Your choice between mathematics (maths) and mathematical literacy (maths lit) is an important decision, think carefully about it. Deciding between taking maths or maths lit should depend on your future goals. Whether your goals involve higher education or getting a job, both pathways need numerical (mathematical) understanding.

What is the difference between mathematics and mathematical literacy?

Mathematics and mathematical literacy both teach you important numeracy skills. People often think that maths lit is a lower level or easier version of maths, but this is not true. The reality is that maths and maths lit are two very different numeracy subjects. They both work with numbers but apply it differently. In maths lit, you will learn practical maths that apply to everyday situations, such as budgeting, interest and rates. In maths, you will learn technical and theoretical maths such as algebra, trigonometry and basic calculus. Both subjects will develop your critical thinking and problem-solving skills.


  • You will learn concepts such as algebra, trigonometry and basic calculus.
  • You will develop practical problem solving and reasoning skills.
  • It is needed to enter most universities, and you will have more course and programme options.
  • You can change to maths lit if you are struggling with maths.
  • Maths is harder than maths lit because it deals with theoretical concepts and equations, not used in everyday life.

Mathematical Literacy:

  • It is a highly practical and realistic subject.
  • It teaches you practical maths skills to apply to everyday situations and helps you solve real life problems. For example, understanding a bank statement, completing a budget, working out an interest rate, etc.
  • Maths lit may limit your career and higher (tertiary) education opportunities if you do not get high marks.
  • Once you select maths lit, you cannot change back to maths.
  • Maths lit is an easier option and a good fall back because it applies to real life situations.

What are employers looking for?

Employers look for people who have strong basic numeracy skills because it shows that you have practical problem-solving skills. In maths and maths lit you will develop good numeracy skills that you can use in the workplace.

JobStarter’s learning can help you develop these numeracy skills, click to Get Ready.

Did you know?

  • It is better to get 40% in maths than it is to get 100% in maths lit!
  • It is harder to get into university if you have taken maths lit. You need an A or level 7 code to enter most universities with maths lit.
  • Maths is one of the most important subjects you need to study further and get into university
  • You need maths if you are interested in doing engineering, science, health, computer science and business courses at a university.
  • All colleges and universities have different subject requirements for acceptance. Check what the university or college has to offer before choosing or changing your high school subject.

Deciding between maths and maths lit is a big decision that can impact your whole career! If you are still unsure, the best option is to take maths. You can always switch over to maths lit later.