PA Coalition for World Class Math

                         Calculator ban suggested by UK Schools Minister (12/2/2011)             

Schoolchildren to be banned from using calculators amid fears of generation growing up with poor maths skills

  • Adults struggling to understand bills and price labels on food
  • More than 5m find simple reading and writing difficult

By Emily Allen and Kirsty Walker

Last updated at 8:24 AM on 2nd December 2011

Pupils are set to be banned from using calculators in primary schools amid fears a ‘sat-nav’ generation of children are growing up with poor maths skills.

Schools minister Nick Gibb said pupils should not ‘reach for a gadget every time they need to do a simple sum.’

It is understood that in future, teachers could be told to stop allowing children aged under nine to use calculators in state schools.

Maths exams taken by 11-year-olds are also likely to be reformed – scrapping an existing section that allows pupils to use calculators.

The move comes after a recent survey revealed that Britain was falling behind its international rivals in league tables rating children’s mathematics skills.

British teenagers are now ranked 28th among peers in developed nations after slumping dramatically in the last decade, while Singapore, which has virtually no calculator use for 10-year-olds, was second.


Almost half of all adults have basic maths skills that are no better than those of children aged nine to 11, Government-commissioned research has shown.

More than five million people were also found to be struggling with simple reading and writing.

The latest Skills for Life survey questioned more than 7,000 16- to 65-year-olds in England to examine literacy and numeracy levels.

The findings reveal that many adults still have maths and English skills similar to those expected of primary school children.

Campaigners warned that there are 'far too many' people with poor basic skills, and more needs to be done for them.

In total 16.8million adults - or 49.1 per cent - have numeracy skills at Entry Level 3 or below. This level is equivalent to the achievement expected of a child aged nine to 11.

In literacy, 5.1 million adults, or 14.9 per cent, were at Entry Level 3 or below.

Adults with numeracy skills below this level would struggle to pay household bills, or understand price labels on pre-packaged food.

The survey showed that millions of adults are no better at maths and English than five to seven-year-olds.

In total, 2.3 million people in England were found to be at Entry Level 1 or below - the level of attainment for five to seven-year-olds in numeracy, while five per cent were at this stage for literacy.

Adults below this level may not be able to write short messages to family, or select floor numbers in lifts.

According to a previously published report, adults are considered to have 'functional' literacy skills if they are above Entry Level 3, and 'functional' numeracy skills if they are above Entry Level 2.

Today's survey reveals that 8.1 million adults in England (23.7 per cent) are at Entry Level 2 or below.

Carol Taylor, director for research and development at the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (Niace), said: 'We have far too many people with very poor basic skills in this country and the system isn't working for them.

'The headline results of today's survey show a welcome increase in those adults working at Literacy Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) from 44 per cent (in 2003) to 57 per cent, which proves the powerful impact the Skills For Life strategy has had.

'However, it's alarming that 15 per cent of the adult population are performing at Entry Level 3 or below in literacy and 24 per cent in numeracy at Entry Level 2 or below.

'Put simply, around one in six of the adult population has difficulty with aspects of reading and writing which means they are seriously disadvantaged as employees, citizens and parents.

'And around one in four of the adult population struggle with the basics of numeracy, a skill which can have a greater impact on life chances than literacy.

'This is why we're calling for a specific challenge fund to help those with the lowest skills.'