Today is National Numeracy Day, an initiative that was designed to raise awareness of the importance of mathematics for both children and adults. This isn’t only from an academic perspective; we use maths in many aspects of our lives, especially for practical everyday activities. It can be something as simple as budgeting for a supermarket shop, applying for a credit card, or doing some DIY. Numbers, however, can also change the world.
In professions like engineering, strong numeracy skills are essential to making the decisions and designs that will make a difference. As sustainability becomes more of an urgent issue, helping our children become part of the fight against climate change is crucial. By developing their numeracy skills and inspiring them to become engineers they can be part of the solution – because right now, there is a major shortfall in engineering talent.
Numeracy and the economy
Some have the perception that only big players and political decisions affect the economy, but in fact, the skills and lives of individuals can have a big impact. Research from Pro Bono Economics estimates that poor numeracy skills cost the UK economy £20.2 billion every year. This is an absolutely staggering number and something that’s borne by individuals, employers, and the public purse.
Poor numeracy particularly affects sectors that rely on these skills, such as engineering. Reports from the IET suggest that right now, there is a shortfall of over 173,000 workers in STEM. Furthermore, their latest Skills Survey identifies that half of all engineering businesses are experiencing a skills gap during their recruitment drives, a situation that costs the industry an equally staggering £1.5 billion a year.
Encouraging world-changing skills
This is an important reason why we need to encourage children to enjoy and pursue science and maths. Many do, but a key issue is that many don’t make the connection between STEM subjects and engineering at a young age. They’re not making the link between the practice and its purpose and how these skills can change the world.
We need to ensure that learning outcomes in these subjects are clearly linked to engineering. The solution could be quite simple: embedding engineering into primary school lessons could help them make this connection and get them into the pipeline to become engineers. By nurturing positive attitudes about science, engineering and other STEM subjects, we can encourage more young people to take the subjects into Further Education and beyond.
This should be even more of a priority considering their recent flagship policies. The “green industrial revolution” and “build back better” ambitions require talent from all backgrounds. The best way to secure this talent is to inspire children at the youngest of ages. Inspiring children with the practical uses of mathematics at the earliest possible stage will be crucial – so if you’re a teacher or parent, use this National Numeracy Day as an opportunity to start laying these foundations.