Taking on maths after school is not only brave it's also something to be admired, so before we go any further, I just want to say fair play to you.

"At school, I had to work really hard to get a D in maths. And I wasn't slacking off; I actually did work quite hard."

- Alex Sharp

Whatever the reason you're tackling maths as an adult it takes determination and guts so well done on getting this far. Furthering your education can help you discover new passions, grow more independent, meet new types of people, and you've made the first step!

Starting with your Further Education level 4 in Maths can lead to all sorts of career possibilities. Despite what you might think, it's never too late to earn your degree.

There are countless reasons to go to back to college, or even start college for the first time when you're over 30, 40, 50 or even 70. Some people go back to college later in life in order to move up in a company or career field. Others return to school to change careers altogether or pursue a dream job that eluded them earlier in life. And there are those who return to the classroom for the pure pursuit of knowledge.

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Functional Mathematics - Level 4

Functional Mathematics is the lowest level of mathematics you can take at a College of Further Education in Ireland. There are thirteen specified learning outcomes for this course which we will look at in a moment.

However, I would first like to draw your attention to the overall aim or reason for people to take part in this course.

The course is designed for the below reasons:

  • To develop the learners' maths skills which enable them to be more confident in discussing and applying mathematical operations and terminology.
  • To facilitate the learner to apply mathematical formulae to given situations, develop and solve equations and understand how they apply to the world around them.
  • To provide the learner with the ability to translate real-world problems into mathematical theories and models.
- Leaving cert
Functional Maths is largely based around every life maths, especially at- Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

13 Specified Learning Outcomes

It is hoped that upon completion of the level 4 Functional Maths course, students will be able to:

  1. Explain how mathematics can be used to enable the individual to function more effectively as a person and as a citizen
  2. Discuss the presence of variables in a range of real-life situations
  3. Convert from scientific notation to standard form and standard form to scientific notation
  4. Use appropriate strategies including estimation and percentage error to give approximations, where numbers are from the set of natural numbers (N) and from the set of integers (Z)
  5. Use a calculator with confidence to perform extended calculations, requiring functions such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, percent, square-root, pi, 1/x, scientific notation keys, memory keys and the clear key, while following the conventions of precedence of operations
  6. Demonstrate an understanding of the laws of indices and the rules of logarithms by using the laws and rules to simplify expressions, solve equations, and transpose formulae
  7. Differentiate between simple interest and compound interest by applying the appropriate given formula to a range of savings and credit options
  8. Calculate pay slips using appropriate statutory deductions, gross profit, net profit and loss on goods sold, VAT inclusive and VAT-exclusive prices
  9. Solve quadratic equations using factors and the quadratic formula
  10. Solve algebraic equations including linear equations and linear inequalities of one variable, simultaneous linear equations of two unknowns
  11. Construct algebraic expressions and formulae for real-life situations using the correct terminology and including the rearrangement of formulae
  12. Solve problems for a range of familiar and unfamiliar, meaningful, real-life situations by mathematising the situations, making an initial model of the situation, deciding on appropriate mathematical techniques and tools to use in the situation, applying mathematical techniques, examining patterns, relationships and assumptions and making adjustments to see their effect on the initial model, and discussing and presenting results and conclusions in relation to the situation
  13. Discuss areas where additional mathematical skills could be developed to meet personal needs to enable a more active role in a community, educational or workplace setting.

As you can see in each of these points/outcomes the priority is to make your day-to-day life easier. The whole aim of this course is to make functioning in society less difficult from the small things such as calculating change and time, to the more difficult things like budgeting and some algebra, which may just open some doors when it comes to you pursuing further college or career paths.

skills about maths
Working on maths activities that aren't in textbooks from your class will complement the learning experience. (Source: Unsplash)

Sample Functional Maths

Still not sure you want to try a whole year of maths?

Lucky for you I know some really great Further Education Maths teachers who told me where to find some sample Level 4 maths.

Why not have a look at some of this material, if it seems like something you'd be interested in trying to learn more of then why not sign up for a Functional Maths course at your local FEC.

First up we have IXL  this website allows you to practice a free limited amount of daily maths problems, or you can pay €10 a month to make that amount unlimited.

Next, we have Math Antics on Youtube, this channel has videos that cover almost all areas of maths and the best part is you can watch and re-watch for free.

Finally, we have Math Brain Booster Games . An app which allows you to set up in different training modes, improving your cognitive function and boosting your overall maths performance.

using YouTube to learn
There are a few educational YouTube channels that are dedicated to helping people learn Maths. (Source: Unsplash)

Maths Tuition for Adults

A good maths tutor can help students who have struggled with the subject in the past begin to build confidence in their skills.

"Anything that is worth teaching can be presented in many different ways. These multiple ways can make use of our multiple intelligences."

- Howard Gardner

Whether you’re interested in an in-person maths tutor or maths tutors online, with one-to-one tuition you will receive a maths tutor who will be able to quickly identify problem areas, build on your skillset, and even talk about the ways in which you can reinforce these concepts at home.

Maths tutoring can increase your career success. Having maths skills on your CV almost always increases your employability, maths is needed in every job from bookkeeping, bartending and barbering to carpentry, construction and interior design. Employers want job candidates with basic math skills even if the work they're hiring for is not math-based.

Following a learning program suited to you, it is going to help you overcome some of the areas you struggle with most in maths. Most people see substantial improvement in their abilities after just a few sessions with a tutor.

If you think online or one-to-one tuition might be for you why not check out some of the many available maths tutors on Superprof? Simply type 'maths' in the search bar and get maths lessons from as little as €12 per class, and most of our tutors offer the first session for free!


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Hey, I'm Maur/Mo, I'm a writer from Ireland. I've written a novel and a lot of poetry and fiction. Currently, I work as a content writer at superprof