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The importance of having the right teaching: How Efua became an economics student

8 Sep 2021

By Lizzie Green, Communications Assistant

Efua is an economics student from the University of Sussex, who joined National Numeracy over the summer for a two-month internship. However, despite her degree choice, she wasn’t always the most comfortable or confident with numbers. Here she tells us about the importance of trying different ways of learning.

I could never quite grasp maths when I was young and had a terrible habit of comparing myself to others. With others in the class speeding through the work like it was easy and always getting the best results, I constantly felt frustrated and internally got very worked up when I just couldn't understand.

That all changed when I met a maths teacher who became my maths tutor. I don’t know how she did it, but she made maths finally make sense. I still struggled to understand when the teachers taught me in school, but when my tutor would teach me the exact same topic I got it.

This made me realise that it wasn’t me or maths that was the problem – it was the way I was being taught.

Once I found the way that worked for me I went from grudgingly having to do maths, to choosing to do it. It’s given me a lot more direction in where I’m going in life. I chose to study maths as one of my A-levels and am now doing an economics degree! I even chose to do a BSc instead of a BA, because I wanted to do the course that involved more maths. And now I’m doing an internship at National Numeracy – a charity dedicated to building number confidence – and after my experience with the team here I’m thinking about becoming a data analyst.

It’s funny to imagine myself back when I struggled, and how I’d have reacted if you had told me then that I’d go on to want to do something with numbers.

I don’t have to consciously think about doing maths each day now. I know I use it every day, like with grocery shopping – my mum used to give me £20 to take to the shop, and I’d add up the total cost in my head to make sure I didn’t go over. I know I still do that, but it’s an unconscious thing now – an underlying confidence.

My advice to others struggling with maths would be to remember that everyone learns differently. School often offers a blanket way of teaching everybody, and if that isn’t how you learn (as it isn’t for many), it can give off the illusion that you are just not good at maths. It can leave you feeling really angry with yourself for not getting it, and stupid. Although I like maths now, and I’d say I’m good at it, I still struggle with certain people’s teaching. If I was to go to school and be taught, 9 times out of 10 I wouldn’t get it. I just have to remember that it’s not that I’m stupid or anything like that, it’s just that for some reason I find the teaching really hard to pick up. I have to teach myself, find it another way, or find someone I resonate with – like my maths tutor. Either way I now know to stick with it, no matter how long it takes. There’s a lot less pressure when you don’t have to learn on the spot.

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