Poor numeracy is arguably the biggest single education and skills issue facing the UK. In 2012, the government-commissioned Skills for Life survey revealed that 78% of adults have a level of numeracy below the equivalent of a C at GCSE, with the equivalent figures for literacy at 43%. In England alone 17 million adults are working at a level of numeracy expected of primary school children.

Research from Pro Bono Economics in 2014, commissioned by National Numeracy, estimated that low numeracy is costing the British economy at least £20.2 billion every year (approximately 1.3 % of GDP). At a national level, the correlation with poor productivity and low numeracy skills is remarkably strong.

As well as the accumulated effect poor numeracy has on our economy, there are serious consequences for how people live their lives. Whether you need to work out which bus to catch in the morning, effectively perform tasks at work, manage your money or help your children with their homework, being numerate and able to interpret numbers is at the heart of many tasks. Those who struggle may find that their personal finances, work or even their health can be effected as a result.

Worryingly, in spite of this, in many settings poor numeracy often goes ‘undiagnosed’ and is rarely addressed as a priority for those individuals who would benefit most.

National Numeracy can provide support for the numeracy element of employment support delivery and help you to focus on individuals’ needs and provide clear attainment indicators. The National Numeracy Challenge Online assesses an individual’s current skill level, before directing them to the right learning resources, selected to meet their needs, helping them improve and have an ongoing role in their personal learning journey.

Pertinent to people working in the employment related services, the Challenge Online promotes sustainable learning; you can access it from any location, forming part of a long-term package of functional skills learning support, staying with someone from pre-employment into employment. Wherever they are on their journey to employment, they can go back and continue to improve their numeracy and confidence in handling numbers. In addition to the Challenge Online, National Numeracy can provide bespoke support for partner organisations, including Challenge Champions training and more comprehensive, face-to-face support.

Poor numeracy is the productivity ‘elephant in the room’ – but it can be addressed effectively if we look at the issue in a different way. Anyone can improve their maths with effort and support, and you can help us to tackle the issue of numeracy head on. Try out the Challenge Online yourself, spread the word amongst your colleagues and, most importantly, make numeracy a key focus of your workplace delivery.

By Mike Ellicock, Chief Executive, National Numeracy 

National Numeracy is an independent charity, established in 2012, dedicated to improving numeracy among adults and children in the UK and promote the importance of everyday maths skills. We challenge negative attitudes, influence public policy, promote effective approaches to improving maths achievement and work in partnership with other organisations to achieve these aims. Our unique approach focusses on building resilience and is embodied in the Essentials of Numeracy, which underpins all of our work.

If you would like to find out more about our work or to find out what support we can offer to your organisation, contact our National Partner Manager Sally Hilton, sally@nationalnumeracy.org.uk .