Maths is one of the core subjects which is compulsory in every school. Project Maths, the current Leaving Certificate 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’ in question 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.

Why Study Maths

As a wide-ranging subject with many fields and applications, Mathematics 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, mathematics 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, and 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.

Course Content

Project Maths divides the course into five ‘strands’ of maths which are studied at all levels, in greater depth at higher levels. These are:

  • 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 deals 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 This strand builds on the relations-based approach of junior cycle with its five main objectives:
    1. to make use of letter symbols for numeric quantities
    2. to emphasise relationship based algebra
    3. to connect graphical and symbolic representations of algebraic concepts
    4. to use real life problems as vehicles to motivate the use of algebra and algebraic thinking
    5. to use appropriate graphing technologies (graphing calculators, computer software) throughout the strand activities.

Mathematics is available for study at three levels, Foundation, Ordinary, and Higher, and each level covers everything in the levels below it.

Exam Structure

Aiming for Higher Level

Mathematics at higher level is designed to suit the needs of all students, whether they’re 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 course familiarises students with the ideas of abstraction and rigorous proof, giving learners a feeling 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 exactly the skills they’ll need 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 Certificate students sit the ordinary level maths exam, often dropping down from higher level having become more aware of their ability level and due to increased pressure in sixth year. Tip: The most important thing to consider is how much time you are spending on higher maths and if you are spending too much time and only capable of a D grade, maybe this time could be better spent on other subjects you are stronger in.

Career Possibilities

From a careers perspective, students considering a career in any area of science, medicine, engineering, business, or finance should be studying 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 of course many other careers and courses which benefit from a knowledge of higher level maths.

Maths is generally used in the following careers:

  • Accountancy
  • Banking
  • Astronomy
  • Clerical work
  • Marketing
  • Computers