Shop staff help pupils with maths

MEET the grocery workers bidding to make the Capital’s numeracy challenge as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Pentland Primary headteacher Pam MacKay and store manager Jill Davey with pupila Callum O'Donnell, Rory McLean, Emma Fair, Emily Hammond and Sapphire Ogilvie. Picture: Scott Taylor

Shop staff are so worried about the inability of youngsters to carry out simple sums that they have decided to turn their business into an arithmetic classroom.

The project at Broadway Convenience Store in Oxgangs has seen pupils from Pentland Primary take arithmetic and counting lessons on the shop floor.

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Assistants created a range of money-based number exercises, offering activities such as a “beat the till” race, best-value deal calculations and understanding prices.

Teachers are delighted with pupils’ progress, amid early evidence suggesting youngsters’ skills and confidence have been boosted significantly.

And the scheme has proved so popular that other firms, including a nearby bank and chemist, have expressed 
interest in taking part.

Linda Williams, co-owner of Broadway Convenience Store, said she was spurred into joining forces with staff at Pentland after noticing that many pupils struggle to calculate how much they have to pay when purchasing items.

She said: “I was worried that youngsters were coming up to the till with one object at a time, rather than paying for them all at once, because they did not know how to add up.

“And for so many school leavers now, mental arithmetic is a terrible weakness – it’s something that lots of young people don’t know how to do.

“So [these lessons] just seemed like a natural thing for us. It frustrated me that youngsters could not count and I wanted to try to help.”

The Pentland-Broadway arithmetic classes, which began in January this year, come amid concern over falling numeracy standards.

A Scottish Government survey published last year revealed the percentage of P4 pupils performing well or very well in numeracy had dropped from 76 per cent in 2011 to 69 per cent in 2013.

Teachers at Pentland said there was strong hope that projects such as the grocery store lessons could help reverse the trend by connecting classroom work to the real world.

Principal teacher Astrid Gracie said: “We have to make that link. I think there’s been a concern about numeracy for many years, and in the profession we’re constantly looking to work to the best of our ability to address that – we’re constantly striving to improve.

“This is just the first year of the project. We want to make it a regular part of the children’s learning and will be looking to extend it next year.”

Emma Fair, nine, who is in P4 at Pentland Primary, said: “I enjoyed the classes. I think it’s because there are items you can buy – it makes it more real.”

City bosses have hailed the Pentland initiative as evidence of a renewed focus on improving numeracy skills.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “Pentland Primary School’s project is a great example of raising the profile of numeracy and maths within the whole school community.”