The charity, whose backers include Nationwide Building
Society and Oxford University Press, said the 17 million with poor numeracy
skills represented an increase of nearly two million over the past eight years.
A total of 49% of adults are affected, compared to 47% eight years ago.
Its figures were first published in a 2011 government ‘Skills
For Life’ survey of 7,000 working-age adults. This ‘largely ignored’ data
showed one in two adults have numeracy skills roughly equivalent to those
expected of children at primary school and may not be able to understand pay
and deductions on a wages slip.
is aiming to emulate the success of the National Literacy Trust and contrasted
the adult numeracy situation with that for literacy, where around five million
adults have poor literacy skills.
The organisation also revealed the results of a YouGov
poll of 2,000 adults, commissioned last month. which found that, while 80% of
adults would be embarrassed to tell someone they were bad at reading and
writing, only slightly more than half (56%) would be embarrassed to say they
were bad at maths.
Chris Humphries, chair of National Numeracy and former
chief executive of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), said: ‘It
is simply inexcusable for anyone to say “I can’t do maths”. It’s a peculiarly
British disease which we aim to eradicate. It doesn’t happen in other parts of
the world, and it’s hitting our international competitiveness. With
encouragement and good teaching, everyone can improve their numeracy.’
Mile Ellicock, the charity’s chief executive, said the
government’s figures showed the need for a focus on numeracy. While there has
been a significant improvement in the proportion of adults with literacy skills
equivalent to the level of GCSE A*-C - up from 44% to 57% since the last survey
in 2003 - the figure for numeracy has actually dropped from 26% to 22%.
‘We welcome the improvement in literacy, but it’s vital
that attention is now turned to the state of numeracy,’ he said.