Given my position and the work I’ve been involved in for many years now, I take research such as the latest piece from National Numeracy with great interest.

The team at National Numeracy commissioned a report into number confidence and social mobility, which discovered that a negative experience with maths in school correlates with lower number confidence and maths attainment in life.

Unfortunately, the bad news just doesn’t end there, as lower number confidence and maths ability can impact negatively on someone’s career, through lower earnings, fewer career options, and reduced likelihood of progression. Additionally, the research also showed that poor numeracy disproportionality affected women, younger people and the unemployed.

Now that’s interesting and a problem. Why?

Well, because these disadvantaged groups are not achieving their true potential in life, which is not good for them, or UK society. Potentially, just because they were less engaged with maths at school.

Also why are women are disproportionately affected? To me that makes no sense. Is there not enough focus and support on counting and numbers in early years schooling for girls? Does the curriculum properly support different learning types, or help slower graspers in the subject early enough in their school careers?

Although my children left school some time ago, a colleague told me a story about how a primary school had asked parents to focus on helping children learn how to tell the time for their SATS exams, because most of the class had never seen or used an analog clock before. It was to them “an alien concept”.

This got me thinking, are we accidentally, in adopting new tech, creating a generation that views numbers as someone else’s job – maybe Alexa’s? If tech tells us the time verbally, tells us how many degrees hot it will be today, and tells us how many miles to get from A to B,why would a child want to engage in learning how to read a clock, a thermometer or a map, when a machine can do that all for them.

Could this be partially to blame for reduced number confidence? A tech enabler for those already struggling to absorb the curriculum – made to make our lives easier – could, in effect, be stifling their engagement in everyday numbers, as why bother when tech can do it for you.

Now I don’t have the answers to these big educational questions, but I can help by sharing what our business does to help numeracy in the UK, in the hope that more companies will also come on board and support numeracy.

Alongside our long-term partnership with National Numeracy, Vanquis Banking Group recently joined forces with Plain Numbers, in an effort to further improve our financial communications to our customers, so that they can engage with us on numbers and not be put off.

As part of our work on numeracy, we’re funding bespoke maths mastery programmes in Bradford, which are helping children in Key Stage 1 and 2 to get where they need to be in maths, so they won’t struggle when they go to secondary school. We’re also bringing children into our offices, so they can see the diversity of roles they could play in the world across all disciplines, and how numbers play a part big or small in these careers.

These are just a few of the community programmes we have running to help younger generations with their number confidence and abilities. If you’d like more information, we have elaborated in our annual reports, or you can speak to one of our team who I’m sure will be happy to share the impacts of our work. 

You can read the full report here:  Number Confidence and Social Mobility