How to Develop Your Numeracy Skills: Tips & Examples

Being a math whizz can open many doors for you.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Numeracy Skills

In a world dominated by numbers, from budgets and bills to measurements and statistics, numeracy skills are more crucial than ever.

Whether you’re a student, a professional or just navigating daily life, honing your numeracy skills can empower you to make informed decisions and solve real-world problems.

In this article, we’ll explore what numeracy skills entail, provide examples, delve into their significance, and offer practical tips to enhance these skills.

What are numeracy skills?

Numeracy is a key life skill. If you think about the key knowledge and skill that a young child builds in the classroom, literacy and numeracy will be top of the list. Yet many of us will leave school and never give numeracy skills a second thought.

Numeracy skills go beyond simple arithmetic; they encompass a range of abilities that enable individuals to understand and work with numbers effectively. These skills involve interpreting, analyzing, and using numerical information in various contexts.

From basic arithmetic operations, like addition, subtraction and multiplication, to advanced problem-solving that tackles real-world problems, numeracy skills are the building blocks for success in daily life, as well as being an in-demand employability skill.

Examples of numeracy skills

Examples of numeracy skills include:

  • Basic mathematics: Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division form the foundation of numeracy skills, allowing individuals to perform calculations effortlessly in everyday life.
  • Budgeting: Managing finances requires numeracy skills to create budgets, track expenses and make informed financial decisions.
  • Spreadsheets: Organizing data, creating formulas and generating charts within spreadsheet programs like Microsoft Excel is a skill that can be applied in a wide range of contexts.
  • Measurement: Whether it’s cooking, construction or DIY projects, understanding and using measurements accurately are essential numeracy skills.
  • Data analysis: Interpreting and drawing conclusions from data sets is a critical skill in various fields, including business, science and social sciences.
  • Time management: Planning schedules, setting deadlines, and managing time effectively involve numeracy skills to ensure tasks are completed efficiently.
  • Probability: Assessing the likelihood of events occurring is crucial in decision-making and risk analysis.
  • Percentages: Understanding percentages is essential for calculating discounts, interest rates and analyzing data trends.
  • Geometry: Applying geometric concepts helps in solving real-world problems related to shapes, angles and spatial relationships.
  • Critical thinking: Numeracy skills also encompass the ability to think critically about numerical information, identify patterns, and make reasoned judgments.

The importance of numeracy skills

Numeracy skills are not confined to math classes; they are indispensable in everyday life and play a pivotal role in academic and career success.

Strong numeracy skills foster a deeper understanding of the world, enhance decision-making and empower individuals to tackle complex problems. In the professional realm, numeracy skills are highly sought after, with employers valuing candidates who can navigate data, make informed decisions and contribute to the success of their organizations.

How to develop your numeracy skills

You may think you have poor numeracy skills, but the good news is that numeracy knowledge and skills can be developed and improved at any age.

Unlocking the full potential of numeracy skills involves a blend of practice, engagement and real-world application. Here are five practical tips to guide you on your journey to developing and enhancing your numeracy skills:

1. Practice every day

Integrate numeracy into your daily life. From calculating expenses to measuring ingredients, consistent practice in real-life scenarios sharpens your skills and makes numbers a familiar ally, rather than something to be avoided.

Next time you reach for the calculator to solve a basic math problem, try working it out in your head instead. The more you do this, the easier it will become.

2. Bring numeracy into your work

If you’re someone who usually avoids numerical challenges at work, then it’s time to mix things up.

You could get involved in budgeting activities for your department or team, use charts and graphs to visualize numerical information for a report you’re writing, or you could even analyze data related to your industry and present recommendations to your boss.

3. Utilize spreadsheets

Familiarize yourself with spreadsheet tools like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. Learning to organize data, create formulas and generate charts not only enhances numeracy skills but also boosts your proficiency in handling complex numerical information.

4. Invest in learning

Undertake further study to strengthen your numeracy skills, particularly in areas that will enhance your professional skills. There are several Microsoft Excel courses available through online platforms like Coursera or Udemy.

Data analytics is also an immensely popular choice for lifelong learners and can be undertaken as a short course, right through to master’s degree level.

5. Apply numeracy in hobbies

Infuse mathematical concepts into your hobbies and interests. Whether it’s sudoku, gaming through apps like Duolingo Math, gardening or crafting, find ways to incorporate numerical elements.

This not only makes learning enjoyable but also demonstrates the versatility of numeracy in diverse contexts.

10 jobs that require numeracy skills

In today’s dynamic and data-driven world, numeracy skills have become a cornerstone in various professions, transcending traditional boundaries. From finance to healthcare, the ability to understand and manipulate numbers is indispensable and not just the domain of those with a math degree.

Here’s a list of 10 jobs where numeracy skills play a pivotal role, some of which may be unexpected.

1. Accountant

Accountancy has long been synonymous with strong numeracy skills. While accountants are traditionally known for managing financial records, preparing balance sheets and cash flow statements, and ensuring compliance with financial regulations, there is more to this career than meets the eye.

Accountants will often provide advice on areas of business improvement, mergers and acquisitions, and even insolvency. If you have an aptitude for numbers and business, then accountancy may be the career for you.

2. Civil engineer

In civil engineering, numeracy is essential for designing structures, analyzing data related to construction projects, and ensuring that plans meet safety and regulatory standards. Precision in calculations is crucial for the successful execution of engineering projects.

3. Data scientist

Data scientists rely on numeracy skills to analyze vast datasets, uncover patterns, and derive meaningful insights to solve complex business and real-world problems. From developing algorithms to interpreting statistical models, numeracy is the key to unlocking the potential within data.

Data science is a discipline that is growing in demand with data analysts being employed across a wide range of sectors from finance to healthcare and technology to the not-for-profit sector.

4. Pharmacist

Numeracy is vital in pharmacy for accurate dosage calculations, compounding medications and ensuring patient safety. Pharmacists use numerical precision to dispense medications and provide dosage instructions tailored to individual patient needs.

5. Market research analyst

Numeracy plays a significant role in market research. Analysts use statistical methods to interpret survey data, analyze market trends and forecast consumer behavior. Numerical literacy is crucial for making strategic recommendations to businesses.

6. Computer programmer

Computer programmers apply numeracy skills in coding and algorithm development. They use mathematical logic to design efficient and effective software solutions, ensuring that computer programs function accurately and meet specified requirements.

7. Biostatistician

In the field of healthcare, biostatisticians use numeracy skills to analyze health-related data. They design experiments, interpret results and contribute to scientific research, playing a crucial role in advancing medical knowledge and improving patient outcomes.

8. Actuary

Actuaries assess financial risks using numeracy skills. They analyze data, create mathematical models and calculate probabilities to help businesses and insurance companies make informed decisions about financial planning and risk management.

9. Financial analyst

Financial analysts assess financial data, trends and investment opportunities to help businesses and high net worth clients make informed investment decisions. They work for investment banks, asset management firms, hedge funds and other financial institutions.

Their work is crucial in helping investors make sound financial decisions and manage their portfolios effectively.

10. Astronomer

In astronomy, numeracy is essential for data analysis, celestial calculations and the interpretation of astronomical phenomena. Astronomers use mathematical models to make predictions, analyze observations and contribute to our understanding of the universe.

Final thoughts

In a world driven by data and numbers, numeracy skills are not just beneficial but essential for personal and professional success. From making informed financial decisions to excelling in the workplace, the ability to understand and work with numbers is a valuable asset.

By embracing opportunities to practice, seeking out resources for improvement and further study, and actively applying numeracy in work and real-life situations, individuals can unlock the full potential of these critical skills. So, let’s not shy away from the world of numbers; instead, let’s embrace it and empower ourselves for a more numerate and informed future.

Originally published on June 15, 2015.