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Bad maths means shoppers pay more

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Consumers could be losing out on over £500 worth of products each year, because they lack the maths skills to spot a bargain.

New research commission by found that 90% of consumers are unable to spot the best deals in the supermarkets

The group set consumers a series of questions asking them to work out which product was the best value from a range of options. One in twenty didn’t get any answers right and just 11% scored full marks.

For example, when asked which of 20% off, get your 4th, 6th or 10th purchase free was the best value, only 35% of consumers identified “Get your 4th purchase free” as the correct answer.

Another test looked at whether 200 grams for £1.70, 300 grams for £2.05, 400 grams for £3.25 or 500 grams for £4.10 was the better bargain, only 48% of respondents correctly guessed that 300 grams of butter for £2.05 was the best deal among the following options.

The research also revealed numeracy skills varied dramatically across the regions. A fifth of people (19%) in the East received top scores, which was more than any other region. Those in the East Midlands had the highest fail rate with 12% not getting a single question right.

Despite just one in 10 consumers passing the test to find the best deals, nearly three in five (57%) think they are good at hunting out the best deals. Nearly two-thirds blamed the supermarkets, saying

Defending their skills, nearly two-thirds (65%) of consumers think supermarkets try to mislead shoppers by making deals and prices too complicated. Shoppers estimate they overpay on 16% of their weekly grocery spend.

If you think your maths skills aren’t up to scratch, the charity National Numeracy has tools to help. The BBC also has adult learning programmes.’s brand ambassador, Rachel Riley, said: “It’s easy for people to go into a blind panic about numbers and switch off, especially when faced with prices, weights and units in the supermarket that are presented in different ways. But, the brain is a muscle, and for consumers to keep as much money in their pockets as possible, they need to be exercising it. This is even more important in the run up to Black Friday, when consumers will be faced will all kinds of deals and offers. It’s vital for consumers to brush up on their skills to avoid getting caught out.”


1.  Fresh meat (21%)
2. Laundry powder and detergents (21%)
3. Fresh vegetables (20%)
4. Toiletries (15%)
5.  Household cleaning products (15%)
6.  Branded products (15%)
7. Frozen food (11%)
8. Crisps and snacks (10%)
9. Tinned goods (10%)
10.  Alcohol (9%)




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