Assessment / High Schools / National Senior Certificate / IEB Mathematics and Mathematical Literacy Option

Mathematics and Mathematical Literacy may not be offered together as part of the 7-subject package for the NSC.  However a learner may offer an 8th subject in the NSC and there is no indication that the 8th subject may not be either Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy. 


The IEB has encouraged schools to try and keep learners offering Mathematics for as long as possible. However many decide at the end of Grade 11 to drop Mathematics and take up Mathematical Literacy instead. We believe that the most common reasons why learners replace Mathematics with Mathematical Literacy are:

  • fear of failing Mathematics and possibly, in the process, failing the NSC.
  • fear of getting less than 50% in Mathematics and hence not qualifying for a BD pass.
  • fear of not achieving a sufficiently high admission points score (APS) to enter university or their choice of study.


The IEB has encouraged schools to keep borderline learners offering Mathematics particularly when they have even the smallest chance of passing it. However they should in addition encourage these learners to offer Mathematical Literacy as an 8th subject.


Over the past 4 years, 2 927 candidates have followed this option (approximately 730 per year) and only 5 candidates over the full 4-year period have failed both Mathematics and Mathematical Literacy, while on average 50% per year passed Mathematics with 40% and higher. The main purpose of this process is to retain learners offering Mathematics who may have changed to Mathematical Literacy at the start of their Grade 12 year.  Only one of the subjects will appear on the certificate and should the learner pass Mathematics, that is normally the subject selected for certification. Should the learner also pass Mathematical Literacy, s/he will receive a subject certificate.


Please Note:

From Grade 12 in 2019, this option is not available to learners offering Physical Sciences because Mathematics is a compulsory subject offering.