Don't Let "Mathsiety" Stop You This New Year

New Year’s Resolutions are not always simply about weight loss or quitting smoking, and every year millions of adults look to improve skills they feel are sorely lacking. If you are one of those who are worrying about their maths skills, then you are not alone, as a new study has shown that millions of British adults CAN’T answer maths GCSE papers sat by 15 year olds.

Researchers assessing Britain’s ability with numbers discovered the tests youngsters take before potentially leaving full-time education BAFFLE intelligent adults.When tasked with answering sample GCSE maths questions, on average 40 per cent of parents answered incorrectly. Upon having their everyday maths skills put to the test, a staggering nine in 10 adults ‘struggled’.

The survey of 2,000 UK adults was commissioned by Your Life, which aims to show how studying maths and physics can improve career opportunities. Your Life is dubbing the phenomenon ‘mathsiety’ with a shocking 18 per cent of Brits avoiding maths of any kind — due to lack of confidence.

Edwina Dunn, Your Life Campaign Chair and Tesco Clubcard founder, said: “Our absence of self-belief when it comes to maths skills is very worrying. As a nation, there are huge challenges ahead in order to improve standards – especially as employers are increasingly looking for people with mathematical prowess.”

Four in five of those surveyed said they rely on a calculator when doing sums, and six in ten regret not making more effort to improve their maths skills while still at school. In fact, around 60 per cent of parents struggle when helping their children with their maths homework.

A quarter of respondents admitted they have trouble counting their change to see if they have received correct amount, while seven in 10 people have difficulty working out a budget and three quarters find it hard converting different measurement units. Around 70 per cent wouldn’t know how to figure out if they have been taxed properly on their payslip.

Despite six in ten Brits saying they consider themselves to have a good standard of maths skills only 23 per cent felt they were better at maths than youngsters sitting their GCSEs. And although nine in 10 respondents agreed that having everyday maths skills is important, just 15 per cent said described their abilities as very good.

Edwina Dunn said: “It seems to be hardwired into our culture, we would never admit to being illiterate, so why do we seem to be happy to shrug our shoulders when it comes to numbers. It is a collective challenge for us as a nation to shake off this attitude and particularly for the next generation whom are sitting exams in the next few weeks.”

As part of its mission to tackle ‘mathsiety’ Your Life has produced top tips to help everyone boost their maths skills this New Year.

1) Have a bash at maths puzzles:

It can be a coffee break suduko or a poolside puzzle book this summer. Start to challenge yourself with the newspaper brainteasers. Make your journey and waiting times more productive by fitting in a few minutes play. There are also many maths apps and online resources. Doing this regularly will improve your maths skills and it’s addictive fun.

2) Play card games with the children:

Another rainy day? Play some simple family card games. Maths games can start as simple as adding the numbers of two randomly dealt cards and the highest number wins. This can then extend to subtraction, multiplication, division and even combinations of these with 3 cards. In typical holiday standard, by the time the good weather comes around again, you will all be brilliant at mental arithmetic.

3) Estimate your shopping bills:

Have you ever got to the till in a supermarket and being shocked at the bill? Here is a way to improve your maths skills, save money and maybe even be more healthy! Get in the habit of estimating shopping bills before you go to the register. If you realise you have overspent, you can always return that extra bottle of red wine and the gourmet cheese board. The better you get at mental arithmetic the less surprises at the till. And maybe even a healthier lifestyle.

4) Times and distances:

You probably do this all the time without realising it. The bus takes 55 minutes to the centre and then it’s a 10 minute walk to that bar? How much time do I have to do my hair? If I drive at 60km per hour and the journey is usually two and a half hours, how far is Milton Keynes anyway? Challenge yourself by making the questions harder and until you are working them out on paper.

5) Spot the maths:

A lot of maths is about recognising patterns. Try to see the shapes or combination of shapes around you. Triangles, cones, cylinders and circles may bring back memories of fumbling with equations but you can begin to think about these concepts without an equation in sight. Compare the space shapes fill up or the volume of different shaped containers. Why is it that a saucepan only a few cm wider can fit almost twice the amount of water for pasta? What is that relationship again? Try working out how boxes or containers will look if opened out. This is actually a whole field of complex mathematics you can attempt with nothing more than a cornflakes box.

6) Be positive:

Stop saying things like ‘I hated maths in school’ or ‘I can’t do maths’. This negativity will ruin your confidence and much of maths is about persistence. You need the resilience to keep trying and if you tell yourself you are no good you won’t make the effort. Start with some easy maths you understand. The starting level doesn’t matter, as you build skill, understanding and confidence, you move forward through more difficult levels. Don’t be afraid of the challenge.

7) Do a little every day.

Don’t wait around with maths, it’s not a spectator sport! More than most other subjects, you have to be active, doing, solving, making connections, learning. It’s the only way to build skill and understanding. You just need to make a start and then create a fun daily routine.

8) Working together

When it comes to solving maths problems it helps to work together. Whether it’s a young mum group or Dads and daughters at the local community group, others can help clarify a troubling problem by approaching it differently, saving you time and frustration.

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