This is a guest post for Skills You Need.
Want to contribute? Find out how.

Numeracy Workout:
Best Phone Apps to Improve Your Maths Skills

See also: Real World Maths

Numeracy is vitally important in work and day-to-day life – but many of us lack confidence when it comes to arithmetic and other number skills. Too often, there’s a stigma attached to asking for help – but thanks to modern technology, it doesn’t have to be that way.

According to recent research, only 22% of working-age adults in the UK have numeracy skills equivalent to a GCSE ‘C’ grade or above – and while many still manage to get by, a lack of numeracy skills can really hold you back.

Good numeracy is connected not only to better wages and employment prospects, but also to better health and general wellbeing. So, whatever your current skill level, there’s a lot to be gained by brushing up on your skills.

The good news? It’s never been easier to do so.

If you’ve got a smartphone or tablet, you’ve already got everything you need to improve your numeracy. There’s a huge range of apps and services out there to give you a crucial leg-up – from interactive lessons that fill you in on the basics, to compelling brain training apps that make learning fun.

Okay, so they’re probably no replacement for a real live tutor – but they’re a lot more accessible, and much easier to fit into your daily life. Oh, and they have one more crucial advantage: they’re much cheaper! In fact, it needn’t cost you a penny.

With no further ado, then, let’s take a look at the very best apps for boosting your numeracy!

Maths Everywhere

By Modern English

Free for iOS

Maths Everywhere App

If you’re looking to improve your practical numeracy skills, Maths Everywhere is a great place to start.

Developed in conjunction with Maths4Us – a national initiative to raise awareness of the importance of maths – and funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Maths Everywhere is designed to help adults navigate the often-tricky world of numeracy by offering relevant, useful tools and education.

To that end, the app is divided into three main sections. ‘Everyday Tools’ offers, well, exactly what it sounds like – a range of tools designed to help you solve everyday maths problems. These range from splitting the bill in a restaurant, through converting currencies, to increasing or decreasing recipe quantities: practical, real-world situations which frequently pose problems.

The next section, ‘How to Work it Out’, focuses on video tutorials that teach you practical numeracy skills. These are divided into Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced categories and cover everything from long division to converting fractions to decimals! Each tutorial is about five minutes long and clearly narrated, with useful visual examples on screen.

The final section of the app, ‘Have a Go’, lets you put your new-found numerical abilities to the test. The questions here are broken down by topic, so you only have to tackle each subject when you feel confident enough to do so and, if you get the answers wrong, it provides a useful link to the relevant video tutorial to give you a better chance of getting it right next time.

For me, the real strength of this app isn’t just the help it provides – although that’s certainly something. But it’s the focus on real, everyday situations that makes it a winner: it’s all too easy to forget the real-world importance of maths skills, but Maths Everywhere shows how directly relevant they are to our daily lives.

For that reason, this should be the first port of call for anyone looking to improve their numeracy – but if you’re finding it a little too basic, my next selection has you covered!


By CK–12 Foundation

Free for Android, iOS and the web

CK-12 by CK-12 Foundation

Like Everyday Maths, this app is entirely free, and has been developed by a non-profit organisation with the aim of improving access to numeracy skills for everyone.

Unlike Everyday Maths, though, CK-12 goes beyond everyday situations and tackles more abstract – and challenging – subjects like algebra, geometry and trigonometry. Beyond that, it can also give you a hand with chemistry, biology and physics. Best of all, you don’t even need your smartphone or tablet on hand to make the most of it – all of its lessons and tests are also available via the CK–12 website, making it easy to fit in a little revision in quiet moments at work or home.

With so much on offer, things could easily get complicated – but the app’s interface is elegant, well organised and easy to use. After watching brief video lessons on each of the subjects covered, you’re presented with interactive quizzes to test your knowledge.

These are really well designed, offering you a handy sketchpad to work out your answers and tracking and recording your progress across sessions. This last feature is great for motivation: the app measures and tracks your number of correct answers, best streak and even overall time spent studying each particular topic.

In this respect, it’s a lot like the superb free language-learning app Duolingo: the game-like elements make the learning process fun, and the score-tracking motivates you to head back and revise your knowledge.

All told, it’s a fantastic set of features – but what’s really impressive is how frequently it’s updated. The CK–12 Foundation keep the app under constant development, and even include seasonal tests and challenges to keep things interesting. Currently, they’re running ‘BrainFlex 2016’ to help students keep their skills sharp over the summer break, but it’s also useful for adults looking to brush up on their maths.

Given the sheer range of stuff on offer here, this probably isn’t the first place to look if you’re getting to grips with the basics. But when you’re ready to take your numeracy a little further – and especially if you’re interested in the more complex aspects of the subject – CK–12 is a fantastic choice.

Fit Brains Trainer

By Rosetta Stone Canada Inc.

Free for Android, iOS, with paid subscription available.

Fit Brains Trainer by Rosetta Stone Canada

CK–12 adds some game-like elements to the learning process – but it still has a strong focus on the academic side of things. But the final app on this list puts a bit more emphasis on fun – while still sharpening your mind. That’s right: I’m talking about brain training!

According to the developers, Fit Brains Trainer has been ranked the #1 education app in over 90 countries – and after spending a little time with it, it’s not hard to see why.

When you first start using it, you’ll need to create an account – but rather than just entering your email address, age and the rest of it, you’re also asked about your goals, perceived weakness and general level of education.

From the very start, the experience is tailored to you – and this personal approach continues as you begin to explore the 60 different brain training games. These cover more than just arithmetic: they’ll also help improve your visual-spatial skills, focus, memory and logic. All of these skills relate to numeracy in different ways – so while you won’t be directly solving sums like you will with the apps above, Fit Brains Trainer has the potential to make you faster, sharper and more confident in any number of ways.

The games themselves are delightful. With high production values and great graphics and sound, they feel remarkably professional – and leaderboards, personal bests and daily progress tracking means they do actually feel like games rather than dry revision exercises.

The only potential drawback here is the price. You can enjoy one or two training sessions each day for free – but if you want to dedicate some intensive time to the app, you’ll need to pay for one of the subscription packages. These range from £7.99 for a monthly subscription to £44.99 for two years of access – and if you’re really keen, you can shell out £149.99 for lifetime access.

It has to be said, this isn’t cheap. But as well as offering you unlimited access to the various brain training exercises, it also unlocks more advanced tracking and comparison features, and allows you to build a customised training schedule to focus on your own specific targets.

In any case, the free version is more than enough to get a taste for the app, and works as a versatile daily brain training tool in its own right. With this in your arsenal, alongside the other apps I’ve recommended, you’ll be adding and subtracting with the best of them in no time at all.

About the Author

Iain Cooper is a Geek Squad mobile technology expert writer.

Iain has a special interest in using mobile apps to improve life skills and helping people make the most of their phone and other mobile devices.