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Head for figures


People with a natural talent for numbers are more likely to hit the financial jackpot than those with literary or intellectual powers

According to new research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and University College London, numeracy is a key skill to accumulating wealth and ensuring a comfortable retirement.

“Those who are more numerate accumulate financial assets at a faster rate than those who are less numerate," it says. This is especially evident in old age. The study found that 80 per cent of income for people who were less numerate came from the state, compared with about 30 per cent for the people with good number skills. Research in the US calculated that this could mean an extra $22,000 (£14,000) more if you’re in a numerical household.

The authors of the study - James Banks, Cormac O'Dea and Zoe Oldfield - say, "as the UK has moved towards a system of individual provision for retirement income, the importance of an individual's or household's ability to make the right choices when it comes to providing for their retirement has increased."

Successful numerate women include poker player Liv Boeree, actress Teri Hatcher who studied mathematics and engineering, and of course Carol Voderman who is a Cambridge University engineering graduate.

So how numerate are you? Take our quick number-crunching quiz, provided by the bulging brains at MENSA:

1. Arrange the following numbers and symbols to give a sum where both sides are equal.

2, 2, 2, 7, 14, x, ÷, ( ), =

2. Add together three of the following numbers to give a total of 55. There is no limit to the number of times a number can be used. How many different combinations are there?

2 3 5 10 15 20 25 50

3. In the first 15 games of a football season the average number of goals per game was three. After the next 30 matches the average number of goals per game had risen to five. What was the average number of goals per game for the last 30 games only?


1. (14 x 2) ÷ 7 = 2

2. Five ways: 25 + 15 + 15

25 + 25 + 5

20 + 20 + 15

50 + 2 + 3

25 20 + 10

3. Six

Picture credit: Rex Features



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