National Numeracy Day

National Numeracy Day: Adult Numeracy Anxiety and How Grown-Ups and the Children They Raise Can Develop Confidence in Maths this May.


Did you know that the 18th of May is National Numeracy Day?

Nope? Well, I didn’t either, until my Tray Play Toolkits subscription box arrived on my doorstep, and I opened it up to find that the (surprise) theme for this month was ‘Numeracy’.

So, inspired by my sub, I’m going to share with you a bit about National Numeracy Day and how you, and your little people, can use it as a chance to develop more confidence with numbers, together!

National Numeracy Day was established by National Numeracy, a charity whose sole aim is for “everyone in the UK to get on with numbers so they can get on in life” and it’s a fab way for children and adults alike to check in with their everyday maths skills.

Now, I’m going to start with a bit of a confession: I’m writing this as someone who is genuinely awful when it comes to numbers. I’m an intelligent woman, with a good brain, but it is just not a brain that wants to do maths!

At an early age, I was really badly bullied by a maths teacher and it just put me off from the very start; I was made to feel stupid and useless and from then on, I had little or no confidence when it came to mathematics; instead, I devoted my energy to writing, to language and to literature; I enjoyed and excelled in creative subjects and increasingly struggled with ‘logical’ or calculative study.

In an academic environment, I went on to get good GCSEs (straight A and A*s, the only exception being my just scraping a C in IGCSE Mathematics) and was over the moon when I got to the point at which I could ‘drop’ maths and

science, and continue purely subjects under the “Humanities” umbrella: English, Music, Theatre Studies and History.

I went on to get straight As, and an AEA too, I sat through the Oxbridge prep classes my school made me take and then, planning a career as an actor, shrugged off the lot (and no subject more vigorously than long-gone Maths!) blithely assuming that I’d never need any skills other than a step-ball-change, a decent Shakespeare speech and my best Julie Andrews impression.

Boy was I wrong. Not only because after going through drama school, graduating and spending several years working in a vapid industry that I soon grew fed up with, I would eventually need to find something else to do(!), but mainly because I needed those early-taught numeracy skills in my every day adult life. I had rent to pay, income, royalties and agent’s fees to negotiate, groceries to buy, travel to budget for and, moving to London, everything was twice the price I was used to paying! Every single time I had to face numbers, I would find myself riddled with panic because I just didn’t feel well enough equipped to handle the basic maths.


Establishing a healthy relationship with numeracy early on is so important.

It’s taken me years to face up to working on my numeracy skills, and it wasn’t really until my daughter, now 4, started at nursery school and began to come home talking about numbers and everything she was learning in terms of early maths, that I actually started to think about my attitude towards numeracy.

Of course, less than a year after she’d started at nursery, we went into national lockdown and my husband and I had to take reins and resume her numeracy learning at home.


At that point, finding myself ridiculously anxious over facing my old nemesis, Mr Maths (even at such a basic and beginner level) that I made a sort of mental pact with myself, to make more of an effort, to not dodge numeracy and rely on a calculator, to not be intimidated; to practice and to make it a normal part of life: for my sake, and for my daughter’s: I didn’t want her to inherit my anxiety over numbers.

And that is exactly what National Numeracy Day is about.

So, if you’re like me, and you get your knickers in a twist over multiplication and division; if fractions fill you will terror, then take the chance, this May, to feel more confident.



National Numeracy have set up an entire hub dedicated to numeracy resources for adults; you’ll find tips on how to help children with maths, how to manage money, how to overcome maths anxiety HERE. You can take the National Numeracy Challenge (If I’ve done it, so can you!) and get involved with the day’s activities on social media, by following and using the hashtags: #BigNumberNatter and #NationalNumeracyDay .


The charity have also created a whole set of resources and live on-the-day activities for children to get involved with: from rock and roll number rolls, poets performing number raps and a Bake Off champ’s very own number-based bake-along, to a Strictly Come Dancing-style dance class with Oti and fun printables for Under 5s from the Number Blocks. You can access all the events and activities in the children’s numeracy hub HERE.

Numeracy isn’t just about being able add or subtract numbers, numeracy skills involve solving number problems, measuring, estimating, sorting, noticing patterns and shapes and counting too.

You can help your child hone their numeracy skills every single day, by trying any or all of these five things

· Reading – Something as simple as reading your child a story can really help them develop an understanding of early number skills; books like “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and “Ten Little Pirates” introduce early numeracy ideas in a fun way.

· Singing – Similarly to reading, singing can be a lovely way to teach children about counting. Nursery rhymes and songs such as “Five Little Ducks” or “Ten Green Bottles” are good examples.

· Eye Spy – The next time you and your Little One are out and about, whether that’s at the park, in the supermarket or feeding the ducks, ask them to see how many things around them they can spot of a certain colour, or shape. Without even really thinking about it, they will be differentiating between shapes and colours and keeping tally of what they see, therefore: counting.

· Playing Ask your child to sort their toys into groups: which toys are big, which toys are small? Which toys are round; which toys have edges? Again, they will be noticing the differences, comparing and contrasting and using logic to make sense of how to sort the toys.

· Drawing and Mark-Making – Making patterns in a tray of sand, drawing and colouring on paper, or by using chickpeas or loose parts to create a motif, is a fun way to introduce shape and pattern recognition whilst also developing the fine motor skills and hand/eye coordination that is key to learn to write.