I’d never thought about how many people might be struggling with numeracy in everyday life, once I began my internship here at National Numeracy I was shocked. I kept hearing reasons why people ‘hate’ maths and it often stemmed from school, if you didn’t do well at maths in school you were left behind, and I’ve realised that’s true. Our education system could be seen as being kinder to some than others, it’s always been about getting that C (or equivalent) in GCSE maths, and if you don’t then you’re just not ‘cut out’ to do maths. This attitude definitely does not inspire improvement and change, many people leave school thinking they’ll never be good at maths. GCSE maths doesn’t teach you about budgets or drug calculations or train timetables, yet these things are important in real life and people with negative attitudes towards numbers are struggling with them, it stops people from progressing in work and life.
"in order to thrive as individuals and achieve our goals in life we need education"
That’s why I’m so impressed by the work being done at National Numeracy, for such a small team a huge amount has already been achieved to raise awareness on the issue of low numeracy and to provide simple but effective tools in order to help people improve, and in particular to improve their mindset. I’m amazed that 170,000 people have registered on the Numeracy Challenge to check their level, and so many of those people have gone on further to improve their score. When I applied for this role, I remember thinking how easy it would be to say the money should be going to a charity to help people with health problems and so on, but I believe that in order to thrive as individuals and achieve our goals in life we need education too, it’s absolutely vital. So, charities like this one are essential.
"Numeracy is part of everything, it goes unnoticed a lot of the time"
Numeracy is part of everything, it goes unnoticed a lot of the time but without the basic skills life is unnecessarily difficult and contains more stress than it needs to. For example, during my time here I’ve read survey responses and people have consistently said maths problems make them feel stressed, sometimes even panicked. But, they often said that by using National Numeracy resources they’ve been able to improve their confidence in numbers and therefore feel more competent in the workplace, helping their children with homework and so on. It’s brilliant that this charity is helping people feel better about themselves by showing them how achievable learning everyday maths is, everyone deserves to feel proud of their skills and effort. We can still get by in life with very little maths know-how, but life would be easier with the essentials of numeracy and would have fewer embarrassing and stressful moments involving problem solving, so surely, it’s worth putting in the effort to improve.
"so many people are genuinely terrified of maths"
I’ve learnt so much in my time here so far, but for me the most unsettling part is knowing that so many people are genuinely terrified of maths, their confidence in their own ability is so low that they truly believe they are incapable. For me personally, learning brings me confidence in myself and drives me to want to continue to improve, I’d love to see more people reaping the benefits of this attitude themselves.
At National Numeracy it’s clear to me that every member of staff genuinely believes in this cause and personally cares about the positive impact of improving numeracy on people’s everyday lives. I was never passionate about this matter before, as far as I knew it didn’t exist, but now I really see how vast the issue is. I hope that the word continues to spread to people all over the UK so that more people can take the steps to improve their attitude towards numeracy and subsequently improve their everyday lives.
Georgie Hogarth is a second year Chemistry BSC student at the University of Sussex. She has been working as a communications intern for National Numeracy over the summer as part of the First Generation Scholars Scheme.
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