Friday, 10 February 2012

1 + 1 = 3?

You may remember Maths lessons at school being a thing of torture. The word “Algebra” may fill you with dread. You may remember thinking, “what is the point of solving these stupid equations? When will I ever need to find the area of a circle to 2 decimal places?”
True, a lot of the content studied at Maths GCSE is abstract, and you may find it hard to relate anything you learnt (and possibly anything remembered) to anything you do today. But several jobs require you to use a spread sheet, and use formulas to budget, predict, or solve problems. You are often required to use your logical reasoning skills to find a solution to a problem. These are all important elements of Maths.

Problem solving and logical skills are important in many jobs, but numeracy is crucial to be successful both at work and at home. In times of economic hardship, it is becoming increasingly important to watch those pennies and budget carefully. When you’re at the supermarket, you need to know whether a third off on one brand is cheaper than four for £5.60. You also need to make sure you’re not getting short-changed at the checkout! Sales shopping may seem like a bargain, but is 20% off better than buying from the internet, including the postage and packaging? How much money will you save switching from a flat rate to a water meter? And when you get a quotation not including V.A.T., how much will you have to pay? You might be a bit reliant on your mobile phone’s calculator, but technology has a tendency to fail us at the moment we need it most.You also might feel a bit silly having to get your calculator out to check the figures at that crucial moment you’re haggling down your costs with a salesman or a client.

You might be thinking that it’s too late. School may have been a long time ago and you might be a bit embarrassed but accepting of being a bit slow with maths. But it’s never too late. You can always improve your basic maths skills with practise.

Here are a few tips to stimulate those mathematical neural pathways in your brain:
Practise: Mentally add up the cost of your shopping as you go round the supermarket. Work out how much change you’re going to get when you grab a few things at the corner shop.Whenever you reach for your calculator, try to mentally work it out.
Times tables: Once you can quickly add or multiply any two numbers less than ten then you have mastered the basics! Practise your times tables in the shower, in the gym, on the way to the bus, in the car, walking the dog, anywhere!
Embrace Technology: Use your phone, pc or games console to help you improve your maths skills, for example:
  • Brain training games on the Nintendo DS
  • Sky Numbers, MathBoard and Math Bingo are three of many apps for the Ipad/Iphone
  • There are plenty of flashgames (aimed at school learners) on the internet that you can play by yourself or with your kids – try                              
  • There are websites designed specifically to help improve adults’ numeracy and literacy, for example

Keep a spreadsheet: Although it does the “maths” for you, you can keep a close eye on your finances, check the numbers and practise using formulas.
Seek Help: If your numeracy skills are affecting your confidence or preventing you from progressing in your career you can go on a course or find a tutor. Find more information on

Written by Julie Dobbs

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