Our guide to numeracy
Jade O'Donoghue

Our guide to numeracy

First published date July 17 2015 Amended date July 17 2015

Remember your maths lessons in school? Being slightly confused as to why you had to learn that A was equal to B if you took away C? And then leaving school and forgetting it all? It's a common story and an understandable one since a lot of the detail maths lessons can go into seems irrelevant to everyday life.

It's not though. Maths is everywhere, from the percentage-off codes you use to get discounts on your restaurant bill to working out how much flour to put in that cake you're making. Not to mention the number of jobs that require basic maths skills.

If you feel like you're falling behind when it comes to your knowledge of numbers, you're not alone. According to a recent YouGov poll, over a third of people need maths in their jobs and yet one in five people need to use a calculator to do basic sums. For anyone who needs to brush up their maths skills and get to grips with all things addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, a numeracy course could be just the thing.


Maths courses vs numeracy

It may seem a bit confusing seeing both numeracy and maths advertised and since numeracy is just a part of maths (like biology is a part of science), that involves simply numbers and none of the things like algebra and graphs that you would have also looked at in your school days, the whole thing can be a bit mind boggling.

If you're after a course that will help you brush up your numbers skills, helping you with things like budgeting and doing sums without a calculator, then numeracy is the subject to go for. Sometimes under the guise of 'basic maths' or 'functional maths' this is every day maths at its simplest - no Pythagoras here.

However, if you need a specific level of maths knowledge, whether for work or to get onto another course, then you'll probably find numeracy doesn't quite cover all that you need to know. Numeracy is more about giving you an overview of the basics and ensuring you're not relying on a calculator for things you could do in your head.


Mastering maths – the benefits

There are several obvious benefits of being able to do basic maths, from making your life easier in the supermarket to ensuring you don't get ripped off buying that new car. Maths is everywhere in our lives and numeracy is something everyone should have knowledge of.

It can also be very beneficial to have completed a numeracy course if you're looking for a job. It might not be that you want to be an accountant but a surprising number of jobs need basic maths skills and many employers even set maths tests as part of the interview process. Without any proof on your CV that you’re adept with numbers, you could be missing out.

Numeracy is also a good thing to master if you plan to take more courses, whether you're aiming for an NVQ, a degree or a PhD, most courses will expect you to be able to do basic calculations without a calculator.


Doing it online

One of the greatest things about numeracy is that it's easy to do online. Since it's about numbers and equations, there are no physical or practical aspects to the course – it's all theory. This means you can fit learning into your daily routine and never have to leave your house for a class.

The downside is a lack of interaction. Many numeracy or basic maths courses that you can do online don't involve a hands-on teacher and thus there won't be anyone there to explain when you get stuck. If this is how you learn best then perhaps classroom based lessons are more suitable. It is worth checking though because some online course providers will offer Skype lessons and the like with real teachers.


Qualifications – it all adds up

Most numeracy courses don't come with recognised qualifications because they're quite basic in their level. Instead, you're likely to get a certificate of completion at the end.

If you find you've caught the bug though there are plenty of options to take maths further. You might like to do a GCSE next which will encompass a lot more and then perhaps progress to an AS Level or A Level. It's even possible to do maths as a degree. Numeracy really could be just the start.


A number of facts…

- 7 is most people's favourite number

- 4 is often considered unlucky in China

- But in Western culture, it's 13

- The number 666 is often associated with the devil. Fear of this number is called hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia

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