A third of adults admit maths makes them nervous

James Linsell-Clark / SWNS
How do you rate your maths skills? Put your number confidence to the test with these day-to-day mathematical conundrums.

The quiz - released ahead of National Numeracy Day on Wednesday 17th May - will test your everyday maths abilities, from working out calorie count percentages to rail fare increases.

It follows research which found a third of adults claim doing maths makes them feel anxious, while one in five are so fearful it even makes them feel physically sick.

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A study of 3,000 UK adults found numeracy gives many feelings of fear or unease, while 29 per cent actively try to avoid anything to do with numbers and data.

But for 32 per cent, the cost-of-living crisis has placed greater pressure on their numeracy skills, and of those with low number confidence, the same percentage feel it affects their mental wellness.

Building confidence in numbers

More than half (52 per cent) stopped studying maths at school as soon as they were able to, however 34 per cent have taken steps to improve since secondary school. 

But 66 per cent admitted you don’t realise how important maths skills are until you’re older and are using them to navigate daily life.

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And 69 per cent backed the notion the UK needs to take additional measures to address the issue of low number confidence, with 51 per cent acknowledging a greater emphasis being put on improving numeracy skills in recent years. 

The research was commissioned by professional services firm KPMG UK, in collaboration with the charity National Numeracy, which runs the National Numeracy Day campaign, taking place on Wednesday 17th May. 

The annual day, now in its sixth year, aims to inspire everyone to have the confidence and skills to work with, and understand numbers, so they can get on in life. 

James Linsell-Clark / SWNS

Tackling the fear of digits

Bina Mehta, chair at KPMG in the UK, said: “Confidence with numbers isn’t reserved for mathematicians, it’s an essential skill helping us navigate daily life – from understanding interest rates to working out value for money while shopping. 

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“Those lacking confidence in their numeracy skills are more vulnerable to debt, unemployment and fraud. 

“As our research highlights, the impact on wellbeing can’t be underestimated, especially against the backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis. 

“Maths is far more than a classroom subject, it’s a skill like any other, and it can be improved at any age. 

“As two-thirds of our respondents suggested, you don’t always realise how important these skills are until you’re older. 

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“If we want to build a more prosperous and fair economy, we all have a duty – as individuals, businesses, policy makers and education leaders – to ensure numeracy skills get the attention they deserve.” 

The study also found 35 per cent would be put off a job role if it mentioned having to deal with numbers and data, while a fifth believe their lack of confidence has affected career choices and impacted their earnings, according to the OnePoll data. 

But the cost-of-living crisis has made it easier to talk more openly about their numeracy for 26 per cent.

Despite this, 28 per cent want to improve their skills, but don’t know where to start. 

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Sam Sims, chief executive at National Numeracy, added: “Tackling people’s fears and worries about numbers is a vital first step if we want the nation to get on with numbers. 

“Focussing on exams and courses alone won’t work for the millions who hated maths at school - we know a bad experience at school is linked to lower number confidence and attainment. 

“So, from early years and primary school, right into adulthood, we’d like to see the confidence to understand and work with numbers form a central part of maths learning in the UK.

“Maths is a mental wellness issue, as this survey shows. We need to get better at acknowledging and supporting those who struggle with numbers – it has very real effects on their lives and livelihoods, which the cost-of-living crisis has highlighted.

“Feeling anxious about maths is completely understandable. Our charity offers vital support and can help people begin to feel better about the numbers in their everyday lives.”

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