A recent study carried out for National Numeracy charity by Pro Bono Economics, has found that millions of adults in the UK have little or no maths skills. What also became evident is that the lack of maths skills is costing the UK tax payer billions of pounds every year in lower wages and lost tax revenue.
Maths skills are important
According to the economists, conservative estimates place the cost of poor maths skills at £20.2 billion per year to the British economy. Of course, this does not take into account factors such as the potential cost to the NHS, agriculture or the other non-corporate sectors. If a conservative estimate of the corporate sectors equals £20.2 billion that is a huge cost. It is actually equal to 1.3% of the total British gross domestic product (GDP).
The reason that the cost to the economy is so high is because a lack of basic maths skills prevents many adults from performing tasks necessary for work and everyday life. This in turn leads job positions to either remain unfilled, or be filled by people who do not have adequate math skills. If you have good math skills so many more career opportunities are open to you. They can even be extremely helpful if you want to do something as simple as manage your home budget.
According to Education Minister Elizabeth Truss, “Good maths qualifications have the greatest earnings potential and provide the strongest protection against unemployment." This view is echoed by finance director of Nationwide Mark Rennison who said "We are confronted every day, through the distribution of financial products through our branch network with conversations with people who clearly are not comfortable with numbers. It is almost impossible to ask people to make buying decisions around financial products without resorting to numbers."
Clearly the importance of basic math skills cannot be stressed enough.
Back to School
When your parents and teachers told you math was important it seems that they weren’t lying. But now sadly it seems that most parents are not able to help their children with their maths homework. According to Karen Hancock of Pro Bono Economics, “the finding that almost half the adult population has numeracy no greater than that expected of a child leaving primary school. For a developed country that’s pretty shocking.”
Due to these revelations and the detrimental costs that it is having on the economy the government have decided to try and remedy the situation. “As part of our long term economic plan, we are determined to drive up standards in our schools and give our young people the skills they need to succeed in the global race.” Adults can even take a 20 minute online numeracy test to see how good their math skills are. They are then directed to free online resources to help improve their numeracy skills before retaking the test. They want to get rid of the notion that some people just can’t do maths. If adults can improve their maths skills it may increase their employment prospects, or at least allow them to help their children with their homework.
But the biggest difference is the changes which the government is planning to make to maths lessons at school. It is widely recognised at this point that the standard of maths teaching in British schools is generally quite low. In an effort to make sure that the next generations’ math skills are better, the government is actually planning to fly in maths teachers from Shanghai. China has consistently come up as the best country for teaching maths so they plan to get these Chinese teachers to train British teachers in 30 maths hubs. These maths hubs are essentially schools which have a very good standard of maths and the hope is that the knowledge will trickle down like a waterfall to other schools in the area.
Whether any of these methods will work is questionable. What is pretty clear is that poor math skills are costing the UK economy a substantial amount of money in tax revenue. This is both due to poor performance in work and also in people staying unemployed because of poor numeracy skills. Do you think you have good or bad numeracy skills? Why not take the test and find out?