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Britain is currently facing a crisis in adult numeracy. RSA Fellows Seb Schmoller and David Jennings are seeking to address this challenge through their 'Citizen Maths' programme

Citizen Maths identifies the UK's 'maths challenge' as being a problem with what they describe as a 'stock' of people, and a 'flow' of learners in Britain today.

First, the 'stock'. The OECD’s 2013 Survey of Adult Skills suggests that about 10 million adults in Britain have gone through the education system without gaining confidence in maths at level 2 (this is the level that a 16-year old British school pupil would be expected to reach, although many do not). This systemic lack of maths fluency, which affects so many adults in the UK, is significantly limiting the potential of individuals and employers across the country.

Secondly, the 'flow'. Colleges and other learning providers are faced with an overwhelming number of level 2 maths learners and tight funding. This problem is also compounded by a shortage of suitably qualified and experienced maths teachers.

Over the last two years, led by Calderdale College, and working with the UCL Institute of Education, OCR and the Ufi Charitable Trust,  RSA Fellows Seb Schmoller and David Jennings have developed the Citizen Maths programme to tackle this gap in maths education. Citizen Maths is a free, open online maths resource for self-motivated adults who want to develop their grasp of maths at level 2. The course uses a mix of short video tutorials, practical exercises, and quizzes. Learners can choose which elements of the course to complete and can learn at their own pace.

Each part of the course has been designed to take between 5 and 10 hours to complete and covers one powerful idea in maths, showing the idea in action in several different practical contexts. For example, the concept of mathematical uncertainty is applicable to the following situations:

  • Judging risk and making decisions - understanding the value of insurance and risk comparisons;
  • Gaming - appreciating odds in roulette, dice, horse-racing;
  • Modelling - the uncertain prediction of the weather.

The final two sections of the course have just been launched. These parts, which cover pattern and measurement, have been added to existing modules that focus on proportion, representation and uncertainty to make up about 50 learning hours in total. The learning experience is demonstrated in this four-minute screencast.

So far well over 5,000 people have registered for the course. If you are interested in joining them and improving your maths skills then you can sign up to Citizen Maths here.


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