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Start upskilling in Maths, you use it more than you think!

The BFAWU Learning Services Team promote Functional Skills English, Maths and Digital Literacy across all the workplaces that engage with us, as well as on the website. We want adults to have the right tools so they can reach their full potential in all aspects of their lives.

You can do a quick 20 minute assessment to find out your level. you will need to register if you have not already used the skills check tool, select non union learn then BFAWU when the options come up. If you prefer, your Union Learner Rep or the Project Worker can help with this.

National standards expected at each level are described as follows:

What are functional skills in math?

Functional Skills Maths is a series of maths courses for adults. There are five levels; entry level 1, 2 and 3, Level 1 and Level 2. The level 2 maths qualification is the same as a GCSE Maths pass grade. (GCSE Maths 9 to 4 or A* to C in old GCSE grading system). Functional Skills Maths helps adults improve their maths skills in practical ways.

Entry Level 1:

Able to understand information given by numbers and symbols in simple graphic, numerical and written forms.

For example - Adults below Entry Level 1 may not be able to select floor numbers in lifts.

Entry Level 2:

Able to understand information given by numbers, symbols, simple diagrams and charts in graphic, numerical and written form.

For example - Adults below Entry Level 2 may not be able to use a cash machine.

Entry Level 3:

Able to understand information given by numbers, symbols, diagrams and charts for different purposes expressed in graphic, numerical and written forms.

For example - Adults with skills below Entry Level 3 may not be able to understand price labels or pay household bills

Level 1:

Able to understand straightforward mathematical information used for different purposes and being able to independently select relevant information expressed in graphic, numerical and written forms.

For example - Adults with skills below Level 1 may not be able to understand their pay slips.

Level 2:

Able to understand mathematical information used for different purposes and independently select and compare relevant information from a variety of graphic, numerical and written forms.

For example - Adults with skills below Level 2 may not be able to compare the cost of products and services, or work out a household budget.


Unfortunately, many people miss out on maths at school or had a bad experience the first time round, discovering maths later in life can be really important in achieving your potential.

National Numeracy have identified three attitudes of mind which you need in order to improve your mathematics: value, belief and effort.


Maths is much more than just a school subject. In fact, it’s an important skill for everyday life, as well as in most jobs. You’re probably already using maths all the time, in all sorts of situations in work and everyday life. To improve your maths skills, you need to see its value in your daily life.

Why numeracy matters

Why should you bother with maths? What’s the point? What use is it to you?

Maths doesn’t end in the classroom – it’s used all the time, as an essential set of tools for solving problems in all sorts of situations in work and everyday life. Improving your maths skills can help you go further in your course, employment and in your daily life.

Now think about the ways you already use maths in your own life. Do you need to solve problems, handle information or work with numbers in your everyday life? Do you use maths in your course, at home or in your job? We hope you’re convinced – maths is everywhere, and improving your maths is one of the biggest steps forward you can take in your work, your studies, and in everyday life.



To make progress in maths, you will need to get over any anxiety, or belief that you are ‘not a maths person’. Everyone does maths every day as a part of their daily routine and you must already have a ‘maths brain’ or you wouldn’t be able to do these things. The knowledge and belief that your abilities are not set in stone, that you can improve, will open the door to improvement.

Why self-belief is the key

Can you do it? Can you become a ‘maths person’?

If you are convinced that you just ‘can’t do maths’, then it can be really hard to motivate yourself to try. Fortunately, evidence shows that everyone has the ability to learn maths; we’ve all got a ‘maths brain’. With effort, anyone can improve their maths, and believing this opens the door to progress.

Think about some of the ways you already use maths, in everyday life, your course or at work. Since you’re already doing maths, you must already have a ‘maths brain’. Making progress in maths means building on what’s already there.


Even when you can see the value of maths and believe that you can improve, you are still going to have to put in some effort. Improving your maths may feel hard, but this is because learning does feel hard, not because you can’t do it! You’ll need to make the effort to put in the time, but also to get started in the first place and then keep going when you hit obstacles. We’ll help you find the best ways of doing this.

Why you shouldn’t give up

What do you need to do next? How can you get better at maths?

Like everything else, making progress in maths requires effort. Effort means taking the hard step of getting started, then keeping going, even when things get tough. Remember, mistakes are learning opportunities!

All three of the factors that we have looked at – ‘value, belief, and effort’ – fit together to make progress in maths possible. Get these attitudes right in the first place, and things will be much easier. So, remember the key messages:

Value: you need to see the point, the value of improving your maths

Belief: you can do it – you are a maths person – belief in this will really help

Effort: like anything else that’s worthwhile long term – improving your maths will take some effort, patience and resilience.

Here are five reasons why English and maths are so important:

1.    Further study opportunities

Many further education and university courses require a good level of English and maths - regardless of the subject. Typically, Level 2 is the minimum required.  Level 2 is equivalent to GCSE grade 4 or higher (old grading system A*-C). 

2.    Employment opportunities

Employers want applied and practical skills including approximation, mental arithmetic, capability with visual data, a solid grasp of units of measurement, the ability to check their own calculations and simple problem-solving. A major survey of skill levels among adults in work found that, for employers, English skills are of greatest concern. In particular communication skills (listening and speaking) such as good writing, spelling, grammar and vocabulary could be improved.

Lack of maths skills is another barrier to employment – people with low maths skills are twice as likely to be unemployed.

3.    Income

Employees who achieve good GCSE grades (Level 2 or equivalent) are likely to be earning at least £2,000 per year more than those who do not. 

4.    Mental health

There is evidence to suggest that people with higher skills in English and maths have a longer life expectancy.  Very recent studies are suggesting an emerging link that people with low levels of English and maths skills are more likely to suffer from mental health issues, specifically social, emotional and behavioural difficulties which often lead to playing truant from school. Crime may become an issue too – 65% of adult prisoners have low maths skills.    

5.    Life

With English and maths skills, you can access higher education, gain rewarding employment, earn more and potentially live a longer life. 

The good news is that it’s never too late to learn. With the use of technology, learning is nothing like it was at school – no classrooms, no teacher watching over your shoulder and no strict timescales to stick to. Adult education has a lot of mutual respect, confidentiality and a pace that suits you. Have a look at the online education opportunities we have on our website, talk to us if you need further information or want to enrol.

 Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

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