Numeracy Definition

What Are Numeracy Skills and Why Do They Matter to Someone’s Health?

Numeracy skills have been defined by British organization National Numeracy as “the ability to understand and use maths in daily life, at home, work or school.”

The organization also points out the importance of numeracy in these daily life examples:

  • Working out times for public transportation.
  • Increasing a recipe to serve extra guests.
  • Checking if we’ve received the right change.
  • Working out how much to tip in a restaurant.
  • Setting and keeping a budget.
  • Helping children with homework.
  • Managing diet and nutrition.
  • Measuring medicine doses.
  • Making sense of statistics and graphs in the news.1

For those of us in economically developed countries, these are perfect examples of how we need basic math skills every day of our lives. Many of the examples also apply to those living in poverty and whose health might depend on being able to read, write and do math. If you can’t read a prescription bottle, for example, you could be missing important information that could save your life.

According to a study in 2004,

“One skill set that is essential in order for patients to understand basic health information as well as participate in medical decision making is that of numeracy.”2

Knowing the frequency and amount to take a medication or being able to read patient care instructions are things that we can take for granted, but they are essential to good health care outcomes.

Even in developed countries such as the United States, research has found a link between better health and literacy skills, showing that reading, writing and math make a difference in an individual’s life expectancy.3 Adults who self-report the worst health also have the most limited literacy, numeracy and health literacy skills.

This is why programs like GFA World’s adult literacy classes are so essential to the overall wellbeing of those living in poverty and illiteracy. Their classes are specially designed for adults to learn to read and write, as well as perform basic math. As another essential element of the classes, workbooks include truths from God’s Word.

Learning to read God’s Word is the best outcome for these vulnerable groups, but they are also empowered to earn better incomes, help the next generation to succeed and improve the whole family’s health. GFA missionaries, as natives of the areas they serve, understand the complexities of the situations faced by these communities and the world’s poor. In many cases, the issues impoverished people face are intertwined, such as with numeracy and health.

Be a part of this life-giving work by donating to GFA’s literacy program. GFA workers’ hearts lovingly desire the best outcome for the people they serve. Through them, the power of literacy can be conveyed not just in words but in action and love. Class participants learn not only to read but about the love of Jesus Christ.

Learn more about numeracy definition

1 “Why Numeracy Is Important.” National Numeracy. Accessed February 14, 2022,
2 Schapira, Marilyn M., MD, MPH, Ket. al. “A Framework for Health Numeracy: How Patients Use Quantitative Skills in Health Care.” NCBI. July 2008.
3 Kutner, Mark, et. al. “The Health Literacy of America’s Adults: Results from the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy.” NCES. September 6, 2006.