You are faced with some big decisions in your Grade 9 year. One of these decisions is your subject choices. Deciding what subjects to take will affect your future career path. One of the biggest  subject choice debates is whether or not learners should choose Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy as a subject.

What is Mathematical Literacy?

Maths Literacy focuses on the use of basic mathematical skills to find solutions to everyday problems. Many people compare it to the old Maths Standard Grade (SG), when it is actually a completely different subject. If learners take Maths Literacy, they will learn to:

    1.  buy a house, including all the calculations you will need to work out bond repayment amounts, transfer fees and legal fees;
    2.  calculate income tax; and
    3.  read and interpret statistics in newspaper articles.

These are great skills for young working adults to master. However, Maths Literacy is different from the Mathematics curriculum, which focuses on developing critical thinking through practising mathematical concepts.

Mathematical Literacy and your future

Maths Literacy has great practical applications for real world situations. You will be able to use some of these skills to plan your future finances. Mathematical Literacy is only accepted as an admittance subject in some courses at universities and FET colleges. This is a potential problem for learners who are interested in tertiary education. Only a few courses in the Faculties of  Humanities and Law will accept students with Maths Literacy on a National Senior Certificate (NSC).

Most universities in South Africa require Mathematics for their courses. Engineering, medicine, sciences and commerce generally require their students to have a thorough understanding of Mathematics up to Grade 12. Even some Humanities and Law courses require you to have an understanding of mathematics. You can see which subjects are required for acceptance at different Universities by clicking here.

The big decision: Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy

In order to obtain a NSC in South Africa all learners have to take either Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy from Grade 10 onward. This means that you have to make your decision by latest October in your Grade 9 year. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. This is YOUR decision. Your parents, siblings and teachers may have opinions and helpful guidance, but in the end, you will need to be able to live with the outcome of this decision.
  2. Don’t leave this decision to the last minute. Do the research now!
  3. You may not know what you want to do after school, and that’s perfectly fine. By starting to look at different career options, you find out which career paths you prefer.
  4. Should the careers you like require Mathematics, it would be best to take this subject.
  5. Find out what your strengths and weaknesses are. Go for an aptitude test. These can give you a great indication of what career paths you should look at.
  6. Talk to people who do jobs you find interesting. They are often the best sources of information.
  7. Job shadow. Take the opportunity to see what the job environment is like.
  8. Look at your Maths marks. Are they a true reflection of your understanding of the subject? Have you been working on the subject or just trying your luck at tests?
  9. Get help. There are tuition options that can help you with your Mathematics. Click here for more information.

Each school has their own policy regarding the possibility of you continuing with Mathematics after Grade 9, and even after Grade 10 and 11. Should you not perform adequately according to the policy of your school, the chances are that they will not allow you to take Mathematics, but rather continue with Maths Literacy. Find out from your school what the policy is and make a decision to improve your mark should you want to have the best career choice.

Choosing between Mathematics and Maths Literacy is a big decision, but it is not an impossible one. Don’t let yourself feel overwhelmed. Identify your interests and skills to make a well-informed decision.

There are many people who finish school and then realise that Mathematics would have been a better subject option, as it would allow them to study what they want to. Mathematics opens your world up so many job opportunities, and increases chances of a promotion. Do your research now to enable yourself to make an informed decision. 

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