Essential Skills Series: Numeracy

numbersby Gagandeep

So how good are you with numbers? When I ask how good I really mean how quick. Do you wait for the cashier at the supermarket to tell you the total or do you already have the ballpark figure ready which you added up when you were putting things in your cart? Did you include the sales tax? That can be tricky, by the way, do you know what is the rate of the sales tax? Are you quick enough when you are calculating the tip?

We speak the languages to communicate however there is a language, the language of numbers which does not get its due credit, linguistically. It is a language we all speak on a daily basis, when we plan schedules in terms of time, when we estimate the quantity of groceries we need to buy for a particular week or perhaps when we are dealing with money matters. In this series we have had articles about communication skills, in relation to our linguistic capabilities; it would not be incorrect if this article is considered to be about communication skills, of Numeracy, where efficiency and accuracy are the scales of measurement.

Here are some tips to improve your skills at Numeracy. Perhaps aiming to raise yourself to the level where you can visualize numbers and calculations like Russell Crowe (playing the role of the great mathematician, John Nash) in the movie A Beautiful Mind would be quite competitive however the journey, no doubt, will be fun.

Do you like games?

Of course, who doesn’t? The best way to improve your numeracy skills is practice, and the best way to practice is games; games about numbers, to be specific. Most definitely you possess a smart phone, let’s put that to use, go to the Games section in your App store and search in the subcategory ‘Puzzles’ for a game of your choice. You are bound to find something incredibly interesting and probably addictive which will aid your journey towards better numeracy skills. You can look for similar games on your computer as well e.g. type in something like ‘fun with numbers’ (or something else) in an online search website of your choice; trust me you will find something very useful and fun at the same time, soon enough.

When I was in college I used to play this silly arithmetic game while I sat in a window seat on a bus. So when any car passed the bus, I would quickly add the digits of the car number over and again until I got it down to a single digit; the key was to finish the calculation before the car drove off out of the sight. Here is an example, let’s say the car number is 8957

Step 1: 8+9+5+7=29

Step 2: 2+9=11

Step 3: 1+1=2

This was not difficult in itself however considering that the car was being driven away and would be out of the sight of someone sitting in a window seat very quickly, that element of urgency made it fun and helped improve addition skills. If you find addition easy you could have a number of calculations which could be finished before the car vanishes, have a look at some examples for the same car number 8957

(8-9)-(5-7)=?

89*57=?

Sometimes being lazy helps

Don’t use that smart phone and the computer just for the games. The bundle of applications offered in a regular smart phone can help you be better in so many ways. Make it a habit to use the calculator and calendar applications on a regular basis, put their shortcuts or their widgets on your home screen, synchronize these applications with your computer to reap the benefits even more. On your computer use basic database applications like Microsoft Excel or something of your choice to prepare very basic calculation sheets for maintaining your monthly budget and keeping track of a variety of activities in terms of numbers, perhaps to monitor your spending habits or even eating habits. You can convert most aspects of life into numbers and the benefit of numeracy is that it takes out the ambiguity out of any situation and presents the facts in terms of numbers, stating as they are, separating emotions and hence enabling you in better decision making.

What’s that tax rate again?

Maybe you have just moved to a different province or maybe you are new to the country, check with your colleagues or friends the rates at which different taxes are levied. Do visit the website of Canada Revenue Agency www.cra-arc.gc.ca to learn about HST, GST, Income Tax and much more.

You can devise your own tricks to better yourself, there is no limit to human imagination. Numeracy is an essential skill, it plays an imperative role, however disguised, in communication. Taking data from scientific research, as earth spins for a 1000 miles per hour about its axis and moves about 67000 miles every hour around the Sun, the question is, how many miles will you relatively travel before you add down that car number to a single digit?

Have fun with numbers.