I’m not going to convince myself that I’m going to fail.
How long did it take before you started to see an improvement in your score?
About 2-3 weeks. You can go back on the exercises and see where your shortfalls are, so then it’s up to you to improve. I’d convinced myself before that I was going to fail but now it’s different, you can say “okay this week I didn’t pass but I can go away and practise”, go on the website and it gives you the tools you need to improve. It becomes a confidence thing.
You have learned to overcome your feelings about maths; do you use this to convince others that they can too?
Big time, I received an award for the most improved learner earlier this year… It amazed me. If somebody had told me at the beginning of the year that I’d be getting an award from Rachel Riley I’d never have entertained the thought.
Well done! Has improving your confidence with numbers helped your career?
Yes, I’d be the first one with simple calculations to use the calculator on my desktop, but now I make a conscious effort to do in my head and work it out myself, or on paper. You can check it, but the more you do the more confident you become. And outside of work its things like when you’re at the supermarket looking at fat percentage, it sort of falls into everyday life.
How has the National Numeracy site helped you achieve the qualification you’re doing?
With my previous course in business admin I didn’t necessarily have to pass all the numeracy exams to get the qualification. But the next one is a level 4 project management course, and to get this I have to pass the Functional Skills qualification.
From a personal point of view it is not judgemental and patronising, but promotes confidence and belief in your abilities, enabling me to approach Functional Skills exams with a ‘can do, will do’ attitude. If I can turn my numeracy skills around with the assistance of this website, anyone can.
This time going in to the exam I know I will feel better than I did last time; I’m not going to convince myself that I’m going to fail.