Skip to main content


Peter Sawkins: “With numeracy, the most important thing to do is just start.”

26 Sep 2023

Producing baked masterpieces takes skill, patience and an understanding of numeracy in order to get the measures and timings right. 

As the fourteenth series of The Great British Bake Off begins, 2020 winner and National Numeracy ambassador Peter Sawkins explains how he uses percentages when baking, his message to anyone wanting to improve their numeracy and how, despite being a baking champion, even he doesn’t get it right every time…

Peter Sawkins

“When writing my books, I would often test multiple recipes at once to make good use of my time, for example, by prepping the next bake whilst the last bake is in the oven,” Peter tells us.

“I was proving a loaf of bread at the same time as a cake being in the oven, but got my timings completely off so the bread needed to go into the oven at 50ºC more than the cake, whilst the cake still had 30 minutes left to bake! 

“I decided not to throw out the half-baked cake and instead cooked up the cake mix in a pan. It was a bizarre concoction, but still tasted great! Safe to say, I had to start a fresh test of that cake recipe!”

Understanding percentages can be a useful skill when baking 

Peter, who created a new children’s recipe for this year’s National Numeracy Day, says it’s not just temperatures and timings that matter for baking, sizes are important too.

“I often scale up or down cake recipes to fit a different size of tin. To do this I need to find the percentage difference in area of these cake tins so I know how much I scale up or down the ingredients,” he explains.

Meanwhile, Peter – who is currently President of Edinburgh University Sports Union – has numbers in mind when keeping fit too.

“I love exercising. When I’m on a run, I keep myself thinking by working out my paces and required pace to hit a certain time or distance on the run.”

TV show ambitions

For National Numeracy Day, Peter also took part in a Big Number Natter with fellow Great British Bake Off winner Giuseppe Dell’Anno to talk about how they use numbers in baking, but are there any other TV shows Peter would like to try?

“A family friend really wants me to go on Pointless!” he says.

“Estimation is really useful in Pointless, so you can pick the riskiness of answer that you think will give you the score required to get to the next round. Previously, I was on The Weakest Link and think I proved my number skills were a bit better than my general knowledge!”

National Numeracy can help you start your numeracy journey 

Although Peter has a degree in accounting and finance, he appreciates that not everyone finds it easy to approach the subject of numeracy. So, what would be his message to anyone thinking of improving their maths skills and confidence?

“The most important thing to do is just start,” Peter says.

“It can be daunting, but National Numeracy make it really simple to start and will support you with the right level of resources to help you improve from where you are now. You may also find that you are actually better with numbers than you thought and knowing that can give you confidence to tackle number-based problems in your life.”

Try the Challenge


Photo credit: Tom Duckett