Gaining confidence in maths
With a degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Liverpool, you may think Jessica Gagen sailed through maths education. But she didn’t always find the subject easy, and even dropped it at one point due to her lack of confidence.
However, Jessica discovered it was possible to improve with some extra determination: “I would say that maths, like any subject, has a wide spectrum of content, and there have been many times I've felt behind and unable to catch up with my peers – it's not a nice feeling!”
Jessica says that understanding what worked for her was important: “I actually dropped A Level Maths because I lacked confidence in the subject. But years down the line I gained the confidence to teach myself at a pace best for me, both before and during my degree. I needed a high mathematical ability to gain entry and to keep up with my class and I was determined to prove to myself that I was capable."
She also knows that making mistakes is completely normal: “I've always enjoyed solving puzzles and doing things which challenge me, so overall, my relationship with everyday maths has generally been good - albeit I still make mistakes every now and then, which is completely normal!”
Numeracy can help us improve our everyday lives
So what inspired Jessica – the first engineer to win the title of Miss England – to become a National Numeracy ambassador?
“I'm passionate about helping children realise the skills that they already possess to become brilliant scientists and engineers, and educating the older generation as to how they can help to make that happen,” smiles Jessica.
"Numeracy is a skill which helps us improve our everyday lives, yet a lot of us suffer from maths anxiety. National Numeracy are aware of this and of the fact that we all learn at different speeds, which is why they've developed some excellent resources for those who struggle with their confidence surrounding numbers.”
How does Jessica use maths in everyday life?
Jessica is keen to practise numeracy skills wherever possible in her own everyday life too.
“I'm a rewards member of different hotels and airlines where you get told what points you'll earn for a booking, but they'll only actually register a few days afterwards,” she explains.
“I like to figure out what my balance will be before the points are automatically added so that I can work out whether I can get my next hotel stay for free!
“I also like running – I use an app which measures my time and after each kilometre it tells me the time for the kilometre I've just completed and then my overall time so far. I like to try and figure out the overall time as soon as I'm told the time for the most recent kilometre, so that I can speed up if needed!”
Jessica’s message for Number Confidence Week
For Number Confidence Week, Jessica has an encouraging message for anyone interested in improving their numeracy:
“There should be nothing embarrassing about needing help to practise numerical skills – a want to improve your skills is something to be proud of!”
Sam Sims, Chief Executive of National Numeracy, said: “We are delighted to welcome Jessica to the National Numeracy team as our newest ambassador. Her appreciation for the importance of STEM subjects to our everyday lives and her understanding that everyone learns at their own pace fits perfectly with our own messaging.
“We look forward to working with Jessica on exciting future projects and are thrilled that she is so keen to help even more people on their numeracy improvement journeys.”