Today, Friday 3 February is a mega maths fundraising day – NSPCC Number Day is a fun, nationwide maths fundraising event for children and young people of all ages that helps raise money to support the NSPCC. This initiative is a fantastic way of making maths meaningful to all, regardless of age or ability while raising the profile of the NSPCC.
“Good numeracy is the best protection against unemployment, low wages and poor health.” Andreas Schleicher, OECD.
Poor numeracy costs the UK dearly; research suggests that poor numeracy skills cost the economy £20.2 billion every year. The UK needs a numerate population in order to build a strong economy and compete globally.
The digital age means we are presented with more numerical data than ever and puts a premium on numeracy skills. Computers may do the processing for us, but we need good numeracy in order to use data effectively and to recognise whether the answer seems approximately right.
Putting numeracy to work
Research suggests that 90% of new graduate jobs require a high level of digital skills and digital skills are built on numeracy.
In most modern jobs success depends on flexibility, learning agility, keeping up-to-date, and increasing levels of technical skill. Most tasks require the use of computers and various aspects of mathematics, in terms of analysing data and ensuring quality control in a myriad of processes.
Usually we have to define the problem that needs solving, design the metrics or collect the data that is needed, formulate a strategy for addressing the problem, implement it and then check that the solution makes sense in the context of the problem. What counts here are good solutions.
Numeracy, or mathematical knowledge, is crucially important and increasingly necessary in a range of life-skills, from personal finance to data wrangling. The argument is that debate in society rests largely on statistical arguments, with increasing amounts of data in our digital society, and an understanding of these arguments is necessary for informed debate and decision making (British Academy, 2012).
A further argument is made that mathematics is important because it encourages and develops important ways of thinking. Mathematics is ‘critical in fostering logical and rigorous thinking’ (Vorderman et al., 2011). Critical thinking skills are crucial in a dynamic and volatile environment.
Count on some help
BBC Skillswise is a minisite for adult basic skills, which provides practical, commonsense maths for adult’, organised by topic. The activities include small, self-contained games and videos focused on particular skills.
The OU provides students and enquirers with free access to high quality learning resources related to everyday mathematics. Covering numerical, graphical and related skills, the resources include activities to help with new skills (or revise long-forgotten techniques), and quizzes to check progress.
A free app – Maths Everywhere – for Android and Apple phones is available
Citizen Maths is for people who want to improve their grasp of maths, and become more confident in using maths at work and in life.