Workplace maths challenge aims to boost numeracy

 
Calculator National Numeracy wants employers to help staff improve their maths skills

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Employers are being asked to help workers boost their numeracy skills amid fears that poor maths is blighting Britain's economic performance.

The charity, National Numeracy, plans to reach a million adults over a five-year period, starting in the workplace.

Government figures show 17 million working age people in England have only primary school level maths skills.

Chris Humphries of National Numeracy said action was "urgently needed if the UK is not to sink further behind".

The campaigners say they want to raise the skills of all employees to at least the standard expected of 14-year-olds though some firms may decide that the equivalent of a good GCSE might be a better target.

'Radical move'

Mr Humphreys said: "All employers know what a massive problem we have with numeracy in this country.

"We are asking them and their employees to commit time and effort to doing something about it. This is a radical move... poor numeracy is a blight on an individual's life chances and we believe that employees will be as keen as their employers to improve their skills."

The charity was set up in March to combat the UK's low levels of numeracy and negative attitudes to maths. It highlighted government figures showing that more than eight million adults had only the skills expected of seven to nine-year-olds or younger.

From next spring employers will be asked to sign up to the National Numeracy Challenge. The charity is working on developing a cheap, online tool to give each employee a personal numeracy diagnosis.

A spokeswoman for National Numeracy said she expected the test to cost no more than a couple of pounds for each employee. She added that the bigger challenge would be to persuade some smaller firms to give their staff time off to take maths courses: "Some get it, some don't."

'Economic necessity'

She pointed out that a more numerate workforce was in the interests of both workers and bosses and should not be related to performance review.

The scheme has drawn support from both business organisations and unions with the Confederation of British Industry, Unionlearn, and Business in the Community all involved in its development.

Speaking at the launch of the scheme shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said it was crucial that employers signed up: "I know many businesses are already doing so, it is important that we all - employers, trade unions, government and individual adults take the responsibility to meet this challenge.

"Poor numeracy isn't just a moral imperative, it is an economic necessity."

Dr Susan Pember, an official with the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, called the launch a timely initiative and said it was vital to get to adults in the workplace who often did not realise how poor their numeracy skills were.

National Numeracy plans ultimately to extend the scheme to improve maths standards among people not in employment or education.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 371.

    Laughingdevil - assuming someone starts work at, say, 18, and assuming they start school at 5, that means they started school in 1999. That's Tony's years and the maths works right up to 20/21.

    Your maths assumes kids start school at birth.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 370.

    The problem which many don't understand, is that from primary school to secondary school - There is a lack of mental arithmetic taught in Schools. It is almost left out of specifications, and having just done my GCSEs, I hardly had to used mental arithmetic to answer the questions. Mental arithmetic needs to be continued from primary school level to secondary school level.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 369.

    Perhaps if governments stopped using our education system as a political football and allowed teachers to get on with doing what they`re trained to do perhaps we wouldn`t be having this conversation.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 368.

    Lol @ 365 "Apparently only 15% of employees have good maths skills, 80% are adequate and a stunning 25% are poor."

    Indeed. I agree with you 120% ;-)

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 367.

    I wonder how many of those baying for calculators to be banned from school practice what they preach and ban gadgets from their own homes?

    Na, I bet none have & still use washing machines, tumble driers et al......hippocracy at it's worst......

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 366.

    Lack of numerical skills multiplying, a divided society between numerate and non-numerate, problems with maths subtracting from workplace efficiency - it all adds up.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 365.

    Apparently only 15% of employees have good maths skills, 80% are adequate and a stunning 25% are poor.
    I think the facts speak for themselves.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 364.

    Thought that was the job of schools and parents!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 363.

    Here's a very good example. Manganese Bronze, the maker of London's black cabs, has called in administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers after failing to secure new funding. For the first six months of 2012, Manganese Bronze recorded an operating loss of £3.1m on revenues of £34.3m. Then in August, it discovered an accounting error had caused it to understate past losses by a total £4.25m.
    Oh dear!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 362.

    345. Ointment
    37 MINUTES AGO

    Actually we're not "competitive" because our workers have rights and our standard of living is high - both of which are actually good things. Long live uncompetitiveness!

    We're not competitive with Germany whose workers have more rights and whose standard of living is higher. Yours, Fly.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 361.

    In the armed forces I was required to do complex velocity equations. It was something that I had to practice, but the computer did it for me the whole 22 years. I was required to know how to do it in the event of a computer failure in the midst of action. The truth is that the tools we use today are not likely to fail beyond a few hours and you either want machines to do it for us or not?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 360.

    #358 & #359
    Music to my ears! And I thought I was beating a lone "it's not all Tonys fault" drum! It does illustrate the problem though. Many people on here obviously have failed to grasp the basic maths that 2012-1997 =15!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 359.

    Most comments are linking this story with the current education system. Literacy rates have actually risen dramatically over the last few decades. Most of the 17m quoted in the article are 40+ in age & slipped through the system in the 60s, 70s & 80s. Many left early & have been functionally illiterate ever since. Today's system isn't perfect but the golden age of education in the 60s is a myth.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 358.

    It appears comprehension is a weakness as well. The article is clearly talking about poor Numeracy skills across the workforce, rather than simply young adults who have recently left school. However, this point seems to have been missed by many posters who have an axe to grind.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 357.

    I work as an accountant and obviously a good grasp of numeracy is absolutely essential to my job. Needless to say a lot of the number crunching is done on spreadsheets etc However things can go wrong and I am regularly surprised by the extent to which people can't identify even simple errors due to a lack of basic skills. I dread to think how much businesses are losing in this way every year.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 356.

    #352 you are wasting your time, people like #350 cannot accept that generations after them may be smarter than they were at the same age, plus they have their rose tinted glasses on looking back to the days when all was "well". Each generation should be smarter than the last, if it's not then there IS somthing very wrong with our education system!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 355.

    354. stanilic

    'Why not let them get on with the job ...?

    Because politicians need to control education and you can't do that if the public think teachers are o.k. All politicians are the same but Gove is the worst foryears. Blogs like this should be compulsory reading:

    http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2012/09/professor-robin-alexanders-devastating-critique-on-goves-curriculum-reforms/

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 354.

    Mathematics, arithmetic, grammar, geography and history are all areas of weakness in British education.

    The simple truth is that we spend billions a year on a state education system that ultimately is entirely dependent upon the quality of its teachers. Why not let them get on with the job and ignore the policy wonks and bureaucrats who only waste money.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 353.

    Keeping short-cut tendency of getting education and training the students now try to prepare themselves for fast earning entering into professional activities in most of which knowledge of various subjects including mathematics is very essential, otherwise, their flight height remains limited and as a result they are rejected from the work they are in.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 352.

    350. The Bloke

    'I beg to differ. People who were at school during the war and the 50's are generally better at spelling and figures ...'

    Might I tentatively suggest that that's because they've had some sixty or more years since leaving schools to develop those skills in practical contexts. Might just be a factor don't you think.

 

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