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What is numeracy?

It's the ability to understand and use maths in daily life, at home, work or school.

Numeracy doesn't mean complex skills, like algebra,  it means being confident enough to use basic maths in real-life situations.

There is no universally agreed definition, but at National Numeracy we define numeracy as: 

Numeracy is having the confidence to use basic maths at work and in everyday life.

So, numeracy means two things: having basic maths skills AND feeling confident in using them.

At National Numeracy, we believe that it is confidence that unlocks our numeracy skills. Many adults avoid using maths, just because they don't feel confident, or even feel anxious about it. Numeracy is about being confident with the numbers and data that can crop up in daily life. 

Numeracy is:  Numeracy is not: 
Feeling confident with numbers at work, in the news, on payslip, with your children, and when managing your money. Feeling pressure to work things out quickly.
Feeling able to apply for a new job, or training, that involves numbers or data. Memorising methods or times tables.
Using a calculator to work something out, or knowing what to Google... and being able to tell if you get a sensible answer.  Being afraid to get something wrong. 
Being confident with time, for instance when planning journeys. Feeling that you have to work things out in your head.
Understanding what percentages mean, and how they are used. Being afraid to ask someone else for help. 
Knowing when an estimate will do.  Maths that isn't useful in daily life. 


Ready to check your numeracy skills?

The National Numeracy Challenge is a free website to enable adults to feel better about everyday maths.

What do we mean by numeracy?

Facts about Numeracy

Numeracy means understanding how maths is used in the real world and being able to apply it to make the best possible decisions.

It’s as much about thinking and reasoning as about 'doing sums'. It means being able to:

  • Interpret data, charts and diagrams
  • Process information
  • Solve problems
  • Check answers
  • Understand and explain solutions
  • Make decisions based on logical thinking and reasoning

The National Numeracy Challenge

National Numeracy Challenge is a free and easy-to-use website you can use to improve your confidence with numbers.  

You can use the Challenge on your phone, tablet or home-computer. Save your progress as you go - no timer means you can dip in and out in your own time. 

Test your numeracy skills for free with the National Numeracy Challenge