Innumeracy “National Scandal”

The Department for Education said it was a “national scandal” that almost half the adult population have poor numeracy skills

 

As a report finds that millions of adults have numeracy skills expected of an 11 year old, UK companies, fearful their workers will not spot “rogue figures”, are training employees in basic maths.

UK comapnies are having to train employees in basic maths as a report finds that millions of adults have the maths' skills of an 11 year old. Getty

The National Numeracy charity says that adults are struggling to calculate change and understand their payslips. It calls for the UK to change its attitude to maths so that being bad at maths should no longer be seen as a “badge of honour”.

‘Blights individual’s chances’

Young people with poor numeracy are twice as likely to be excluded from school, we know adults with poor numeracy are twice as likely to be unemployed, said Chris Humphries, chairman of National Numeracy. Poor numeracy “seriously blights” individual’s life chances, he added.

Figures from a Government survey published last year show that 17 million adults in England have basic maths skills that are, at best, the same as an 11-year-olds.

How good is your maths? You can test your maths here by doing the question below, which is the ‘adult numeracy level 1’ for maths, which is similar to GCSE level.

For more tests you can click on this link to one of the exam boards.

The repair bay is 11.8 metres long and 6.2 metres wide. The owner calculates the area as 73.2 square metres. Which calculation gives the closest estimate of the area of the repair bay?
A 11 x 6
B 11 x 7
C 12 x 6
D 12 x 7

To try more questions click on this link.

Politicians, schools and business leaders have talked about improving people’s maths for decades, but more attention has been paid to improving literacy rates, according to Mike Ellicock, chief executive of National Numeracy. “The perennial problem is that people talk about numeracy and literacy but the focus is on literacy skills because they’re easier to do,” he said.

A YouGov poll of 2,068 adults, commissioned by National Numeracy, reveals that while four in five would feel embarrassed to tell someone they were bad at reading and writing, only 56 per cent would feel embarrassed about admitting their poor maths skills.

The number of UK adults with poor maths skills is a growing problem for employers, who need to train some employees in mental aritmethic, such as working out percentage changes and fractions.

Remedial Maths

James Fothergill, head of education and skills at employers’ group the CBI, told Channel Four Newsthat when it questioned its business members last year around one in five said that they had to teach school leavers remedial maths. “It’s really important that [employees] are helped to apply maths skills and concepts in practical situations, such as being able to work out what a 30 per cent discount is without doing it on the till,” Fothergill said.

Two thirds of businesses surveyed by the CBI said they were concerned about employees’ ability to spot “rogue figures”. The poor numeracy could have serious consequences for businesses because it may potentially increase the risk of errors in accounts or fraud going undetected. The CBI thinks that pupils who don’t get at least a grade C at GCSE should be required to carry on studying maths until they do so.

Graeme Hughes, group director at human resources and corproate affairs at Nationwide Building Society, said that the number of job candidates it interviewed who couldn’t do basic maths had increased slightly in the past few years.

Nationwide works with schools to teach numeracy and help children learn how to manage their money – such as how to avoid getting into debt or to understand different types of interest rate.

‘National Scandal’

Being able to do mental arithmetic isn’t always essential in the workplace, however. One big recuitment company told Channel Four News that employers often value computer skills in employees more than mental arithmetic.

“As there is increasing reliance in many sectors on computers and automated systems, we find that many employers are more concerned that candidates have strong numeracy skills linked to computer packages such as Microsoft Excel, rather than mental arithmetic skills,” said Simon Baddeley, senior regional director at Reed Specialist Recruitment. “We test candidates to see if they possess these skills as it is important for many roles that they have a good understanding of computer databases, can create formulas, possess the basic maths to create and manage databases, and – crucially – spot any errors in automated systems.

John Lewis said that it helps employees improve their maths skills by providing free web-based learning, or paying for half of tution costs at local colleges.

Despite the concerns over the numeracy of millions of adults, more people are studying maths at UK universities. The number of people accepted to study mathematical and computer sciences at UK universities has increased steadily over the past five years – from 24,722 in 2006 to 33,407 in 2011, according to figures from Ucas.

The Department for Education said it was a “national scandal” that almost half the adult population have poor numeracy skills. It said it wanted the vast majority of young people to continue to study maths up to 18 within a decade to meet the growing demand for employees with high-level and intermediate maths skills.

“We are undertaking a root and branch review of how maths is taught in schools, attracting the best maths graduates into the profession, strengthening training through our network of specialist teaching schools and we are overhauling GCSEs and A-levels to make sure they are robust and in line with the best education systems in the world,” the DfE said in a statement.

(Article source: Channel 4)

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Is Numeracy important?

What is the issue?

Low levels of numeracy are a long-term problem for the UK.

1. Numeracy skills have got worse, not better

Proportion of working age adults in England with skills levels equivalent to GCSE “C” grade or above

2. High numeracy is connected to better…

3. The UK risks becoming less competitive internationally

The scale and cost of the issue

The causal chain of poor numeracy

In the UK, socio-economic background influences a child’s achievement by 10% to 20%

30% wrongly assume that maths is a skill
you are born with, rather than a skill
that can be learnt

At school, children are often not prepared for using maths in everyday life

Of 15-16 year olds doing GCSE maths in the UK…

24% of 16-24 year olds achieving A*-C grade at GCSE reach the equivalent level in the Skills for Life assessment

1 in 4 adults in the UK believe school maths did not prepare them well for maths in everyday life

Among those aged 24+
numeracy skills decline with age

 But too few people take steps to improve their numeracy

 

Data sources:
Skills for Life 2011; PIAAC 2014; National Numeracy YouGov Survey 2014

Note:
When we say “low numeracy” we usually mean those below Level 2 on the UK adult qualifications scale.

Image credits:
Created by Christian Wad and Jack Curry from the Noun Project.

Article source: National Numeracy

 

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Poor Numeracy: more than twice as likely to be unemployed

national-numeracy-logo[1]

“People with poor numeracy skills are more than twice as likely to be unemployed”

 

Innumeracy costs the UK £20.2 Billion per year; 17 million adults (nearly half of the adult population) have numeracy at/below primary school level.

There is substantial evidence that low numeracy skills are associated with poor outcomes:

  • Employment
    People with poor numeracy skills are more than twice as likely to be unemployed
  • Wages
    Recent data by the OECD show a direct relationship between wage distribution and numeracy skills
  • Health
    In OECD and UK basic skills reports, the correlation between poor numeracy and poor health is clear; data from the British Cohort Studies have shown that there is also a link between depression and poor numeracy
  • Social, emotional and behavioural difficulties
    Children with these problems are more likely to struggle with numeracy, even taking into account factors such as home background and general ability
  • School exclusions
    Pupils beginning secondary school with very low numeracy skills but good literacy skills have an exclusion rate twice that of pupils starting secondary school with good numeracy skills
  • Truancy
    14-year-olds who have poor maths skills at 11 are more than twice as likely to play truant
  • Crime
    A quarter of young people in custody have a numeracy level below that expected of a 7-year-old, and 65% of adult prisoners have numeracy skills at or below the level expected of an 11-year-old.

Poor numeracy is also a problem in its own right. It can affect people’s confidence and self-esteem. Research from a review of adult up-skilling in numeracy by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has demonstrated that improving numeracy directly contributes to growth in personal and social confidence

The digital age

The digital age presents us with more numerical data than ever before and puts a new premium on numeracy skills.

Computers can do the mathematical processing for us, but we need good numeracy in order to use them effectively – to enter the right data and decide whether the answer seems approximately right.

Right now around 90% of new graduate jobs require a high level of digital skills (Race Online 2012), and digital skills are built on numeracy.

(Article source: National Numeracy)

 

“Good numeracy is the best protection against unemployment, low wages and poor health.” (OECD)

 

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