Shockingly three quarters of adults admitted they cannot work out how much sugar they should be eating from reading packets because their maths skills are too poor. A report from Unicef last week gave further credence to this, finding Britain 25th out of 37 wealthy nations for its equality levels in children's maths and science skills, as well as reading.
We already knew that poor numeracy was more widespread than poor literacy and that around half the population of working age had only primary school-level maths skills (too many power naps at secondary school?). We also knew that poor maths was linked to lower earnings (even more so than poor literacy is) and possibly to wider wellbeing. But now the new economic research put a figure to the estimated overall cost.
At face value, the results of the OECD's PISA survey out this week are concerning. Overall the UK ranked 26th out of 65 countries. We were 26th for maths, 23rd for reading and 21st for science. The results have led to political bickering between the Coalition and Labour, each blaming the other for the UK's results.
Too much teaching is seen as getting students through tests rather than giving them a real understanding of what maths is about and so preparing them for the next stage of education, work and life. Teachers have become more aware of the need to improve students' problem-solving and investigative skills, but rarely integrate that into the way children learn.