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About us > News > Press release: Almost 1 in 5 adults in Wales say they struggle with basic maths

Almost 1 in 5 adults in Wales say they struggle with basic maths

New 'Numbers Count' campaign announced to tackle numeracy issues across Wales

New research revealed today by the Basic Skills Agency – in advance of a major new numeracy campaign – shows that 18% of Welsh adults are not confident with their maths, 25% say they have trouble working out sums with decimal points, 36% struggle with fractions and 31% have difficulty working out percentages.

The figures highlight the need for the 'Numbers Count' numeracy campaign, which aims to encourage people to improve their own numeracy skills and to help them to help their children. The bi-lingual campaign – which runs across Wales for four weeks from 23 January – has been devised on behalf of the Welsh Assembly's National Basic Skills Strategy by the Basic Skills Agency.

The research – based on interviews with over 1,000 adults across Wales - shows that numbers really do count in daily life. Whilst only 6% had difficulty working out how to split a restaurant bill, 21% admitted that they had trouble reading graphs, 35% said they had difficulties in figuring out interest rates and 28% said they would struggle to work out how much money they'd need to pay back on a loan.

Alan Wells, Director of the Basic Skills Agency, comments: 'People think it's OK to be bad at maths but that's just not the case. Poor skills in maths have a significant and sustained impact on adults' lives - on employability, earnings and the ability to manage everyday life. Research shows that adults with low numeracy skills have more difficulty in getting and maintaining full-time employment, and earn significantly less than those with good numeracy skills.'

Alan continues: 'It doesn't just stop there. Adults with poor basic skills are more likely to have children who struggle. Whilst our survey showed that 99% of parents felt it was important to try to help their children with their studies 37% didn't help their secondary school aged children with maths. We need creative and imaginative approaches – like the Numbers Count campaign – to motivate adults to tackle their numeracy issues and help ensure that the next generation doesn't suffer from the same problems.'

The 'Numbers Count' campaign will help adults – particularly those in work or seeking work - to improve their numeracy skills; and encourage parents to play games with their young children to develop early number skills.

Adverts, on television, radio and in the press will show a telephone number which learners can call to obtain the two free Numbers Count information packs – a self-help pack for adults and a separate pack they can use with their children. The TV and radio commercials all feature the distinctive voice of Cerys Matthews singing a new version of the classic track '123' originally released by Len Barry.

Complementing the campaign, a range of imaginative and creative numeracy projects – run by educational and training bodies, libraries, voluntary and community organisations - are being rolled out in Communities First areas and other areas of significant disadvantage in Wales.

Jane Davidson, the Welsh Assembly Government's Education and Lifelong Learning Minister, comments: 'Literacy and numeracy are key elements in building better communities, supporting economic success and enriching the nation's cultural well-being. Since the launch of the Assembly's first National Basic Skills Strategy in 2001, we have been delivering programmes to help reduce the number of children and adults struggling with reading, writing and use of numbers.' This new campaign will, we hope, attract more adult learners to take up the challenge and in doing so help themselves and their children.

For further information, images or sound clips contact Valerie McBurney or Ruth Yarnit at the Basic Skills Agency Press Office, telephone: 020 7440 7788, mobile: 07979 240936, email: or

For out of hours media enquiries please call 07979 240936.

Notes for editors

  1. The Basic Skills Agency - a Government funded national organisation working at arms length from government – is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the National Strategy, Words Talk - Numbers Count, on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government.
  2. The Basic Skills Agency is the national development agency for literacy and numeracy in England and Wales. We are funded primarily by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and the Welsh Assembly Government. Our mission is to contribute to raising standards of basic skills in England and Wales. Our aims are to develop approaches that most effectively improve standards of basic skills and disseminate good practice. Our Patron is HRH The Princess Royal, the Chairman is Garry Hawkes CBE, and the Director of the Basic Skills Agency is Alan Wells OBE.
  3. We define basic skills as 'the ability to read, write, and speak in English or Welsh and use mathematics at a level necessary to function and progress at work and in society in general'.
  4. Alan Wells, Director of the Basic Skills Agency and Toni Schiavone, Executive Director – Wales, are available for interviews. Please contact the press office to arrange interviews.
  5. Following a competitive tender, the Basic Skills Agency appointed the Cardiff based Agency JM Creative to produce the mass media components of the campaign. JM Creative has been responsible for a number of high profile campaigns in Wales, including the Basic Skills Agency's 'If you help me read' campaign. This was the Agency's first mass media campaign to promote literacy in Wales and was seen by two thirds of Welsh parents and over 80% of Welsh teachers.
Article published on: 16 January 2006

Welsh Omnibus Survey 2006 – Summary [PDF] 80KB

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