Maths is one of the core subjects. It is compulsory in every school. Project Maths, the current Leaving Cert curriculum, provides students with the opportunity to gain an understanding of and familiarity with several branches of mathematics, as well as developing their overall appreciation of the subject. The branches, or ‘strands’, of the course have been chosen because they have applications in everyday life, are useful in other disciplines, and provide a foundation for further education. As a result, maths is very accessible to students at all levels.
Video: A fresh approach to Maths
Why Study Maths
As a wide-ranging subject with many fields and applications, maths gets used everywhere, and everyone can find some use for it. For students, it opens doors to careers. For citizens, it enables informed decisions. For nations, it provides knowledge to compete in a technological community. No longer just the language of science, maths contributes in direct and fundamental ways to business, finance, health and defence.
Whether it’s managing your monthly budget or a part of your job, mathematics has a place in everyone’s life.
Mathematics is available for study at three levels, Foundation, Ordinary, and Higher. Each level covers everything in the levels below it. Students are encouraged to study at the level appropriate to their needs and aspirations. Securing a minimum of a pass mark on an Ordinary level paper is necessary for entry into the majority of third level college courses.
There are many careers which require or benefit greatly from having a Higher level of mathematics, and it’s a good idea to research these before coming to a decision.
This subject builds skills and knowledge that are particularly useful for careers in the following Career Sectors:
Listed below are the percentage distributions of marks from the 31474 students who sat the Ordinary Level Mathematics exam in 2019.
Explore Marks Distribution for all Subjects:
The number of candidates sitting Higher Level Maths has grown steadily since 25 bonus CAO points were introduced in 2012, awarded to students who successfully pass the course. In 2012, 22% of students who presented for Maths took the Higher level paper. This has grown steadily to over 30% in recent years.
Mathematics is available for study at three levels: Foundation; Ordinary; Higher. Each level covers everything in the levels below it.
Aiming for Higher Level:
Mathematics at Higher level is designed to suit the needs of all students, whether they are continuing their study of mathematics to third level, studying it as a compliment to another subject (such as Business or Physics), or just looking for points.
The Higher level course familiarises students with the ideas of abstraction and rigorous proof, giving learners a feel for the great mathematical concepts that span many centuries and cultures, as well as covering practical everyday topics which students are meeting in their lives outside school.
Higher level maths is considered the most time consuming subject of all and often requires more hours of study than other subjects to get a good result. The course is demanding, but very rewarding, both in terms of intellectual achievement and potential career paths opened. However, once you master the skills and concepts, the amount of memory work is minimal. Worldwide, and particularly in Ireland, there is huge demand for students who are technically capable, and Higher level mathematics trains students in the skills needed to succeed.
Aiming for Ordinary Level:
At Ordinary level, students are offered mathematics that is meaningful, relatively accessible, and chosen with the understanding that many of them may go on to use and apply mathematics in their future careers, and all of them will meet the subject to a greater or lesser degree in their daily lives.
The course starts with practical and familiar problems, and gradually introduces more abstract ideas, leading towards the use of academic mathematics in the context of further study.
Most Leaving Cert students sit the Ordinary level maths exam, often dropping down from Higher level having become more aware of their level of ability and perhaps due to increased pressure in sixth year.
Tip: The most important thing is to consider is how much time you are spending on Higher maths. If you are spending too much time and but are capable of a H6 grade, you have the benefit of gaining 25 aditional bonus points. On the other hand, if you are unlikely to achieve this grade, maybe the time could be better spent on other subjects you are stronger in.
Aiming for Foundation Level:
At Foundation level, maths is about developing a body of knowledge and skills that make sense, and can be used in many different ways as good method of solving problems and finding answers. It is intended to equip learners with the knowledge and skills required in everyday life. It is also intended to lay the groundwork for learners who may proceed to further studies in areas in which specialist mathematics is not required.
The course focuses primarily on fundamental skills and providing a basic but solid understanding of mathematical concepts which will remain relevant and useful in the future. As well as numerical problems, students can also expect to be presented with visual and spatial questions, as well as some theory.
Tip: It is useful to be aware of the range of college courses that accept /do not accept Foundation Level Maths, and the impact for both CAO Points and College entry. From 2017, CAO points will be allocated by certain colleges and institutions only - universities will not award points for Foundation Maths, but most will accept it as meeting the entry requirement. A Grade F1 will be awarded 20 Points and Grade F2 is worth 12 Points. Other restrictions may apply - for example, the Defence Forces do not accept Foundation Maths for Cadetships in the Army, Air Corps or Navy.
Project Maths divides the course into five 'strands' of maths which are studied at all levels, and in greater depth at Higher level:
- Statistics and Probability aims to provide an understanding of what probability is and why concepts such as variation and uncertainty are important. Students will also learn how to analyse statistics such as those in newspapers, business reports, and scientific data, so that they can draw meaningful and relevant conclusions.
- Geometry and Trigonometry deal with shapes such as circles and triangles, both on the coordinate plane and otherwise. The skills developed here are useful in areas such as architecture, landscape design, and agriculture, as well as visual design and spatial reasoning.
- Number Learners continue to make meaning of the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of whole and rational numbers and extend this sense-making to complex numbers.
- Algebra builds on the relations-based approach of junior cycle, which has five main objectives:
- to make use of letter symbols for numeric quantities
- to emphasise relationship based algebra
- to connect graphical and symbolic representations of algebraic concepts
- to use real life problems as vehicles to motivate the use of algebra and algebraic thinking
- to use appropriate graphing technologies (graphing calculators, computer software) throughout the strand activities.
At Ordinary level and Higher level there are two assessment components
- Mathematics Paper 1
- Mathematics Paper 2
Each paper will contain two sections – A and B.
- Section A will address core mathematics topics, with a focus on concepts and skills.
- Section B will include questions that are context based applications of mathematics.
At Foundation level, there is one assessment component, a written paper. Learners will be assessed by means of problems set in meaningful contexts.
Higher level: From a careers perspective, students considering opportunities in any area of science, medicine, engineering, business, or finance should study Higher level maths if at all possible, as large portions of the Higher level course will be reviewed or assumed at third level.
There are many other careers and courses which benefit from a knowledge of Higher level maths including: accountancy, astronomy, clerical work, marketing, computers and banking.
Subject Group: Science
These subjects demonstrate how to explore nature using carefully planned methods, and teach the basic methods and findings of scientific investigation.
Required for 3rd Level?
Examples of courses that require Higher level maths for entry include: Chemistry and Molecular modelling TCD; Computer Science TCD; Economics and finance UCD; Industrial biochemistry UL; Actuarial Studies DCU, UCD.
Bonus Points: Higher Level The higher education institutions have introduced a bonus scheme for Higher level Leaving Certificate maths whereby an additional 25 points will be added to an applicant's points score. This means that a H6 will now equal 71 points, and an H1 will equal 125 points. Grades of H7 or below do not merit bonus points.
TIP: Some colleges have introduced a 'second-chance' exam for students who do not pass Leaving Cert maths, which is sufficient for entry to certain courses which require mathematics. Check individual course details and college websites.
Passing Ordinary level maths is extremely important, as the majority of CAO courses require at least a grade O6; and students who don’t meet this requirement are often left with few to no third level education options.
Taking Foundation maths has the disadvantage of making certain CAO courses inaccessible, which may have implications for students considering third level education. However, more and more courses are now accepting Foundation level maths.
This subject may be essential for entry into some Third Level courses. Click on the link below to view courses that may require this subject for entry: