One of the first major career decisions that learners face is selecting the subjects that you want to continue with, after Grade 9.
Different schools have different expectations, but most need you to make the decision by a deadline that is usually between August and October of your Grade 9 year.
One of the compulsory subjects required by the NSC (National Senior Certificate) is either Maths or Maths Literacy, meaning that you need to make a choice between the two.
7 Tips to help you to decide between Maths and Maths Literacy:
1. Start early
This isn’t a decision that you’ll want to leave until the last minute. Give yourself lots of time to research and make the right decision by starting now!
2. Take accountability
While your parents and school career counsellor or Life Orientation teacher are happy to help and support you with your decision, at the end of the day, it is a decision that you need to make for yourself. Ask them for help as and when you need it but make sure that you take responsibility for the decision.
3. Research the impact of maths and maths literacy on your study options
The biggest impact that your subject choice has is on the tertiary education opportunities available to you after school. In other words, whether you decide to take Maths or Maths Literacy has an impact on the degrees or diplomas that you are able to study after school.
Generally speaking, most universities require you to take Maths in order to be accepted to study within the fields of Commerce; Engineering, The Built Environment and IT, Health Sciences and Science.
Maths Literacy is typically accepted for fields such as Humanities/ Arts and Education (depending on your specialisation). These are just some examples and requirements differ from institution to institution.
There are also exceptions to the above, for example, some Humanities degrees (such as Psychology at UCT) require Maths.
As there are no hard and fast rules, the best idea is to research the subject requirements for at least 3 degrees or diplomas that interest you, at three different universities or tertiary institutions. This can be challenging as each website is different and they can be tricky to navigate. However, it is well worth investing the time into doing this. Get a supportive parent, friend or teacher to give you a hand.
4. Start brain-storming career options
Very few people know exactly what they want to do after school, when they are in Grade 9. Don’t stress if you have no idea what you want do study or what field you want to work in – that’s completely natural. However, every little bit of research that you do will help you to gain a clearer idea of the type of career that appeals to you and those that don’t. Gaining an idea of this will help you to select an appropriate course of study and as a result, ensure that you are choosing the right subjects.
Here are some tips to get you started:
Improve your self-awareness: find out more about your strengths and interests by completing the PACE Careers Questionnaire. It is a free online tool that can be found at:
Once you have finished the questionnaire, some career options will come up as a result. This is a great way to start your career research.
Informational interviews: this is fancy terminology for simply speaking to people who are doing something that interests you. For example, you could interview someone working in a career, attending a university or studying for a degree or diploma that interests you. Make an appointment with them and come prepared with questions. This will give you added insight into whether or not these options suit you. (Try to conduct a few interviews as a single interview only gives you one person’s opinion).
Although most job shadowing programmes are only done in Grade 11, why not start early?! If you feel daunted by the idea, try to find a family member or close family friend to start the process with. Spending a day with a working professional is a great way to find out more about a career that interests you.
5. Look at your exam marks
In order to be accepted to study a degree or diploma, tertiary institutions require you to achieve certain grades. These can be very high, depending on what you decide to study. Take a look at your Maths marks over the past two years and think about the following:
- Based on my marks, would I say that Maths is one of my strengths?
- Have I performed consistently in my Maths marks each year?
- Do I find Maths interesting?
- Are my Maths marks a true reflection of my ability? If not, what can I do about it? (Read on for some ideas that could help)
6. Get extra help
Most learners find Maths challenging and unfortunately the content gets harder from Grade 10 onwards. If you are struggling with Maths, it is advisable to invest some extra time into the subject. You have a few options such as investing some extra time into your Maths on your own – spending as little as fifteen extra minutes a day would be a great start.
If you feel as though Maths is a real challenge for you, try Master Maths (tutor-assisted lessons on a computer where you can go at your own pace –www.mastermaths.co.za) or a tutor who comes to your home (www.teachme2.co.za). You could also ask your school if there are any support structures for those needing a little extra help with their Maths.
7. Get the advice of your maths teacher
Your Maths teacher has been through this process with several Grade 9 classes in the past and as a result, has experience on the topic. Ask his or her advice regarding whether you should take Maths or Maths literacy, based on your abilities, and find out the reason why.
This decision can be a daunting one, with family, teachers, and friends giving you conflicting advice. However, it is also an exciting one as it is the first of many career decisions to come.
By being proactive and starting your research and decision making early, you’ll avoid the stress of having to make an uninformed, last minute decision.
‘The study of mathematics, like the Nile, begins in minuteness but ends in magnificence.’ – Charles Caleb Colton