Maryam and Christine’s stories: From baking to homeschooling – it’s all numeracy

Two Edinburgh bakery students joined celebrities including Carol Vorderman and Rachel Riley on National Numeracy Day on Wednesday 13 May to promote the National Numeracy Challenge, which helped boost their maths skills for everything from measuring baking ingredients to checking their kids’ homework.

Maryam Abdulgader and Christine Mutopo both struggled with maths in school. Yet when they returned to education as adults, enrolling for a National Certificate in Bakery at Edinburgh College, they found that achieving the qualification needed for their chosen career required studying maths once again. 

After taking the National Numeracy Challenge they now feel more confident with numbers and have realised how improving maths skills is essential in adult life for everything from achieving career ambitions to managing personal finances. 

These achievements led to Maryam and Christine being named National Numeracy Day Heroes. They are appearing in the National Numeracy Day Virtual Festival on Wednesday 13 May alongside National Numeracy Ambassadors Rachel Riley, maths teacher and broadcaster Bobby Seagull and Money Saving expert Martin Lewis as well as Maths Factor creator Carol Vorderman, Charlie & Lola author Lauren Child and many more.

National Numeracy Day is supported by the Scottish Government and Education Scotland.

Given the Covid-19 lockdown, National Numeracy, the charity behind National Numeracy Day, has reorganised the event as the UK’s first ever virtual festival of numbers. 

The National Numeracy Virtual Festival features a varied online schedule throughout the day on www.numeracyday.com including videos of Maryam and Christine, celebrity interviews, book readings for kids, practical sessions for adults, free resources and puzzles.

The event covers three areas people want support with during this challenging time: helping children; personal development; and getting to grips with household finance. It aims to help everyone feel a bit better about their number skills. 

Looking back, Maryam said she didn’t like maths in school: “I couldn’t see how it was relevant to my life – it was too complicated and made me nervous. My hands get clammy just thinking about it!

Maryam added: “At first I didn’t understand why we had to do maths – I just came [to Edinburgh College] to bake! 

“But as we started learning I realised there’s lots of maths in baking – you’re working with proportions, volumes and costings. I also started to notice how important maths is in my personal life; understanding how to use money, managing bills, pensions, and how to save. All these things are so important and can really affect your quality of life.

Maryam said: “I’ve had a big boost of confidence and positivity from having improved my numeracy and now have plans to open my own bakery business. I’m proud to say I’m 100% a numbers person now.”

Christine also has bad memories of maths in school, saying it was her worst subject: “People around me were always saying maths was hard so I just grew up believing it was true.”

Christine added: “I’m at Edinburgh College now and we had to do a numeracy module as part of our course. At first I thought it was a waste of time and I was intimidated by it, but once we started the module it made me feel more confident in maths. Realising how much we use maths in our day-to-day lives made me appreciate it more.

“I managed to do my tax return myself, which is something I’m really proud of. Being confident with maths has also helped me support my children with their homework. At first, it was really difficult to help them because I felt so anxious. But after doing the National Numeracy Challenge, I feel more comfortable around numbers and it’s now much easier to help my children and encourage them to have fun with numbers.

“You have that power within you to become a numbers person – we all do!”

For the full festival line-up visit the National Numeracy Day website

Media contact

For images, video clips or interview requests: julia@nationalnumeracy.org.uk

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. 

Give it a go