Basic Math Skills: Definition, Examples And How To Improve

Updated 4 September 2023

Many careers today require some degree of mathematical ability. Understanding basic math can help you efficiently solve workplace problems. If you are planning to apply for a job that requires mathematics, you may benefit from knowing more about basic mathematics skills. In this article, we explain what basic math skills are, list some examples, discuss how to improve them and share some ways to highlight them during the hiring process.

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What Are Basic Math Skills?

Basic math skills are techniques and abilities that help professionals perform basic activities such as getting to work on time, paying bills, performing calculations like addition, division, multiplication and subtraction and measuring spaces and objects. Being proficient in mathematics can help you excel in your workplace and daily life. Apart from helping you perform basic calculations, math skills are essential for jobs in science and technology, schools, finance, research and development and computers.

Related: Math Interview Questions (With Example Answers And Tips)

Examples Of Basic Math Skills

Here are some examples of essential math skills that can help you excel in your personal and professional life:

Addition, subtraction, division and multiplication

To perform any calculation in mathematics, it is essential to understand four operations, namely addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. Knowing these operations is essential for handling money:

  • Addition: It involves adding two or more numbers together. For instance, if you and your friends purchase an ice cream costing ₹50 each, the total amount you pay to the ice cream parlour is ₹50 + ₹50 + ₹50 = ₹150.

  • Subtraction: It involves subtracting two numbers from each other. For instance, if your colleague owes you ₹200 and they pay you back ₹125, the money your colleagues owe is ₹200 – ₹125 = ₹75.

  • Multiplication: It involves multiplying two or more numbers together. For instance, if you and your colleagues want to purchase a pizza and each has ₹100 in their pocket, the price of a pizza you all can afford is ₹100 x 3 = ₹300.

  • Division: It is the inverse of multiplication. For instance, if you and two of your colleagues eat a burger costing ₹450, each person's share would be 450/3 = ₹150.

Related: Interview Questions For A Math Teacher (With Sample Answers)

Fractions and decimals

A fraction is a portion of a whole number, and it has two equal parts, namely a numerator and denominator. The numerator is the total number of parts you count, and the denominator is the total number of equal parts that comprise the whole number. A decimal is a numerical representation of a fraction and comprises two parts, namely a whole number part and a fraction part, separated by a decimal point. For instance, 2/9 is a fraction where 2 is the numerator and 9 is the denominator. 4.5 is a decimal where 4 is the whole number and 5 is the fraction part.


A percent or percentage is a number expressed as a fraction of 100. In personal and professional life, you need percentages to calculate the tax, decide on calculating the tip amount at a restaurant and invest money in stocks and bonds. To calculate the percentage of a number, use the percentage formula:

P% x M = N

M and N are two numbers and P is the percentage.

For instance, when investing your salary, you want to put 20% of your savings in bonds and 30% in options. If your salary is ₹50,000 per month, then the money you put in bonds is:

20% x 50,000 = N
N = (20/100) x 50,000
N = ₹10,000
Money you put in options is:
30% x 50,000 = N
N = (30/100) x 50,000
N = ₹15,000

Related: How To Calculate Growth Rate Using Different Methods

Visual representation of data

Often, you might represent numbers in a visual format. Being able to interpret and read charts and graphs is desirable for many professions. Knowing how to read different axes, data points and trend lines can help better understand the data. For instance, when working as an investment analyst, you might interpret stock market charts to understand the trend line and make investment decisions.

How To Improve Your Math Skills

Use these steps to improve your math skills:

1. Study the concepts

You require basic math concepts and principles that help you perform your job duties. When your basic mathematics concepts like addition and subtraction are clear, you can perform any mathematical operation on them. In your workplace, you might use these concepts in complex formulas to find the answer to a problem.

2. Use workbooks

If you find certain math concepts challenging to learn, find a workbook that primarily focuses on that math concept. Usually, these workbooks have instructions you might follow to find the answer to your problem. By using math workbooks, it becomes easier to solve problems and improve your skills.

3. Practice problems online

The internet offers various math practice problems to help you improve your skills. You are likely to find mathematics problems in every area of life and cover every niche. Look for sample problems and work on them during your free time to improve your skills.

4. Enroll in a math class

Enrolling in a math class is another great way to improve your skills. It helps build a strong math base and removes confusion about a topic. You can ask questions and get your doubts clarified by a math expert in a class. Based on your preference and convenience, you can choose between an online and offline course because it can help in bolstering your knowledge of basic math concepts. These classes provide the advantage of more detailed instructions and allow you to ask relevant questions.

5. Ask for help

If you know someone with strong math skills, seek their help. Asking for help from a proficient person on topics that you might find challenging is a great way to improve your skills. These professionals might explain a concept in a relatable and easy-to-understand manner. You can even hire an online or offline tutor who gives attention to you and helps you improve areas that require improvement.

6. Learn through online games

Learning through games can help you learn a concept more quickly. Like practice problems, you can learn to use online math games. These games create an environment where users can have fun while learning key concepts. Most games separate the content into categories, allowing you to focus on problems that require extra practice.

Math Skills In The Workplace

Regardless of your profession, you are likely to use math skills to complete day-to-day activities. Here are a few ways in which you can use your math skills in the workplace:

To solve a problem

Often, employees encounter different workplace problems, and they can find a solution to many of these problems using mathematics. For instance, when identifying the number of resources required for completing work, an employee might take an average of resources used in the last few projects. Finding the average requires you to use your math skills.

To measure profits

Companies measure their profits to determine if their product pricing policy needs to be changed. Calculating the net and gross profits requires knowledge of basic mathematics. The calculation requires the usage of mathematics concepts like addition and subtraction.

To calculate salary

For instance, if your yearly salary is ₹500,000 per year and you want to know how to calculate your weekly salary, you require division knowledge. If your employer gives you a promotion of 20%, you require the knowledge of percentages and multiplication to calculate your new salary. The ability to make these calculations helps you make a better investment decision and tell how much you can spend on your personal life.

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How To Highlight Your Math Skills

Use these steps to highlight your math skills:

1. Highlight on your resume

Use your resume as an opportunity to show your skills to potential employers. You can include these skills as a bulleted list in the skill section or in the work experience section. For instance, if you work as a cashier in a retail store, you can mention that you have the ability to calculate the change owed to a customer. The goal is to give examples of your mathematics skills rather than directly stating them to the employer. You can even explain how these skills help you solve problems and perform everyday calculations.

2. Mention them in your cover letter

When writing your cover letter, ensure it is brief and focused. Ensure that your cover letter gives a solid introduction to who you are, why you are the best fit for the company and how your skills can help you excel in the workplace. For instance, you can include your proficiency in mathematical reasoning and how math skills helped you solve workplace problems. Use the cover letter to explain your proficiency in mathematics.

3. Talk about them in your job interview

During your job interview for professions that require mathematics, employers might ask sample questions that test your skills. When preparing for the interview, focus on practicing problems related to your profession. You can even show your proficiency by providing examples of how these skills helped you achieve success in your past roles.

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