Numeracy, the ability to understand and work with numbers, is a core subject in the UK curriculum. However, many students struggle with mathematics, and this can have a significant impact on their academic success and future careers.
Numeracy has been in the headlines recently, with Rishi Sunak suggesting that pupils will continue with mathematics in their education up until the age of 18.
According to the Education Hub, the UK isn’t keeping up with other leading countries such as Japan, Australia, USA, Finland and France, where pupils keep studying maths beyond the 16 years minimum that we have here.
“When we talk about all young people studying maths to 18, this doesn’t mean everyone will have to take maths A Level.
“Instead, it’s about making sure that all young people, whatever path they take after school, have access to high-quality maths education that is suited to their needs. For example, we’re collaborating with the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education to work out how maths can be incorporated in a way that works for apprentices and employers.”Education Hub GOV.UK
But what are the immediate challenges facing pupils and the education system now?
Challenges faced by pupils
One of the biggest challenges pupils face when learning mathematics is confidence. Many students believe that they are not good at maths, and this can lead to a negative attitude towards the subject. This attitude can impact their motivation to learn and can lead to disengagement from the subject.
Another challenge pupils face is the pace of the curriculum. Schools are under pressure to cover a large amount of content in a short amount of time, and this can leave some students struggling to keep up. This can lead to gaps in their understanding of basic concepts, which can make it difficult for them to progress to more advanced topics.
Challenges faced by teachers
Teachers also face several challenges when teaching mathematics. One of the biggest challenges is the lack of time and resources. Teachers are expected to cover a large amount of content in a short amount of time, and this can make it difficult for them to provide individualised support to students who are struggling.
The lack of training and support for teachers is also a hinderance, especially those teaching in primary education who don’t necessarily have the specialism that secondary teachers will have. Many teachers do not feel confident in their ability to teach mathematics effectively, and this can impact the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom.
Challenges faced by schools
Schools also face challenges when teaching mathematics. One of the biggest challenges is the pressure to deliver results. Schools are judged on their students’ performance in maths exams, and this can lead to a focus on exam preparation rather than the development of a deep understanding of the subject.
Schools are often underfunded, and this can make it difficult for them to provide the necessary resources to support the teaching and learning of mathematics.
How can we support numeracy?
With government now declaring their plans to extend mathematical education duration for pupils in the future, we still need to take a look at how we can support numeracy now.
There are several ways we can support numeracy. One approach is to focus on building students’ confidence in mathematics. This can be achieved through the use of teaching strategies that emphasise problem-solving and exploration, rather than simply memorising formulas.
Another approach is to provide students with individualised support. This can be achieved through one-to-one or small group sessions, where students can receive personalised feedback and support from a teacher or tutor.
Resources to support numeracy
We’ve put together a collection of maths resources for both adult numeracy support and teacher resources: