In Scotland, adults learn maths in a range of settings: in colleges, in community settings (run by local authorities and by voluntary or third sector organisations), in workplaces, in prisons and in other training settings, including those which seek to help people find employment.

The majority of learning opportunities are free to the learner, unless they are part of a larger qualification that the learner is paying for.

Learning is often non-formal, focused on the learner’s immediate needs (such as to help a child with school homework), though there are more formal learning programmes, such as those that form part of college courses or employability programmes.  In the more formal programmes, learners will often be working towards qualifications, such as the Scottish Qualifications Authority’s (SQA) core skills in numeracy, or qualifications in mathematics.  These qualifications require the production of evidence of skills and knowledge, but the context of the evidence is flexible.

There is an SQA qualification in teaching numeracy to adults, called the Higher National Unit in Tutoring Numeracy in Adult Literacies.  Most of the take up of this qualification, which was launched in 2011, has been from tutors working in the community and voluntary sectors, where tutors are less likely to have formal qualifications in mathematics, than in colleges, for example.

The National Adult Numeracy Practitioner Network is led by Education Scotland.  It has over 200 members and meets two to three times per year to share and discuss practice.

Scotland has been recognised for the flexibility it encourages around adult learners’ individual curriculums.  Funding is not attached to the achievement of qualifications, but rather the achievement of individual learners’ goals.  This flexibility has encouraged much creative and innovative practice.  An example of this practice are the CraftWorks and BEADazzled projects, taking place in Perth and Fife, where learners design, make and sell jewellery at the same time as learning numeracy skills that they can use in everyday life.

Lead agencies

Education Scotland ( has responsibility for the implementation of national policy and practice development in adult literacies (which includes numeracy).  For more information see:

Partners in adult mathematics

Scottish Government (of which Education Scotland is an agency) sets the national policy direction.

Scottish Qualifications Authority is Scotland’s only qualifications authority and awarding body.  It awards learner qualifications and teaching qualifications.

Current Developments/Projects

Education Scotland is currently leading the European-funded project: Best Practice in Teaching Mathematics in the Vocational Classroom, which will report in September 2013.