Facing Your Fear of Maths with Functional Skills

Facing Your Fear of Maths with Functional Skills

16th January 19

Maths teachers will tell you that the most common cry from students is “why am I learning this? I’ll never use this again.”  

This can be followed with, “I want to be a [insert job title here], so why do I need maths?” More than likely, the subtext here is “what is the point of maths?”

With the way maths is often taught in schools, it is no wonder we feel like this. So many of us describe ourselves as not being ‘a maths person’ or being ‘rubbish at maths’. Maths in school focuses on skills and equations, not real-life problems.  With equations like this floating around, we are all fearful:


(a1 + b1i) + (a2 +b2i) = (a1 + a2) + (b1 +b2)i


Psychologically, we can develop a fear of maths. Practically speaking, not having the right qualifications can block us too. Ok, we’re not all going to work for NASA, let’s be honest. We don’t really need to understand algebra to work in retail, or if our dream is to become a beauty therapist, or getting qualified to become a nurse.

Yet, later in life, in our careers, we are most likely to use maths all the time without even realising. You might think maths is far removed from hairdressing, beauty therapy, catering, automotive painting and health and social care, but you would be wrong.

Another way...

What students were really asking for when they complained to their maths teacher was another way of learning maths. You don’t need to break out into a cold sweat every time someone mentions ratios and proportions, or when figuring out how much a 20% voucher gives you off the total price.

Most of us just need real life examples and decent explanations. This is what Functional Skills qualifications were developed for: to put maths into real-life contexts so it is relevant to us all. For all these years we have been asking for a simpler way to do things that actually matter to us. It is no surprise then that Functional Skills are Ofqual’s most popular qualification after GCSEs.

Employers like them, apprenticeships require them. Because Functional Skills is based on real life examples, you will go straight into your position or onto your course with the confidence and practical skills to tackle numbers and solve problems. There are options to study online, at your own pace too.  

Maths can creep up on you...

Like that demon you don’t want to face, maths can crop up in unexpected places, like in a salon, for example, a car garage or a hairdressers. It is nothing to worry about though. Functional Skills mathematics gives you a way to face that dreaded demon. Ratios are a classic example: they’re everywhere. Here’s how...

Ratios are quite simply how much of something you need in relation to something else. An everyday example would be one parts squash to four parts water; one scoop of baby formula to two parts water.

We are all used to hearing this aloud or writing it out. We use numbers and ratios on a daily basis, in every cocktail we make, or every recipe we follow. In maths, this is simply written 1:4 (squash to water) and means ‘four times the amount of squash you have to water’). Or 1:2 (baby formula to water). Simple, right?

Maths and…beauty salons?

Bad hair day? What does that have to do with maths?

Hairdressers actually use maths every single day. What for? To stop your highlights going too brassy – to calculate how much colourant to use for hair tints. This is a ratio calculation that will be covered by Functional Skills maths. Hairdressing might be a far cry from your future career, but if you work in automotive painting you will also need ratios to mix paint.


Single stage paint = 8:1:1 in main paint, reducer and hardener


So what about when a client has longer hair, or you need to calculate the amount of paint for the size of the car? Do you feel confident to make these calculations? 

Timings, schedules, appointments, fractions and percentages are all part and parcel of jobs in salons and retail. Shape, space and measurement, another key part of applied maths, will feature in a job in construction or when renovating a house.

Check out our FAQ on Functional Skills to find out more. Face your fear, it isn’t that scary after all.

There are options to study mathematics for free (from Entry Level 1 to Entry Level 3) with selected courses at learndirect. Or, if you need more help, there are three packages to help you get your Functional Skills maths qualifications, depending on your needs. We offer standard, specialised and supported packages from level 1 to level 2. Some courses offer free maths skills too. 



Functional English and Maths Online    


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