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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 July, 2003, 00:16 GMT 01:16 UK
Making numbers add up
Noyona Chanda and Graham Griffiths
A variety of equipment is useful
With more than four in 10 people in the UK believed to have problems with maths, experts say it's time to change the way we think about numeracy.

"It's seen to be more socially acceptable to say that you are not good with numbers than to say you have problems reading," says numeracy expert Noyona Chanda.

"There's a general negative attitude towards numbers and maths. People say 'I'm hopeless at maths' and that is considered OK."

As the head of England's first and only centre for the development of adult numeracy, Noyona Chanda believes there is a long way to go.

"The expansion of provision compared to the need is inadequate to say the least.

"Numeracy provision has only grown a tiny amount in the past five years."

At the London adult numeracy professional development centre, based at South Bank University, there is a feeling that numbers have taken a back seat to literacy in the battle to improve the basic skills of adults.

Noyona Chanda
Equipment can be low-tech
The centre aims to show numeracy teachers new ways of bringing maths to life for adults and to develop the curriculum for teaching adults, people in further education or involved in what's called family learning - courses run through community centres, for example.

David Kaye, one of the team at the centre, believes most people under-estimate their numeracy skills.

"It's like the saying - 'What I know is common sense, all the rest is maths'," he said.

The centre, which is funded by the Learning and Skills Council, is home to a vast array of colourful equipment designed to involve people in lessons.

Noyona Chanda says there are simple ways teachers can spice up lessons.

Sharmi Kar
Sharmi Kar: number games for families
"It can be very low-tech - dominoes, clocks, shapes, overhead projectors, equipment doesn't have to be expensive," she said.

Visiting the centre is Sharmi Kar, who works with the Charterhouse charity in the London borough of Southwark.

The group offers help in numeracy and literacy through parenting courses or parent and toddler sessions.

"I come here for courses, to get things made or to get ideas for classes. It's very good," she said.

"We make games for the parents to bring home to play with children of all ages, and it helps everyone."

Working with Bangladeshi community in Southwark, she says children often arrive at school with the disadvantage of not knowing the English terms for shapes, and that family sessions are a way of overcoming this.

The numeracy centre's David Kaye says he hopes its work will help to bring numeracy out of the shadows.

"It can be seen as an oddity. I hope that it will be accepted as part of culture and that you can know about it, whatever level you do it at."

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29 May 01  |  Education

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