Making maths add up for learners

The team of Usdaw learning reps at DHL Castleford have run a National Numeracy pilot that helped one of their less confident learners.

Sean and Amy from Usdaw

When Usdaw learning rep Sean Dixon heard that National Numeracy wanted to investigate how learners develop in a union-supported work environment, he jumped at the chance to bring the pilot to the DHL Castleford learning centre, where he is ULR coordinator.

Sean said:

National Numeracy had developed a unique attitudinal approach to numeracy, which focused on helping people to feel more confident with everyday maths and overcome their anxieties.”

I was trained in this approach and then returned to the workplace to support colleagues, through learning online with the National Numeracy Challenge.”

There was one union member at Castleford that Sean was particularly keen to convince to join in – Amy Westmoreland, someone he knew felt anxious in large groups of learners.

Sean said:

I really wanted Amy to take part: it would be a good test for the National Numeracy Challenge (NNC) approach and could help Amy get all the benefits of our centre – a setting where she had felt uncomfortable.”

Amy traces her discomfort all the way back to school, as she explained:

I was never good in a school environment: I found learning with a lot of people around very difficult – still do.”

Convinced by Sean to take part in the pilot project, Amy wasn’t happy with her initial assessment, which she didn’t enjoy taking in the learning centre at the same time as other people. So she tried again by herself at home, where she fared 20 points better.

Boosted by that, Amy gritted her teeth and continued with the pilot in the learning centre. She could feel her confidence grow as she persisted to successfully complete the course.

Amy said:

It’s not just about the maths itself – it’s about being able to achieve something for yourself.”

Not long after, the ULR team heard about another pilot they thought Amy might enjoy more – the online functional skills project UpSkill Me.

Sean said: “Amy had spoken to me before about getting anxious in a classroom setting, so I knew when an online or distance learning course became available, she would be comfortable taking it on.”

Completing the maths course, which was delivered on a tablet in seven online units, was a challenge for Amy’s anxiety levels. Unable to relax on the day of the final assessment, she had to leave 20 minutes before the end of her allotted time – but she still passed and gained her Maths Level 2.

Amy said:

I honestly didn’t think I’d picked up as much information as I did, so was really surprised to pass.”

I now feel I have improved my confidence with doing the learning. It’s given me a chance to carry on improving and I would be interested in further courses, still preferring distance learning or courses I can do on my own.”

This story first appeared in the Winter 2019 Learning Rep