Good maths skills are essential to our lives and careers, and everyone can be a numbers person

Rachel Riley
Television Presenter Rachel Riley Promotes Healthy Living
Rachel Riley is supporting the UK's first ever National Numeracy Day (Source: Getty)

As a mathematician who deals with numbers every day, it’s probably not surprising that I believe good numeracy skills are critical for all of us to get on well in life, and in our careers.

But you don’t just have to take my word for it, there’s a huge amount of evidence that shows the better your maths and numeracy levels, the more likely you are to have a job, and the better that job is likely to be.

Back in 2013, the government did some research and found that the top 15 per cent of maths scorers at age 10 were earning on average £2,100 more per year by the time they were 30, whereas people with poor levels of numeracy were more than twice as likely to be unemployed.

Read more: National Numeracy Day is needed to help improve the UK's maths skills

This is just one of the reasons why I’m so pleased to be supporting the UK’s first ever National Numeracy Day today, run by the charity National Numeracy and founder supporters KPMG.

There are too many adults in the UK with numeracy levels well below where they should be, and it doesn’t have to be this way. We know that a lot of the struggle with maths is a confidence issue, and it’s a vicious circle: you get told you’re not a numbers person, you believe it, you lose confidence, you don’t do as well as you’d like, and the circle continues.

But it is possible to change this. The important thing is not to give up trying – it’s never too late to brush up on your maths skills. The more you practise, the better you’ll get, the more confident you’ll grow, and this positive circle will get you more and more numerate in no time.

There’s loads of practical help available to improve and regain your confidence in dealing with numbers, and I hope that National Numeracy Day will encourage more people to think about how they can start their journey towards improving their numeracy skills. Here are a few thoughts and tips from me to get you started.

We all have a maths brain

We all have the mental machinery needed to succeed with numbers. Research shows that your brain grows new connections as you learn – so even if you had poor experiences of maths at school, you can move forward with numeracy now.

Taking control of numbers is a great boost to self-confidence, and numeracy should be part of everybody’s toolkit.

Take your time

A lot of people are put off maths by methods that seem arbitrary – “just divide this by that”, or “put the numbers into this formula”.

All of us (including professional mathematicians) learn and remember best when approaches make sense. Take the time to talk about maths, and figure out why things work.

Take control

Like anything else, strengthening your numeracy is going to take a little time and effort. Take your first step by checking out your real-life numeracy skills for free, using National Numeracy’s website

The site is easy to use, and will tell you how your numeracy is now and which areas you need to work on.

  • National Numeracy Day aims to help thousands of people to improve their numeracy. Anyone interested in testing out and improving their skills should visit

Read more: Is Diane Abbott better or worse at maths than the average British kid?

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