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The Essentials of Numeracy

The Essentials of Numeracy are the skills and attitudes that everyone needs to use numbers and data to make good decisions at work and at home. 

National Numeracy has worked with employers, unions, charities and maths experts such as Cambridge Maths, to define the Essentials of Numeracy: the core mathematical skills that we all need to be confident and competent with numbers in daily life and the workplace.

The Essentials includes things like being able to understand percentages, spot best-buy deals in the supermarket and manage your money. So we’re not talking about algebra and trigonometry.


The National Numeracy Challenge website allows anyone to find out whether they have a good grasp of the Essentials of Numeracy:

  •  If they do, then they can get a certificate or digital badge as evidence
  •  If they haven’t yet, then there are resources to enable them to work towards getting the Essentials

We have a growing evidence base to show that everyone can improve their numeracy and work towards getting the Essentials – some directly online by themselves and others with more support. We want everyone - government, employers, charities and individuals - to work with us to help the UK to become confident and competent with numbers.                                          

National Numeracy originally created the Essentials of Numeracy in 2013. The content was ratified by a steering group which included maths experts, employers and representatives from unions. The aim was to map out the aspects of mathematics which are recurrent and essential in daily life and the workplace, and the attitudes which are needed to use these with confidence. Out intention was to ensure that the content was ‘demand-pull’, led by employers and citizens, rather than ‘supply-push’ from mathematicians.

The Essentials were shared widely on fold-out maps, posters, a Prezi version and were used as the foundation for the National Numeracy Challenge assessment and learning resources in 2014. Feedback from Challenge users, ongoing work with partner organisations in different sectors, and a substantial project with Cambridge Mathematics to look at what the Essentials would look like at age 14, have led to the content evolving to the point where a new version was finalised in 2017. This has been used as the basis for the new Challenge Check-Up assessment and the brand new Essentials of Numeracy digital badge and certificate.   

Read about the Essentials of Numeracy at 14

What are the Essentials of Numeracy?

Click through this Prezi to find out the different skills we need to be fully numerate.

Read our new report

The Essentials of Numeracy: A New Approach to Making the UK Numerate

Take the National Numeracy Challenge

Find out if you have the Essentials of Numeracy

See the comments from attendees at our launch event:

National Numeracy has developed a PDF which lays out the important links between all of the key skills, processes, concepts and attitudes that define ‘being numerate’.

Download the PDF