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Dublin: 13 °C Saturday 20 September, 2014

‘Fear of maths’ affecting careers and the economy

Director of Maths Week says numeracy skills are vital – and not just for jobs.

Image: maths via Shutterstock

THE DIRECTOR OF a nationwide campaign to improving the country’s numeracy skills says that a “fear of maths” can be damaging to society as a whole.

Eoin Gill co-ordinates Maths Week Ireland, which runs from next Monday until 20 October. He said that the aim of the week is to encourage adults to improve their numeracy – both to benefit the economy but also to break the cycle of fear around maths when it comes to their children.

He said:

All too often we hear people say ‘I can’t do maths’ and this leads to the mistaken belief that you have to be hardwired to do well at maths. While not everyone can become a top mathematician, many could learn to enjoy maths if we break the “cycle of fear” associated with the subject. That’s why the events of Maths Week are designed to presentmaths as interesting, challenging and rewarding – even fun.

Numeracy skills were vital in making Ireland an attractive location for potential employers, he said, but also acknowledged that they are a “basic requirement for society as a whole”. He said: “People need a good grounding in basic numeracy for basic money and financial management… Even for working out a recipe for baking a cake, numeracy skills are vital.”

There are events listed on MathsWeek.ie and updates on Facebook and Twitter. It is a project undertaken by a partnership of universities, libraries, colleges, schools and other bodies. Keep an eye out on TheJournal.ie every morning next week from a maths brainteaser to test your mathematical mettle. (Nothing too lofty, we promise.)

Ireland came 19th out of 24 countries in numeracy skills rankings in a report published by the OECD earlier this week. That places us below average in those countries ranked, with only France, Spain and Italy below us in the rankings. Those also under the average – but higher than Ireland – were Poland, Cyprus, Austria, the US, Germany, Denmark, the UK and South Korea.

That report also linked more positive social and economic outcomes to higher numerical literacy among adults. It also said that “success is increasingly about building skills beyond formal education” and stressed the importance of lifelong learning.

The full OECD report on numeracy skills can be read here>
Kids who do well on this test may have unrealised potential>
Explainer: Here’s the problem with the Leaving Cert honours Maths paper>

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