From education to employment

Rachel Riley calls for maths to have a makeover

Rachel Riley says maths gets a bad rap and needs a makeover to show girls it’s a great subject.

The maths whizz was speaking in her role as an Ambassador for the charity National Numeracy.

She talked about growing up oblivious to the fact that some people thought maths was for boys.

“At school, I was really lucky, no one ever put the idea into my head that girls weren’t as good as boys at maths.

But she later realised girls often struggle to think of themselves as numbers people.

Parents can hand down their own maths anxiety to kids, she told the Maths Appeal podcast. And often girls are told they are better at words.

Rachel reckons it’s time to switch up the way we talk and think about maths.

“We need to change a lot of the messaging, change a lot of the PR, the advertising around maths. We need to just say there is no such thing as a maths brain!

She added: “We just need to change the way we pitch it and hopefully more people will have an experience like me, where it’s not even an issue or a consideration that girls wouldn’t be as good as boys.”

Rachel’s comments come after the charity’s research found that millions of women in the UK feel nervous about numbers.

A study of more than 2,000 adults found women are twice as anxious as men about using maths and numbers. 

A quarter of women (24 per cent) said maths and numbers made them nervous, compared to 12 per cent of men.

Meanwhile, one in four people would be deterred from applying for a job if it listed numbers and data as a requirement, according to the YouGov poll.

Sam Sims, chief executive of National Numeracy said: “Everyone can improve their numeracy, regardless of gender. But low number confidence is a barrier to using number skills, and we see that more in women and girls.

“A bit of number know-how can help a lot in everyday situations, like managing your money or applying for a job. At this challenging time, with the cost-of-living crisis, people lacking in number confidence are losing out on the benefits that good numeracy can bring. We urgently need to change that!”

Rachel has recorded a new video to coincide with Number Confidence Week to help everyone to boost the way they feel about maths by using the free National Numeracy Challenge.

“With maths it’s really important to believe that you can improve, she says.  “The National Numeracy Challenge is a brilliant online tool to check your own skills, to see where you are strong and where you need some help.

“I think it’s really important to make that first step and think: ‘I do want to improve, and this is why I want to improve’.

“When you start learning something new that you couldn’t do before, and you finally get it, just take a second and acknowledge that you got it, you understood it, and you can do it!”

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