This paper provides an account and a critique of the rise of the contemporary policy as numbers phenomenon and considers its effects on policy and for educational research. Policy as numbers is located within the literatures on numbers in politics and the statistics/state relationship and, while recognising the longevity of the latter relationship, it is argued that the governance turn and neoliberalism have strengthened the role of numbers in contemporary education policy. This phenomenon is situated in the contemporary ‘structure of feeling’, which sees politics reduced to managing the everyday and the evisceration of a progressive imaginary. The paper then documents the impact within education, focusing both on the emergent global education policy field and on the national agenda in Australian schooling and the related rise of ‘gap talk’, both globally and nationally. The paper concludes by drawing out some implications for educational research, suggesting that we as educational researchers are also being positioned by policy as numbers.