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The importance of National Numeracy Day
Dr Rhys Jones, a teacher of statistics at the University of Auckland, wrote that many people appear to wear their perceived lack of skill in maths “like a badge of honour”. Phrases such as “When would I ever need to use that?” or “I’m rubbish with numbers!” are incredibly common in the classroom, amongst friends, and even in the workplace.
When compared to its widely acknowledged academic fellow English, admitting you’re “bad at maths” seems to be entirely acceptable, whilst being unable to read or write is a closely guarded secret. For those who teach, use or work with maths daily, it can be a frustrating double standard.
Celebrating National Numeracy Day
This is why National Numeracy Day is such an important day. First launched in 2018, it has a simple aim for everyone in the UK to ‘get on with numbers so they can get on in life’. Numeracy is everywhere in life – from the moment you wake up, you’re using numeracy to plan your day out and engage in it throughout the day. Yet, many people don’t recognise this.
The hope for this campaign is to change people’s perception of maths. Rather than fearing it and automatically dismissing our abilities, we should be embracing the importance of good numeracy – perhaps even bragging to our friends about our ability to work out how much they would save on a £20 shirt with a 35% discount tag!
Having good numeracy is key to being able to operate in life, work and education, allowing for progression in all of those areas. We know, for example, those with good numeracy and maths skills are more likely to achieve in their vocational qualifications and apprenticeships. Plus, with the current discussions around the cost of living and rising costs, being able to manage money is of the utmost importance – in some ways, numeracy has never been more important.
For parents, the challenge of supporting their children in English and maths throughout their education can prompt nervous conversations between couples. More frequently, we’re seeing primary schools putting on evening classes to support parents in this area – the Government believe 19 million have numeracy skills equivalent to a primary school child. It’s also important to reach out to communities and parents to let them know there’s lots of free support and help out there for them.
The Multiply project
In recognition of this, the Chancellor announced the investment of up to £559 million in funding for their Multiply project in his Autumn budget. The aim is to support adults across the UK to brush up on their numeracy skills and boost their number confidence. Adults will be able to do free flexible courses online or in person (at work, home or in an education setting) to equip themselves with the numeracy skills they need to fulfil their potential.
As part of the project, the Department of Education (DfE) will be launching a national digital numeracy platform that will give people the ability to learn at their own pace, including access to online tutoring to help overcome any challenges. The hope is that this learning will lead to adults completing a Level 2 Functional Skills maths qualification, giving them the skills to prosper and contribute further to society.
It’s also a key area of concern for employers too. In 2016, the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) produced a report on the “impact of poor English and maths skills on employers”, which found that the cost to employers due to basic skills difficulties among staff was £4.8 billion per year. Based on 1993 prices, the costs will be significantly higher now.
NCFE has supported National Numeracy Day since its launch, carrying out a number of challenges and quizzes to test our customers and their learners in a fun environment. We also have lots of qualifications and resources that can support learners in maths, including our initial assessment tool, which assesses the level of your maths abilities.
The National Numeracy website also contains free resources for adults and activities for children, allowing you to complete a numeracy check to see how many you got right (15 out of 18 for me!) – why not give it a try and find out your score?
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