According to research published by National Numeracy, approximately 17 million workers in the UK only have numeracy skills of a primary school child. That’s a staggering figure, constituting over 50% of the UK’s 2017 working population.
Numeracy is the skill of being able to work with and understand numbers. This includes understanding the rules of addition and subtraction, division and multiplication. It also includes knowing the rules of BODMAS (Brackets, Orders, Division, Multiplication, Addition, Subtraction). There is also the skill of working with decimals and fractions.
Poor numeracy also comes at a price. It is estimated that it costs the UK economy an eye-watering £20 billion each year. It’s no surprise, either, that those with poor numerical skills are twice as likely to be unemployed.
At the same time that the UK is seeing such low levels of numeracy, the digital age is overloading us with more numerical data than we’ve ever encountered before. Whilst computers can help do the Maths for us, calculations do rely on good numerical skills to use and apply them. It means we still need the ability to enter the right data and apply our judgement skills to decipher whether or not the answer looks correct.
Almost everyone will need to apply numeracy skills to varying degrees in their lives, be it during employment or personal life. If people do have poor numeracy skills it can lead to financial problems, and if many people have these problems it will have a marked impact on the ability of the nation to understand and grasp personal financial planning. This gives banks and financial institutions an unfair advantage over their account holders.
Research published by Experian and the charity National Numeracy (NN) highlighted that consumers who are more confident with numbers are more likely to have a better credit score than those who aren’t. Evidently there is much improvement needed in terms of the relevance and practical application of numerical skills taught in the UK curriculum.
On the need to place financial education firmly on the UK curriculum, Martin Lewis of Money Saving Expert has said: “The best place to teach is in the classroom”, alluding to the need for better, and perhaps more importantly, relevant financial education in schools. Do you know your APR from your AER? Or the basic tax rate from the higher rate? Navigating the murky waters of bank accounts, tax, pensions and credit cards can cause many people to feel out of their depth. The bottom line is that good numeracy counts.
The good news is that you can start working on your numerical skills today. If you are curious to find out how your numeracy measures up, you can visit the National Numeracy Day website. Held each year to raise awareness of numeracy skills, you can take its challenge on the subject here: www.nnchallenge.org.uk/home/index.html?partner_code=nnd18