Numeracy Skills

Numeracy Skills Count

Improved numeracy skills lead to better paid jobs, greater well-being and a less stressful life.

Numeracy skills are not just for scientists, accountants and the tax man, many professions require at least a basic level of understanding when it comes to numeracy and mathematics. Take some time to develop your numeracy skills – it’s never too late to learn.

Chris Humphries, Chairman of National Numeracy, talking to the BBC said:

It is simply inexcusable for anyone to say ‘I can’t do maths.’”

He continued to suggest that many people cannot get jobs because they struggle to read graphs and interpret documents, while plumbers may find it difficult to do the necessary calculations to install a boiler and as a result lose income. 

Careers New Zealand suggests that basic numeracy, needed for the workforce, should include:

  • Counting quantities for a customer.
  • The use of percentages and subtraction when giving a discount.
  • Using division when calculating costs per head.
  • Measuring the area of shapes.
  • Calculating fuel consumption.
  • Understanding tables in reports and interpreting graphs.

It may come as a surprise that almost half of the working-age population (17 million) of England have numeracy skills equivalent to those expected for an 11 year-old child.

This problem is not unique to England or the UK.

In Australia business leaders were asked how poor numeracy affected their businesses.  Over three-quarters of respondents said that their businesses were affected with almost 40% reporting a moderate to high effect.

In the USA over a third of all school-age American students are scoring ‘below basic’ on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Poor numeracy is a huge problem that affects people and organisations in ways that are not immediately obvious.

Adults with poor numeracy skills are twice as likely to be unemployed than those who enjoy some competency in numeracy.  Those adults with at least basic numeracy skills can expect to earn a quarter more than those who lack the necessary skills to solve basic mathematical problems.

Those with poor numeracy skills are less likely to be able to save money on day-to-day affairs, like a visit to the supermarket.

Furthermore they are less likely to be able to find or negotiate the best deals on financial products and therefore more likely to pay higher levels of interest on higher levels of debt.   It is well documented that debt problems can lead to stress and/or depression.  Between a third and a half of people with poor numeracy skills have a desire to improve them and less than 4% have actually attended any numeracy classes.