What is numeracy

What is numeracy?

It's the ability to use mathematics in everyday life.

Numeracy involves skills that aren’t always taught in the classroom – the ability to use numbers and solve problems in real life. It means having the confidence and skill to use numbers and mathematical approaches in all aspects of life. Numeracy is as important as literacy. In fact, it's sometimes called ‘mathematical literacy’. 

We need both skills to function in modern life.

When do we use numeracy?


At work Giving correct change, weighing and measuring, using spreadsheets and understanding data.
In practical everyday activities at home and beyond Working out how many minutes until our train, increasing a recipe to serve extra guests.
As consumers Understanding how much we'll save with a 15% discount, checking we've received the right change, working out how much to tip in a restaurant.
In managing our finances Setting and keeping to a budget, understanding interest rates, understanding the financial implications of borrowing money, working out how much money to put into a pension.
As parents Helping children with homework, playing board and puzzle games with children. 
As patients making sense of health information Managing our diet and nutrition, making and keeping medical appointments, measuring medicine doses, working out a routine for taking tablets regularly.
As citizens understanding the world about us Making sense of statistics and graphs in the news, understanding information about government spending.


Ready to check your numeracy level?

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

Start the Challenge


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

However you feel about maths, you’re not alone. The 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.   

Start the Challenge