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Numbers Help us Lead Fulfilling Lives

Today, on National Numeracy Day, it is important to reflect on the important role numbers and maths plays in our lives far beyond academics. We need and use numeracy skills for nearly everything we do on a daily basis.  From buying bread and milk from the supermarket, to figuring out what time we need to leave home to get to work or school, to deciding what to pick up on sale at our favourite clothing store or, negotiating a good deal for ourselves at work– numbers add value to our existence.

Put simply – we need numeracy to “do life.”

To give you an example from my own experience at work – the last few years have been full of uncertainty, starting with Brexit and followed by the global pandemic. My role at Amazon at the time was leading a group called Insights and Innovation in which our focus was looking at ways in which we could create even more value for our customers. We were up against some very ambiguous and complex problems, and to fix them, we found ourselves facing the gargantuan task of working out the impact of the UK leaving the European Union and COVID-19.

Assessing the repercussions of two such significant and unprecedented events was anything but easy. It required a large team, the ability to analyse and understand what we were dealing with, and making decisions to move forward. Numbers helped us break everything down and compartmentalise different aspects of each situation to develop a clear picture and make sense of what was going on.

Numeracy is a Crucial Skill Set

Numbers are black and white. They don’t allow room for subjectiveness. Bringing numbers into a subjective situation helps eliminate dissonance and brings about harmony. Numeracy is a crucial skill set, the lack of which can leave us vulnerable to a slew of problems such as unemployment, debt, fraud and even poor health.

Independent charity National Numeracy reports that numeracy levels in the UK are significantly below the average for developed countries. As high as 49% of the working-age population here have the expected numeracy levels of a primary school child. This is not to be taken lightly. According to research commissioned by KPMG last year, poor numeracy costs the UK economy £25 billion a year.

At Amazon – whether it is our colleagues in Fulfilment Centres ensuring our customers receive their correct orders on time, our colleagues working in machine-learning and AI, numbers are fundamental to the work that all of our teams do. Helping build this very important skill set in the UK is part of our long-term commitment of creating more jobs and opportunities.

National Numeracy Day

National Numeracy Day (now in its fifth year), is a nationwide effort to celebrate numeracy and inspire people to get number confident – and it’s a cause that we have supported for several years. It is important to dispel people’s fear of numbers, reaffirm their abilities and make numeracy accessible and fun.

Technology has helped demystify maths to a large extent – for example, many people use Alexa to learn in a fun and engaging way, who when asked can tell maths jokes and play maths games. Alexa will also give suggestions on how to improve numeracy skills from Monday 16th May – Friday 20th May this year, ask “Alexa, how can I improve my maths skills?”, for example.

Free Online Curriculum-Linked Resources

Primary and secondary school children can also access various free online curriculum-linked resources that make developing numeracy skills enjoyable. For example the Amazon Maths4All storefront, a free learning hub full of maths games and worksheets that we worked with a host of experts, including academics at leading institutions to develop.

In addition to this we also offer children and young adults the opportunity to get involved in STEM-related activities, training, and apprenticeships. Our Amazon Future Engineer programme is designed to inspire, educate, and equip individuals with the tools they need to become the inventors, innovators, and engineers of tomorrow.

For the future generations, it is paramount that they get comfortable with and learn to use numbers, both at work and in everyday life. Numbers help understand, size and decide between opportunities. By mastering numeracy their quality of life should improve, and that’s why it’s so important we make sure that everyone has access to opportunities to develop these skills.

By Priyanka Wadhawan, Director of Insights and Innovations, Amazon UK&I

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