Bob BlackmanMP for Harrow East
Bob Blackman MP reflects on National Numeracy Day which was held on 17 May 2023.
The 17 May marked the 11th annual National Numeracy Day, an important day earmarked to championing everyday maths. Its purpose is to inspire everyone, regardless of age, gender or socio economic background, to possess the confidence and skills to competently understand numbers and be able to apply them in our day to day lives.
Whilst we may not use trigonometry or Pythagoras’ theorem whilst doing the weekly food shop, basic numeracy crops up all the time. We need basic numeracy to cook, understand recipes, create music and calculate journey times- the list is endless.
As a nation, the UK is often regarded as one of the richest and most powerful countries. Despite this stature, our numeracy levels are significantly below the average for developed countries, ranking just 21st. Recently commissioned data estimates that up to £25 billion each year is lost in earnings, owing entirely to low numeracy skills.
Staggeringly, half of working aged adults in this country, over 16 million people, have numerical skills equal to those of a primary school leaver. This has led to more than half of young adults admitting that they have avoided a particular job, interview or qualification, hindering their full potential, because they feared it would involve mathematics.
Children are undeniably, far more impressionable than adults. The very makeup of their brain allows them to absorb information faster and more efficiently. It is therefore of the upmost importance that nurseries, schools and education centres are ceasing this opportunity and equipping our youth with the skills to possess a competent numerical confidence.
If children are taught how to competently negotiate bus timetables, money and other numerical skills, it prepares them for life. It is essential they are taught such skills as youngsters to ensure they do not lack the understanding once they enter adulthood and therefore are able to gain a greater independence. When stripped of such skills, people are immediately dependent on others and have to rely on the honesty of others, subjecting them to a high possibility of being taken advantage.
I am pleased that the Prime Minister announced his ambition for school pupils in England to study mathematics until the age of 18. This will drastically increase the UK’s productivity and give a stronger emphasis on the huge importance of possessing competent numerical skills. It will equip school leavers with the quantitative and statistical intellect needed for many of today’s jobs and those of the future.
I would reiterate that struggling with maths is not something to be embarrassed about, ignore, or avoid. We need to normalize later learning and asking for help as it will open up so many doors. More than 9 million people in the UK rate their numeracy as low, with 86% also regarding their financial knowledge as minimal- surely this emphasises the need for more later learning on such matters.
The Government is a great champion of lifelong learning and is investing £560 million in the Multiply programme to give thousands of adults the opportunity to gain employer-valued math qualifications and improve their skills through this easy to use, very accessible digital platform.
I was proud to host the National Numeracy Day debate in Westminster Hall, highlighting the need to improve the UK’s numeracy skills and the amazing support network that is available for those seeking to improve. It was reassuring to hear the Ministers commitment to improving the UK’s numeric standing.
This National Numeracy Day, we aimed to break the taboo that maths is scary, not cool or impossible. Instead, it is a gateway to so many amazing opportunities. The National Numeracy, Government, local schools and Project Pure Maths are always available to help and support everyone.
In conclusion, I would like to express my gratitude to all those involved with National Numeracy Day. The hard work they invest into this cause is admirable and an opportunity for so many to improve their numerical skills.