Maths – the marmite subject

Maths Week Ireland is taking place from 16-24 October 2021, and for a lot of us – adults and children alike – Maths is one of those marmite subjects: you love it, or you hate it.

However, in the words of mathematician Shakuntala Devi, who was once dubbed the “Human Computer’, said: “Without mathematics, there’s nothing you can do. Everything around you is mathematics. Everything around you is numbers.”

For individuals, good numeracy is a life skill.

We all need maths, not just for school but for everyday life and work. “Good numeracy is the best protection against unemployment, low wages and poor health.” – Andreas Schleicher, OECD

“However, poor numeracy has a significant impact, not just on individuals but also on businesses and the economy, as it is a common skill required in almost all forms of work.” – Peter Cheese, Chief Executive, CIPD.

The estimated financial cost to the UK economy of poor numeracy is around £20 billion a year. A New Approach to Making the UK Numerate.

For many children, fear and barriers arise because they don’t see the connections between what they learn in class and to life outside school (and into the world of work).

This is where we all need to play our part in supporting children, by removing the fear of maths and by helping them see connections in the world around them – whether it’s reading a timetable, so they can catch a bus or train; measuring ingredients to bake a cake; or managing their pocket money so that it lasts the week.

At Business in the Community, our Time 2 Count programme aims to introduce primary school pupils to different role models from the world of work, who will volunteer at their school for an hour a week. During this time, volunteers slowly build up familiarity with maths terminology and play maths-based games with small groups of pupils to approach maths in a more relaxed and fun way, helping to build the pupils’ confidence and self-esteem.

Bringing the world of work to life for pupils is a big part of our work in primary schools, and seeing as trips, work experience and workplace visits are currently on hold for many, we have been looking at alternative ways to raise pupils’ aspirations and to showcase the many different job role and careers that are possible. We want them to see that there’s more than what they are aware of in their family circle. Could your organisation help us provide some insights?

Some great Maths Role Models have already come forward to share their stories, but don’t just take my word for it: throughout this week, we’ll be sharing examples from people who need maths to do their jobs, so check out our Twitter and Facebook channels to find out more.

If you would like more information on our Primary World of Work initiative, our Time 2 Count programme, or any of our other education programmes, please contact