Leaving Cert Maths

By Frank Bolger - Last update

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Mathematics is generally advertised as occupying a central place in Ireland s much touted knowledge economy . The importance of the subject is reflected in the fact that maths is the only Leaving Certificate subject for which students are awarded bonus points should they achieve an honours mark in the higher-level exams.

This is because those who are capable in the subject can enter a variety of proven and growing fields of enquiry and research such as any of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subject areas knowing that they are equipped with the Rosetta Stone of their maths problem-solving skills.

However, for many, maths remains something of an enigma: the formula and equations that are an integral part of algebra, trigonometry, statistics and so on can often seem like a foreign language to those who have not learned to develop a sound knowledge of mathematical principles. A part-time course will assuage any fears students have about the subject by providing them with the tuition they need in order to achieve a pass or honours mark in their exams.

What does Leaving Cert Maths involve

Maths is a complex subject that can be subdivided into various specific fields dealing with the study of quantity, structure, space and change (or arithmetic, algebra, geometry and analysis). Students will cover and re-cover these areas at a suitable pace to enhance their understanding. This means that participants will develop their familiarity with graphs, functions and rates, geometry and trigonometry, statistics and chance, and calculus and complex numbers.

Students on Leaving Cert Maths preparation or revision programmes will be given expert step-by-step tuition by experienced tutors who will endeavour to make the subject more appealing by applying its tenets to real-life situations. Most courses will provide students with comprehensive notes as they progress steadily through the Leaving Cert Maths syllabus. Their learning will be then be tested and supplemented by Leaving Cert-style mock exams and assignments both of which are intended to help students become acclimatised to the types of questions they will face in their Leaving Cert Maths examinations. Students work will be evaluated and discussed in a supportive way, thereby allowing them to improve on any areas of weakness.

It is also worth noting that Leaving Cert exam preparation programmes are not just for sixth-year students; most courses are designed so that they also cater for adults who are looking to repeat their exams. And as it is never too early to develop a firm command of the basics of Leaving Cert Maths, there are also courses that are custom made for transition-year students who are looking to lay the groundwork for what lies ahead.

Why do it

As the old saying goes, if you fail to prepare, then you prepare to fail. Many students are often afflicted with such a sense of unpreparedness, which likely accounts for the fact that 1 in 5 students doing the Leaving Cert will drop from higher- to ordinary-level maths on the day of the exam. Part-time courses in Leaving Cert Maths eliminate this sense of intimidation by allowing students to become accustomed to the requirements of Leaving Cert Maths; they are given the guidance and, just as importantly, the time to improve their problem-solving skills and develop their confidence. The more opportunities they are given to put their learning into practice, the more comfortable with the principles of maths they will become.

What comes next

As things currently stand, most degree-level college courses in engineering, computer science, IT and physics all require a C3 minimum in higher-level maths (though admittedly there are some time-consuming ways around this). Even courses that are not strictly STEM-related ask that students achieve at least a pass in ordinary-level maths before they will be offered a place. While failing the Leaving Cert Maths exam does not mean that your third-level options are closed, passing or achieving a good mark in your exam means that you keep all your options open.

At a glance

A FETAC Level 5 programme in Mathematics will run for around 20 weeks, while Leaving Cert Maths courses can last for between 10 weeks and 1 year.

Frank Bolger

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