Why is it socially acceptable to be innumerate, but not illiterate?...

9th March 2007 at 00:00
Why is it socially acceptable to be innumerate, but not illiterate? Too often I meet parents who claim they were never good at maths either Wendy, Tankerton

A. You are spot on. All the international league tables bear witness to the fact that we are sending young people into work with under-developed numeracy skills.

And I'm not convinced we do much better in literacy. But technology skills have shown a remarkable leap.

If only someone could harness numeracy and literacy to technology skills, maybe then we would be in business.

Pat, Brighton

A. Perhaps the scariest thing is that this problem appears to be getting worse. It's tempting to go into nostalgic mode and recall, dewy-eyed, the days when even the weakest pupils would while away happy hours solving equations just for fun.

OK, so it was never thus, but it's shocking now - with pupils scared of, or indifferent to, numbers in equal measure.

Graham, Crowborough

A. Is it too "left-field" to link the lack of numeracy skills in our society to the spiralling levels of personal debt? I think the answer lies beyond the remit of schools, it appears to be a cultural issue. Carol Vorderman for Prime Minister?

Rod, London

A. I teach in the FE sector and am no stranger to "I don't do numbers"

syndrome. My overseas students look somewhat bemused by the limitations of UK students, who, as you imply, often seem to wear their innumeracy like a badge of honour.

If someone could sort it out in the schools, their FE colleagues would be eternally grateful.

John, Worthing

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today