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Carol Vorderman, one of Britain’s most popular maths stars and committed educationalists, shares her views with QA Education on the problem of adult maths skills falling short in the workplace and reflects on the importance of engaging children and families with numbers as early as possible…
Maths is the only universal language.
Without it the world stops. It just stops. No running water, no vehicles, no bikes, no agriculture, no computers, no factories, no products of factories, no phones, no roads, no communications. If you cannot have a way of saying “more than one”, then everything just stops. Our entire world is based upon it.
17 million adults in England – that’s half of the working-age population - have everyday maths skills roughly equivalent to those expected of a primary school child.
While I was shocked to read this in the recent Essentials of Numeracy report, a large part of me was also unsurprised. You rarely hear the words “I can’t do reading”, and yet “I can’t do maths” echoes across workplaces, homes and classrooms throughout the UK.
Research released on National Numeracy Day found that more than a third (37%) of us have felt stressed about everyday tasks involving numeracy, though, fewer than four in 10 (35%) of those people surveyed would like to improve, with many saying they don’t know why they need to or they can’t see the benefits.
If we want to build confidence in maths among adults and herald ourselves as a numerically literate society, we have to instil a lifelong love of numbers in our children from an early age. And the key is that it’s so easy to learn.
I believe that almost all of those who think they aren’t good at numbers have just been taught badly, and then never encouraged.I know good teaching changes it all because I do it every day with thousands of children who are struggling who a matter of weeks later are so confident with their numbers that they are top of the class. It’s easy. And it’s rewarding and empowering. When you are “good at maths”, you have the world at your feet
Early years settings and schools obviously have a crucial part to play here, but as a mother of two, I also understand how passionately parents feel about supporting their children’s education, as they juggle the pressures of family life and try to support their child’s learning when they might not feel confident in their own maths skills and knowledge.
In 2010, I set up The Maths Factor, an online maths tutoring site that is dedicated to ensuring that children, and their parents, can learn maths in the simplest way possible and develop a lifelong love of numbers as well as newfound confidence. We take strugglers and we turn them into champions in a very short space of time.
One parent, JLJ, said, “My 9-year-old son had always struggled with maths which had a huge impact on his confidence in school and at home when doing homework. So earlier this year I signed him up for Maths Factor and wow what a difference! He achieved his Year 4 maths target, started to answer more questions in maths lessons and learnt his times tables with ease. Maths became interesting and fun.”
At the heart of The Maths Factor is the aim to make maths fun, with lively tutorials, followed by warm-up tasks and practice. There’s also a Parent Zone, so parents and carers can monitor their children’s progress, and access tips on how they can best support their learning.
The sooner that nurseries, schools, parents, carers, employers and influencers unite in celebrating numeracy and highlighting the wonder of numbers, the sooner we will have a STEM-rich society filled with confident and talented lifelong learners.
The best educators keep as many doors of opportunity open for their children as possible. Education is the greatest gift we have to give. Maths is so powerful it changes their lives, their possibilities, their careers, their progress, their hopes and their adventures. When it comes to maths, children should be able to do it with a smile, learn it and shout from the rooftops, “I can do this!”
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