Almost half of adults struggle with primary school maths

Mar 2012
'We have 17 million adults whose maths capabilities are - at best - at the age of an 11-year-old' Chris Humphries, Chairman of National Numeracy

Almost half of British adults have the maths skills of an 11-year-old or worse, a study into adult numeracy has found. The number of adults who struggle with basic maths skills has been rising, meaning that many are unable to carry out simple numeracy tasks.

Over the last eight years, the number of adults with the maths skills of a primary school pupil has gone up from 15 million to 17 million – representing 49% of 16 to 65-year-olds.

This worrying statistic has raised concerns that parents will pass on their poor numeracy skills to their children. Campaigners now want to boost maths skills in the general population, and give parents the tools to boost their children's maths levels.

A new charity, called National Numeracy, has been launched to try and tackle poor maths skills in all areas of the population.

'We have 17 million adults whose maths capabilities are – at best – at the age of an 11-year-old,' said Chris Humphries, Chairman of National Numeracy.

'Now that's a scary figure because it means they often can't understand their pay slip, they often can't calculate or give change, they have problems with timetables, they certainly can have problems with tax and even with interpreting graphs, charts and meters that are necessary for their jobs.'National Numeracy analysed data from a Government survey carried out in 2003 and 2011, which asked adults to complete sums designed for primary and secondary school pupils.

The analysis showed that 46.9% of adults struggled to complete the primary-level maths questions in 2003, with the figure rising to 49.1% in 2011.

"We want to challenge this 'I can't do maths attitude' that is prevalent in the UK. It is often a boast or a badge of honour, and that's across the whole of the social spectrum." Mike Ellicock, National Numeracy's Chief Executive.