Monday, 18 March 2013

Making sense of Numbers

Before I retired, I was a librarian working in public libraries here in the UK. It has been a source of great concern to me in recent years that a growing of children and young people asking for help in finding material for homework projects had such poor literacy and numeracy skills. For some adults too, of course, that may not have had the benefit of much formal education, these skills same remain underdeveloped.

It has always seemed to me that numeracy is somehow seen as the poor relation to literacy even though a grasp of number is every bit as important as a grasp of letters.

 ‘Karl’ and ‘Brett’ once wrote in to tell me how getting help to improve their numeracy skills ‘by leaps and bounds’ had considerably boosted their self-confidence. Karl says ‘Numbers were like a foreign language. I could not make any sense of them.  I was made to feel I was in a minority and was too ashamed to ask for help. I got paranoid and it felt like there was some sort of conspiracy against people like me. I didn’t realise so many people have the same problem. Now I can even work out rail and bus timetables. Before finding a really good (home) teacher I was clueless about the 2400 hours clock.’

Believe me Karl, 2400 hours timetables confuse a LOT of people.

This poem is a villanelle.


It can feel like a conspiracy,
(the world an enemy)
this nightmare, innumeracy

Out shopping, and invariably
spending too much money;
it can feel like a conspiracy

Debts spiraling relentlessly
(affront to integrity)
this nightmare, innumeracy

I look at my friends and envy
their budgeting effortlessly;
it can feel like a conspiracy

I once confessed ashamedly
to life turning sour on me,
this nightmare, innumeracy

I found support and sympathy
and help for others like me;
it can feel like a conspiracy,
this nightmare, innumeracy

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

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