Despite agreeing that maths “is important to them in their daily lives”, one-in-five adults failed to correctly complete an 11 times table without a calculator.
Around one in six (15 per cent) adults say they find the subject difficult, and sometimes feel embarrassed by their lack of maths skill.
More than a third of adults (38 per cent) say their job requires them to do a small amount of maths each day, and half agree that some of life’s most important decisions require the subject.
Yet in a random multiplication test commissioned by BAE Systems, one-in-five adults failed to correctly complete an 11 times table without a calculator.
Some 2 per cent of adults questioned in a related poll said that they tend to use a calculator to add or subtract numbers higher than 10, while 13 per cent do so for numbers higher than 100.
And around one in six (15 per cent) say they find the subject difficult, and sometimes feel embarrassed by their lack of maths skill.
The results follow a report this week by the Institute for Fiscal Studies which found that a decent grasp of maths at the age of 10 could add more than seven per cent to a child’s eventual earning power.
It found that a pupil who scores highly in the subject can expect to receive around £2,100 extra each year by the time they reach 30.
Last year the Telegraph’s Make Britian Count campaign highlighted this country’s poor performance in maths, pointing out for example that 17 million 16 to 65-year-olds only have the numeracy skills of a primary school pupil, a figure that has increased over the last eight years.
BAE Systems group managing director Nigel Whitehead said: “Maths and science are crucial to the success of Britain’s youth and our nation’s future but it appears that we start to lose arithmetic skills as we grow up.
“Good maths skills open up so many opportunities both personally and professionally. With increased competition for jobs it is more important than ever that students keep working at maths and the sciences – continued study of these subjects will likely lead to rewarding and sustained employment in the engineering and technology sectors.”
National Numeracy chief executive Mike Ellicock said: “Being numerate means being able to use numbers and think mathematically, which is essential for so many aspects of everyday life and work, and this poll suggests that many people recognise that.
“We are developing the National Numeracy Challenge to respond to this and enable everyone to start to improve their maths. To anyone tempted to say ‘I can’t do maths’, we say ‘Yes, you can’.”
A separate study by the National Numeracy charity found that many UK adults feel they were badly prepared at school for the maths they will need in everyday life.
It also suggests that many adults did not enjoy their early experiences of maths, with 30 per cent admitting they found the subject “uninspiring” at school and one in four (24 per cent) saying maths was their least favourite lesson.