Being good at maths: either you are or you aren't - right?
The need for maths skills in everyday life is clear, but research has revealed that low levels of numeracy is a real issue in the UK. According to the report The essentials of numeracy: a new approach to making the UK numerate, government statistics suggest that 17 million adults - nearly 50% of the working-age population in England - have the numeracy level that is expected of primary school children. Not only does this impact the UK economy, but has been found to have a negative effect on an individual's health and wellbeing.
The Terriers are always up for a challenge, and so we took ourselves way out of our comfort zone and took the National Numeracy Challenge, a free, online learning tool designed to help improve everyday maths skills in manageable steps whilst building confidence along the way. Here's how we got on...
I'm really bad at maths.
Anyone else say or think that about themselves?
That's how I have always described myself when it comes to numbers; I can't do it, it's not my strength, I don't have the maths gene. And so it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I approached the Numeracy Challenge.
I sat down at my kitchen table and took my time, scribbled pages of calculations and certainly made use of a calculator...and despite my initial nerves, I actually quite enjoyed it. I surprised myself by remembering things like working out the circumference of a circle and my confidence grew as I went through the questions that were designed to test different aspects of numeracy. At the end of the challenge, I was shocked to get a score of 90 out of 100. Wow, definitely wasn't expecting that!
Completing this exercise has made me realise the importance of numeracy skills in every day life, and how some tasks might be a real struggle for people who, for whatever reason, don't have those skills. It has inspired me to improve my numeracy even more, and, without doubt, stopped me from describing myself as bad at maths.
Oh I am bad at maths! However, I was actually reasonably chuffed at my 77 score - it made me realise with a bit of effort I could actually get up to - maybe even surpass - the dizzying heights of national average.
Saying simply ‘I am bad at [fill in the blank]’ is sometimes just a safety net we provide ourselves with - we don’t need to try because we’re not good at it. Simple. Sometimes that fear or self-perception is spot on, I can’t fly, so I’m definitely not going to jump off a building. But sometimes, just sometimes, it’s all about jumping and finding out!
My ‘knowledge’ of being bad at maths stems from school where I was entered into the exam where I could only ever get a C, even if I did get 100%. How much of a failure does that make you feel? Perception is everything.
I wonder now what else I ‘apparently’ can’t do that I’ve been telling myself all these years….. Perhaps Dixon’s would have been keen on those speaker brackets I made in my CDT class in the (old school) 4th year after all!!
I always thought I was OK at maths and like problem solving and got a useful Grade 2 O Level. The only maths I focus on now (my son is off the bank of dad!) is my invoicing, expenses, mobile phone bills and, most importantly, tax returns. I really enjoyed doing this without the aid of a calculator – a perverse decision I know – but I wanted to see if I still had any of the traditional skills like long division etc. That would explain my lower 71 score I guess. What National Numeracy are campaigning for is hugely important for everyone in society from handling student loans to running a household. A really important area of day to day life. The test was fun and informative.
We would absolutely recommend taking the national numeracy challenge - you can have a go here.
Let us know how you get on!