“People with poor numeracy skills are more than twice as likely to be unemployed”
Innumeracy costs the UK £20.2 Billion per year; 17 million adults (nearly half of the adult population) have numeracy at/below primary school level.
There is substantial evidence that low numeracy skills are associated with poor outcomes:
People with poor numeracy skills are more than twice as likely to be unemployed
Recent data by the OECD show a direct relationship between wage distribution and numeracy skills
Health In OECD and UK basic skills reports, the correlation between poor numeracy and poor health is clear; data from the British Cohort Studies have shown that there is also a link between depression and poor numeracy
Social, emotional and behavioural difficulties
Children with these problems are more likely to struggle with numeracy, even taking into account factors such as home background and general ability
Pupils beginning secondary school with very low numeracy skills but good literacy skills have an exclusion rate twice that of pupils starting secondary school with good numeracy skills
14-year-olds who have poor math skills at 11 are more than twice as likely to play truant
A quarter of young people in custody have a numeracy level below that expected of a 7-year-old, and 65% of adult prisoners have numeracy skills at or below the level expected of an 11-year-old.
Poor numeracy is also a problem in its own right. It can affect people’s confidence and self-esteem. Research from a review of adult up-skilling in numeracy by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has demonstrated that improving numeracy directly contributes to growth in personal and social confidence
The digital age
The digital age presents us with more numerical data than ever before and puts a new premium on numeracy skills.
Computers can do the mathematical processing for us, but we need good numeracy in order to use them effectively – to enter the right data and decide whether the answer seems approximately right.
Right now around 90% of new graduate jobs require a high level of digital skills (Race Online 2012), and digital skills are built on numeracy.
This article will examine research findings that show the key to numeracy is knowing the multiplication table off by heart (i.e. achieving instant recall of the times tables) and how dyslexia, dyscalculia and SEN children can effectively master this through kinaesthetic learning thanks to the ground-breaking work done by an Oxford University trained research psychologist.
Is numeracy important?
Surely, you can get by in life without numeracy just as easily?
Research shows that being innumerate or innumeracy, which is defined as ‘unfamiliar with mathematical concepts and methods; unable to use mathematics; not numerate’, has devastating outcomes for children in terms of general long-term social deprivation, poor education (more than twice as likely to be excluded & play truant), unemployment (more than twice as likely to be unemployed), crime (65% of prisoners have numeracy below primary school levels), poor health, higher mortality and mental health issues. In short, innumeracy is a critical factor in poverty and social inequality: the associated costs to UK economy are over £20 billionper year (source: National Numeracy).
Root causes of innumeracy
It seems that we have to make sure we get the fundamentals right first and foremost and at an early age.
Research shows that the key to numeracy is mastery of the multiplication or times table given it is cardinal to progression in maths (for division, long multiplication, algebra, fractions etc.):
So knowing off by heart the multiplication table (i.e. achieving instant recall) is absolutely crucial and evidently the difference between maths success and failure.
What about children with Dyslexia / Dyscalculia?
Mastering the times table presents a bigger challenge for children who have dyslexia and/or dyscalculia (from Greek/Latin to mean ‘counting badly’) – why?
Firstly, deciphering numbers is subject to the same conditions as letters for dyslexics but the provision of coloured overlays is concentrated on literacy which means numbers are mostly overlooked although, arguably, numeracy has a more profound impact on outcomes.
Secondly, dyslexia and dyscalculia are overlapping conditions in the majority of cases (50-60% of dyslexics have dyscalculia) whilst others have dyscalculia alone.
Developmental Dyscalculia is defined by the APA (2013) as a ‘specific learning disorder that is characterised by impairments in learning basic arithmetic facts, processing numerical magnitude and performing accurate and fluent calculations’ with prevalence at c.5% but general “‘mathematical learning difficulties’…are very prevalent and often devastating in their impact on schooling, further and higher education and jobs. Prevalence in the UK is at least 25%.” (BDA.org).
Dyscalculia can itself overlap with ADHD / ADD (BDA.org).
Thus, what help is out there for these and other Special Education Needs (SEN) learners who don’t necessarily thrive from traditional rote learning classroom methods but learn best through kinaesthetic or interactive learning?
An innovative & complete solution
An innovative publication company from Oxford called inTABS™ have developed a “revolutionary” way for all children including SEN (dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADHD etc) to learn their times tables off by heart in a highly effective yet fun manner.
inTABS™ ( short for ‘interactive tables’) Multiplication book uses special dyslexia friendly font and colours (one of the first in the country to do so), whilst the kinaesthetic or multi-sensory element uses principles of conditioning from Psychology: repeated interactions between equations and answers on the interactive book creates powerful associations for memory and recall.
inTABS™ objective is inclusion: “every child counts” in addressing educational inequality. Their book “brings learning to life“, empowering children of all differing abilities to master the times table quickly and effectively so that they don’t struggle or fall behind in numeracy and thereby ultimately improving their life prospects.
“We will expect every pupil by the age of 11 to know their times tables off by heart” (DfE)
“Apparently head teachers will be sacked should any – yes, any – child fail the new test.”
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan: “If we don’t get it right at primary, then it becomes much harder for children to catch up”
All children in England will be expected to know up to their 12 times table when they leave primary school, the government has announced.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said pupils aged 11 should also know correct punctuation, spelling and grammar.
Labour said the “surest way” to raise standards was to improve the quality of teaching in the classroom.
Mrs Morgan indicated the Conservatives would ring-fence most of the schools budget if they won May’s election.
‘Master the basics’
Under the Conservatives’ plans, pupils would not be made to re-sit planned new tests until they passed, but the school could be subject to measures if they failed.
A school that failed to get every pupil to pass the tests for two years running could be paired with an outstanding school to gain extra support. It could also become part of a teacher swap where heads of departments from good schools take over temporarily.
“We have to be ambitious for our young people. If you don’t get it right at primary, then it becomes much harder for children to catch up at secondary school,” Mrs Morgan told BBC 1’s Andrew Marr show.
Key Stage Two tests already include questions on times tables and long division but pupils are given an overall mark, not for individual sections.
Mrs Morgan plans to make times tables a separate section within the math test.
Analysis by political correspondent Robin Brant
Promising to protect spending on schools in England is not a big surprise. The Tories had already pledged to increase it to £53bn this year, and the Lib Dems have already gone further, saying they’d extend it to two to 19-year-olds.
But Nicky Morgan’s nod on TV this morning leads to the inevitable question: where will the next round of cuts come, then? If school spending in England is protected, as well as the NHS and international aid, what will the Conservatives cut further to hit their deficit target?
The generals at the MoD will fear it will be them again – although the evidence on welfare suggests they may want to go further there too.
For the record, Labour has said it plans to get the deficit down “as soon as possible” in the next five years but it is yet to lay out its specific plans for education spending.
In an article for the Sunday Times, Mrs Morgan wrote that she would “launch a war on illiteracy and innumeracy.”
“We will expect every pupil by the age of 11 to know their times tables off by heart, to perform long division and complex multiplication and to be able to read a novel,” she said.
“They should be able to write a short story with accurate punctuation, spelling and grammar.
“Some will say this is an old-fashioned view, but I say that giving every child the chance to master the basics and succeed in life is a fundamental duty of any government.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Mrs Morgan was asked about money and appeared to suggest the schools budget for pupils aged five to 16 would be ring-fenced.
“We’re going to have more to say on schools funding very shortly but what I can say is that I am absolutely fighting for the schools budget to be protected,” she said.
Liberal Democrat schools minister David Laws said no-one would take the Conservatives seriously until they committed to “protecting the education budget from cradle to college”.
Mrs Morgan has set a new target for England to be the best in Europe, and among the top five countries in the world, for English and math by 2020.
The latest Pisa league table, which ranks the test results of 15-year-olds from 65 countries, puts the UK at 26th for math and 23rd for reading.
Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt MP said Labour would reverse the rule change under David Cameron’s government which allowed unqualified teachers into the classroom on a permanent basis.
“This is how we improve the learning and life chances for all children and raise our international position in reading, writing and math,” he said.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said “our children are among the most tested in the world” and “we do not need more of the same”.
“Our schools need to be accountable, but the current system stifles creativity, leads to ‘teaching to the test’ and does not promote sustainable improvements in education,” she said.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) described the new tests as a “gimmick” during the election season.
“Apparently head teachers will be sacked should any – yes, any – child fail the new test. We are all for aiming high but, remember, this is a short test taken by a young child,” he said.
“Mistakes happen, children feel under the weather or have a bad evening beforehand. This does not mean that teachers are not working as hard as possible.”
She dismissed the report as “complete nonsense” and said Mr Gove, who is now Commons chief whip, had been “nothing but supportive” since she took the job.
“The chief whip is of course going to see paperwork that goes for a number of departments… I know the chief whip has to be across all portfolio areas. But I am very much in charge of the education department,” she said.