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Maths Week England: The importance of numeracy skills for all

David Redden David Redden Product Manager at NCFE

This week marks a big week for mathematics as we celebrate the third Maths Week England, which over the course of the past three years has involved more than 1.7 million students celebrating all things numerical. And this years' event could in fact be the most significant yet...

An important year for maths

It's been quite a year for maths, with a big spotlight being put on the poor numeracy skills in this country amongst adults reaching such a scale that the Government saw fit to intervene and invest over half a billion pounds in their Multiply scheme, which aims to improve adult numeracy.

While the debate continues over what the true impact of Multiply will be, there is no question that it's a desperately needed area of focus. Without the basic core skills in numeracy, a barrier is built in terms of engaging with everyday life and your social mobility falls away – things like planning your day, working out money and dealing with simple data can become a real challenge. Within this, one of the most difficult issues is engaging the learner to make them invested in finding out the solutions.

Why Maths Week?

Maths Week England was set up in 2019 with the goal of ensuring that no children miss out on the opportunities that being a confident competent mathematician can give them, and in 2021 it became the largest national maths festival in the world. The campaign looks to engage those of all ages with maths and as such, offers lots of competitions, activities and resources throughout the week.

Maths Week England has six clear aims:

1. Raise the profile of mathematics throughout England

2. Change the conversation about maths in the population at large to be more positive

3. Enable children and adults from all social and economic backgrounds to access and enjoy interesting mathematical experiences

4. Support teachers to plan special low-cost high-impact maths activities at their own schools during Maths Week

5. Encourage higher education centres to invite schoolchildren to visit for maths events, in order to raise aspirations and encourage a higher take-up of the study of maths at A Level and university

6. Make maths accessible and enjoyable for people who thought it was an elitist subject for ‘clever’ people: to ‘love and enjoy’ is a worthy goal!

These are all aims that NCFE is completely behind, and we've done a lot of work these past 12 months to support learners and tutors in the delivery of maths across all our qualifications.

Maths as a platform to succeed

We've been working with Ofqual and the Department for Education (DfE) to support their understanding of the challenges with maths currently. Our Provider Development team has also been doing some excellent work with tutors that has seen attainment improve by up to 5% with those centres who have engaged with them, and have been working hard on producing new resources, including the creation of learner toolkits that help prepare learners for their final assessment.

There is an obvious link between numeracy skills and improved performance in the main programme of study for learners – if you have those numeracy skills, you are more likely to attain in your qualification of choice.

In recognition of this, NCFE has also recently teamed up with The Prince’s Trust to offer a new qualification in Essential Maths for Everyday Life (alongside an essential English qualification), which is built to deliver bite-size chunks of numeracy over a full certificate.

There is a real need to maximise accessibility to these types of qualifications and as such, we've decided that instead of charging the usual registration fee, each time a learner is registered this full fee will go to The Prince’s Trust to support their work with vulnerable adults to improve their social mobility.

Getting involved in Maths Week England

Projects like Maths Week, National Numeracy Day and the Multiply project are fantastic starting points; however, we need to keep the focus on this area all year round, until we start to reap the rewards of improved numeracy as a society. The biggest barrier for so many learners is the perception of maths, so there needs to be a breakdown of these stereotypes – maths is fun, we just need to be creative! 

During Maths Week England there are lots of fun competitions and engaging resources being shared to support the teaching of maths that I encourage you to get involved with – whether you're a teacher, provider, employer, parent or pupil, you'll find something for you. Happy Maths Week England, everyone!

You can learn more about Maths Week England and how to get involved here. Or, you can discover more about our Functional Skills offer and maths qualifications.

As we continue to navigate the impact of Covid-19, there is no better time to review how assessment works, the place it has within education currently, and how this has to change. Assessment goes far beyond just ‘exams’.

David Redden, Product Manager at NCFE
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