Getting on with numbers in the workplace

Maths anxiety is a big issue in the UK and something that is especially prevalent in the workplace. Research by National Numeracy in 2019 found that a quarter of people would be put off applying for a job if it listed “using numbers and data” as a requirement.  

Getting on with numbers in the workplace

Lots of people have very negative associations of maths. Many feel anxious, stressed or nervous when faced with numbers. Others believe they are simply not a maths person and that they cannot improve their skills. 

This belief that they cannot improve, also known as a fixed mindset, plays a big part in this and it is understandable that people who might benefit from improving their numeracy skills avoid it altogether while others give up part way through a course or lose confidence.  

Often people argue that they do not use maths in their role, as they associate maths with algebra or trigonometry and all the things they learned at school which they say they never use.  However, it is easy to forget that we use numbers every day. We need numeracy to solve problems and make sense of data and statistics, we need it to manage our time, for activities like cooking, reading instructions and even playing sport. Another important benefit is that having good number skills helps you understand how to manage your money better and avoid debt in future by budgeting.  

The ongoing Covid-19 crisis makes getting into work, doing your job and managing home finances more important than ever. As many people need support at this challenging time to help get a job, change roles or simply get ahead with their careers, skills development will play a vital role in the road to recovery, but some people see the word “maths” and freeze. 

5 tips to help you improve your confidence and skills during Maths Work Out Week 

Practise for just 10 minutes a day - Unionlearn is running Maths Workout Week during their Autumn Festival of Learning from 12-16 October and encouraging everyone to take a moment to update their everyday maths skills. By registering on the National Numeracy Challenge and practising for just 10 minutes a day, you could see an improvement in not only your skills, but your confidence. With tailored learning resources and a personalised approach, you can take a step forward not only in your personal life but also see the value of numeracy for your career.  

Know your level - Once you’ve done some learning you might find it handy to know your current level. The National Numeracy Challenge can benchmark your current skills and tell you what your strengths and weaknesses are. This can prove really helpful if you are considering upskilling to get on at work or even to prepare yourself to take a new career path. You can find out more about levels HERE

Work through the learning resources - Once you know your level, work through the learning resources to help you improve. The resources are based on the questions you answered incorrectly, targeting your learning to areas of weakness. 

Keep going - Maths is like learning to drive. It might be hard to start with, you might not pass the first test you take, but bumps in the road are all part of the learning process. It’s all about persistence. 

Gain the Essentials of Numeracy - Scoring 80 points or more on the Challenge is broadly equivalent to adult Level 2 numeracy and you can feel confident that your skills are about right if you want to use numeracy as a stepping stone for your future. 

Call to action: Take the National Numeracy Challenge  

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Rachel Adams

Rachel is the Project Support Assistant at National Numeracy, an independent charity established in 2012 to help raise low levels of numeracy among both adults and children and to promote the importance of everyday maths skills.