New Initiative to Improve Adults' Maths Skills

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Almost half of adults in England - 49 per cent - have entry-level maths skills; at best the level of maths that you would be expected to have by the age of 11. To help more people improve their maths skills a new initiative – Maths4us – starts today 23 January 2013, with over 20 national organisations coming together to take strategic action on adult maths.

From now until the end of March, a key partnership of national organisations will support a wide range of activities to raise awareness of the importance of maths as well as tackle some of the challenges in this area. These include:

  • developing and promoting maths apps for adults;
  • training 8,000 Maths Champions to support other adults;
  • piloting an online numeracy assessment tool;
  • developing a series of MOOCs (massive open online courses);
  • producing resources and training for parents, carers and early-years workers;
  • improving the quality of teaching and learning; and
  • engaging and enthusing people about the power, enjoyment, and importance of maths.

Carol Taylor, NIACE Director for Development and Research, said, “One of the seven recommendations from the NIACE - led Inquiry into Numeracy in 2011 was that adults should be able to learn maths in a way that’s more relevant to their everyday lives. The Government’s Review of English and Maths last year found that far too many adults struggle with maths and many of them find certain maths tasks - from budgeting, to getting the best deal – challenging. As such, a new approach is needed to help adults improve their maths skills. Maths is for all of us; this is why we’re taking action on adult maths.”

She continued, “One of the big problems is that many adults don’t think that maths is a part of their everyday lives. People see maths as something very intelligent people ‘do’, not an essential set of skills for work, family, health and throughout life. We want to engage people through showing how everyone uses maths every day of their lives, that it can be exciting and fun, and that it is not something to be scared of. Working with our wide - range of expert partners will enable us to get added value by using their links, networks and routes to people from all kinds of backgrounds to help them, their families and their friends become more confident and happier with maths.”

Online Centres Foundation (OCF), the organisation behind the national network of UK online centres, is one of the partners in the initiative. Chief Executive Helen Milner said: “UK online centres are experts at introducing maths by the back door. In order to get people interested in the online world, centres focus on individual interests, and maths comes in almost incidentally – for instance in doing online price comparisons, converting measurements for online recipes, or working out time differences for Skype calls. We’re delighted to be part of Maths4us, and making sure that back door is opened for even more people. We’re particularly looking forward to working with the other Maths4us partners to develop and pool maths resources.”

Another partner of this initiative is unionlearn; their Union Development Manager, Judith Swift, said, “Unionlearn are really excited to be a part of the Maths4us initiative. We understand the negative impact that a lack of confidence with numbers has on people's lives. We do also know that many adults are better at maths than they think - we are dealing with numbers all the time and it's when we hit a problem that confidence goes. We believe that this initiative can bring about a positive change in culture and enable thousands of adults and their families and communities to take more control of their lives through a ‘Can Do’ attitude to maths. We are aiming to equip our army of union learning reps with the tools and confidence to make a big difference.”

For further information please contact:

Ed Melia, NIACE Head of Media, on 0116 204 4248 or 07795 358 870 or

Marie Koupparis, NIACE Communications Officer, on 0116 204 4270 or 07824 481 499 or

Notes to Editors

  1. Funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Maths4us initiative is being led by NIACE and a number of key partner organisations across the public and private sector, including: Association for Learning Technology (ALT); BBC Learning; Booktrust; Campaign for Learning; Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD); Confederation of British Industry (CBI); Horizon; Institute of Education (IoE); Institute for Learning (IfL); Jisc/Jisc Advance; Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS); Learning Unlimited; National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM); National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI); National Numeracy; National Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy (NRDC); The Open University; Transport for London (TfL); UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES); Online Centres Foundation; unionlearn; The University of Nottingham; and Workbase. For more information on this initiative, please go to
  2. Online Centres Foundation (OCF) is a staff owned mutual with a mission to support digitally and socially excluded people at scale, by translating national strategies into social action at the most local level. This is achieved via a network of 5,000 hyper-local UK online centres, based in some of the most deprived communities in the country. Find out more at
  3. Unionlearn is the learning and skills organisation of the TUC. Unionlearn works to assist unions in the delivery of learning opportunities for their members as well as managing the £15 million Union Learning Fund (ULF). Over the past 12 years, more than 28,000 union learning representatives (ULRs) have been trained and 230,000 people are being given training and learning opportunities through their union every year.
  4. The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) is an independent charity which promotes adult learning across England and Wales. Through its research, development, publications, events, outreach and advocacy activity, NIACE works to improve the quality and breadth of opportunities available for all adults so they can benefit from learning throughout their lives.