Maths anxiety holding back millions

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  • New research released today to mark the launch of the UK’s first ever National Numeracy Day has shown that anxiety around numeracy and maths could be holding back millions of people from getting on at work or getting a better deal on their personal finances.

    The charity behind National Numeracy Day, National Numeracy, along with the campaign’s founding supporter KPMG, are hoping the event will raise awareness of the many benefits of good numeracy and help people to feel more confident in improving their skills.

    The research carried out online by YouGov on behalf of National Numeracy, surveyed over 11,000 people and revealed that more than a third (39%) of adults in Northern Ireland adults have struggled with everyday tasks involving numeracy, whilst 40% have found these tasks to be stressful due to the maths involved.

    The tasks they struggled with most included calculating exchange rates on foreign currency (19%), working out how an annual percentage change affects the payment due on a loan or credit card repayment (16%) and working out the return on the odds for a bet/ sporting (12%).

    Martin Lewis, Founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, is an official ambassador for National Numeracy and comments: “Good functional maths is the sword in our consumer protection armour. Yet sadly most people couldn’t work out the monthly repayments on a £5,000 personal loan at 10% interest over five years. There’s a core reason why Brits were ripped off by nearly £30billion with PPI mis-selling, whilst lenders relied on people not to notice repayments were £20ish a month higher than they should’ve been. This is why I support National Numeracy Day. Numbers impact our daily lives. I’d love people to let go of their fear, and try to improve their skills using National Numeracy’s online assessment tool so that their maths makes life easier”.

    Despite admitting to struggling with everyday numeracy tasks, the majority of people don’t identify themselves as being poor at maths. In fact, many of us may be overestimating our numeracy skills, with 67% of those surveyed in Northern Ireland rating their numeracy as good or excellent – in contrast to a recent National Numeracy report which suggests that at least 18.5m working-age adults have poor or low numeracy levels.

    Mike Ellicock, Chief Executive of National Numeracy, says: “We know from experience that attitudes have a huge role to play in holding people back from improving their numeracy skills, with many people telling us they are just not ‘numbers people’ or that they don’t believe they need to improve. However, we believe that many of us are just getting by when we could be getting ahead: earning more, saving more and doing the things we love better. Simply by getting a better grip on our numbers.”

    When it comes to attitudes to improving numeracy, just over a third (37%) of people surveyed in Northern Ireland said they would like to improve – and for those that said they didn’t, it was because almost two thirds (65%) didn’t think they needed to and 27% didn’t see how it would benefit them. But the benefits of good numeracy are clear; not just for those looking to get a better deal on personal finances, but also for those hoping to get on at work. 

    The survey showed that almost a quarter (23%) of people in Northern Ireland admitted to making a mistake with numbers at work, while 9%[1] have felt stressed due to the maths involved in our jobs. Just 1% of workers say they have been given training and support by their employer to improve their numeracy.

    The inaugural National Numeracy Day is aiming to help thousands of people to take action to improve their number skills over the next year, starting by checking their current numeracy level using the free online assessment tool and if needed, using the free resources to help them gain greater skills and confidence with numbers.

    National Numeracy Day is being run by UK charity National Numeracy and KPMG, with support from Cisco, Columbia Threadneedle Investments, Experian, Education Scotland & the Scottish Government, First Trust Bank, Health Education England (NHS), M&G Investments, Ns&I, Provident Financial Group, NatWest, TP ICAP, Ufi Charitable Trust and Virgin Money.

    For more information or to get involved today visit, www.numeracyday.com.

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