Claire Coutinho is MP for East Surrey.

From Isaac Newton’s laws of motion, to Alan Turing’s computation theory, to the Indian mathematician’s Srinivasa Ramanujan’s work at Cambridge on infinite series, Britain has long been home to the cutting edge of mathematics.

Much of the modern world is quietly underpinned by mathematical discoveries. Imaginary numbers – those mind-bending multiples of the square root of minus one – were initially dismissed as useless and fictitious creations when they were first explored in the 16th century. Fast-forward 400 years and they have fuelled real world advances from radios to electrical engineering. In fact, from aerospace, to cryptocurrencies, to MRI scanners, countless modern industries are reliant on different branches of mathematics.

However, nothing has brought home just how critical numbers are to informing life and death policy decisions like the pandemic. The nation has spent the last 18 months poring over the best charts, logarithmic models and health data ratios that Twitter can provide.

Scientific modellers have enjoyed new-found celebrity and ignominy based on their ability to predict the future, and Whitehall has been awash with advisers and officials with competing interpretations of the latest data. And whilst most of the country may not be quite as enthusiastic as me, amongst the nation there is a rising awareness that we need to get better with numbers.

Over eight million adults in England have numeracy skills lower than those expected of a nine-year-old. The charity National Numeracy estimates that this costs individuals up to £1,600 a year in lost earnings. That’s one of the reasons why, in a previous life, I helped to create a National Numeracy Day. I wanted to encourage a culture where we find someone saying ‘I can’t do numbers’ as concerning as someone saying ‘I can’t read’, and where we put the tools in place to make sure all adults are at ease when dealing with numbers, so that more opportunities are open to them.

I was therefore delighted at last week’s Budget when the Chancellor announced a new Britain-wide numeracy programme, Multiply. Backed by over half a billion pounds, Multiply will mean hundreds of thousands more adults a year will be able to get a Level 2 Maths qualification, and all adults will be able to access a new online numeracy platform, with over half a million adults benefitting from free personal tutoring.

This wasn’t one of the most widely reported measures in the Budget, but it is hard to overstate its potential. The benefits of Multiply will be felt not just by individuals, but also by employers who have for decades worried about a shortage of basic skills in the adult workforce.

Although, it’s not just basic numeracy where we lag our competitors. We fall short when it comes to maths and data skills too. We know that many jobs of the future will require these abilities, yet Britain ranked just 24th in global data proficiency rankings in 2020. This may partly be explained by the fact that only 25 per cent of our 17-year-olds study maths compared to 80 per cent of their peers in Northern Europe.

There is also a levelling up element to all of this. The North East, West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber have the highest proportion of adults with poor numeracy in England. And whilst in London more than a third of students who get a C and above in GCSE maths go on to study Level 3 maths, this falls to one in five in the North East. We know that maths is a powerful tool for social mobility as it is one of the highest value-add courses for future earnings, therefore this uneven spread of maths skills may be adding to regional inequality.

Snoop Dog may have been on to something when he said “if you stop at general math, you’re only going to make general math money.” We are putting energy and resources into making sure our regional economies are prepared for the skills needed in the future. We should make sure that maths and data are part of these plans.

One measure introduced by the Government that has been widely seen to be helpful is the advanced maths premium, which provides funds for each pupil studying maths and further maths at A-level. The recent £3,000 salary boost the Government has put in place for maths teachers in the first five years of their careers is also a welcome incentive to attract more teachers.

But I believe thenew post-16 qualification, Core Maths, spearheaded by Michael Gove as Education Secretary and aimed at real-world problem solving and everyday statistics, could be the game changer. At the risk of becoming the most unpopular politician in the country, it may be time to look at whether Core Maths, or maths, should be made compulsory for all pupils post-16 and whether UCAS can do more to recognise Core Maths in its point systems too.

So, whether I’ve swayed you with Snoop Dogg – or if I can tempt you with a last-minute reminder that Bill Gates “took a lot of math classes in college” – improving our numbers and maths skills should remain high on this Government’s agenda, as it will be key to this country and its people’s future success.