An important social concern in mathematics education is that the educational attainment of pupils may be influenced by teachers' competence in the curricular area they are teaching. This paper provides some insight into the relationship between student primary teachers' mathematics subject knowledge and their reported confidence to teach that subject. Eighty Bachelor of Education first year students completed an attitudes survey as well as an online mathematics competence test which consisted of 28 randomly generated questions from a bank of approximately 300 questions based on the attainment targets of the Scottish curriculum 5–14 document at level F with some E. Students were asked to rank teacher attributes. Though 98% of the students ranked basic numeracy skills as the most important, 65% of the cohort did not possess these skills. Moreover 95% suggested confidence was important, but confidence levels were found to be low even among students with higher than minimum entry requirements to the undergraduate primary teaching programme. It is perhaps not the level of mathematics that needs to be changed but the nature of mathematics taught and learned at that level that needs to be addressed. This in turn has implications for the approaches and the programmes deployed by Initial Teacher Education courses.