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ABET on the job

ABET or AET enables your low- and semi-skilled employees to learn numeracy skills on the job. Most general- and entry-level-type work require at least a basic understanding of maths. They acquire these skills quickly and efficiently by partaking in adult numeracy training.

There are very few types of work that require at least a basic understanding of maths. Take for example jobs that involve the preparation, application, handling, storage and transport of chemicals. Performed in many different industries, this type of work requires sound basic numeracy skills. There is very little scope for mistakes. If errors are made due to poor basic maths skills, major production losses will occur. This is not to mention the risk posed to personnel, the general public and environment.

ABET placement assessments

ABET or AET placement assessments identify the extent of numeracy skills gaps in your organisation. Bear in mind that numeracy skills are usually embedded in workplace roles and bear very little resemblance to maths taught at school. Therefore, innumeracy is not always easily identified. For this reason, the need for adult numeracy training can often go unnoticed, depriving employees the opportunity to learn basic maths.

For example, the numeracy skills for the preparation, application, handling, storage and transport of chemicals are difficult to obtain. They are also very dependent upon the context in which they are used. Critical tasks entail the calculation and measurement of chemicals, while considering a host of factors. They include the size of the areas which will be treated and time of day and year that this is being done. Moreover, workers need to make contingencies for weather conditions, such as humidity, wind speed and temperature, as well as economic and legal requirements. Equipment must also be correctly calibrated and accurate records kept. Workers will also regularly refer to previous records and have to store materials correctly in warehouses. The ability to estimate, based on prior experience of spraying requirements, is also dependent on sound basic numeracy skills.

The workplace maths skills used in these types of jobs are almost always social-historical and cultural in practice. This is considering that previous experience and historical data play a major role in determining the reasonableness of answers. Meanwhile, calculations are double-checked in a team environment. Equipment, tables, chemical labels, charts and ready reckoners are used in formal calculations. Maths skills are also deployed in other situations that require assessment and evaluation.

ABET teaches numeracy skills

The adult numeracy training part of ABET or AET teaches workplace numeracy skills to general workers. Today, numeracy refers to the ability to use a range of maths and statistical knowledge to solve problems in the real world. Therefore, if people can only apply maths procedures when problems are packaged in very familiar ways, they cannot be considered numerate. MTT_Critical_Connections_Between_Numeracy_and_Mathematics.pdf ( provides more reading on this topic.

In a formal education setting, the intended outcome is to learn maths skills. However, workers involved in the preparation, application, handling, storage and transportation of chemicals learn maths for a completely different reason. They need these skills to ensure personal safety, as well as that of their co-workers and the environment. This is in addition to being able to perform their jobs to the best of their ability.

Certainly, their calculations must be free of errors. However, in contrast to formal maths education, the methods that they use allow for some discretion. Notably, they also use their numeracy skills with colleagues and their calculations are validated by at least another member of staff.

Numeracy skills in these workplaces entail the practical application of rational numbers and the metric-measurement system. This includes contextualised approximations and estimation in critical calculations. These are also often undertaken with other workers. Frequently, these workplace numeracy skills may also incorporate other key competencies. These include planning, organising, co-operation and efficient communication. This differs significantly to traditional concepts of maths education. Here, numeracy is as an abstract, rule-bound, individual activity that has one correct answer and where mistakes are considered to be temporary setbacks. There are no significant consequences for errors. Mistakes can have devastating outcomes in industries that handle dangerous goods. A case in point is the recent explosion of a fuel tanker in Boksburg. Refer to

An ABET Level 4 certificate

Employees with an ABET or AET Level 4 certificate have completed adult numeracy training. Their numeracy skills are equivalent to someone who has passed a Grade 9 maths examination. This is at a National Qualifications Framework Level 1. Refer to National Qualifications Framework Amendment Act 12 of 2019 – SAQA. However, the numeracy skills that they have acquired are relevant to the environments in which they work. Adult numeracy training, therefore, bridges the divide that exists between the maths taught at school and the numeracy skills required in the workplace. Therefore, ABET or AET is not only geared towards employees who have not completed their basic education. It is also suited to those workers who completed matric without maths or very poor marks for this subject.

ABET or AET can also be used to hone the numeracy skills of older workers. This is considering that similar to literacy skills, proficiency in numeracy declines with age. Scientific research has shown that the brain can adjust in a better way when individuals had high childhood IQ. This is also the case if older employees had a better education and mental activity in their young age. However, this may not always be the circumstances for general workers. According to further scientific research, individuals’ numeracy skills start to decline at the age of 24.

ABET structured around jobs

Quality ABET or AET, including adult numeracy training, is structured around the jobs of learners. For example, it considers that maths-related work in manufacturing and the agricultural/horticultural industries involves the use of specific tools, machinery and equipment. Moreover, computations undertaken by these employees involve measuring physical quantities that have a bearing on production. These workers must also understand conceptual qualities. This includes averages in cases where data is problematic. Meanwhile, assembly and operative work requires the ability to interpret maths in context. These are numeracy skills that are not taught in the school curricula. They are considered basic or lower high school level. However, they are applied in complex ways to ill-defined and ever-evolving problems, which are also not necessarily mathematical in nature.

Certainly, mathematical skills and knowledge developed in school underpin workplace numeracy practices. However, workplace numeracy education cannot be taught in the same way as in school. This is where many ABET or AET programmes have fallen flat. Adults are more likely to want to participate in workplace adult numeracy training if they find it of relevance. If they can relate to the skills that they are being taught, they are more likely to want to participate in and complete the programme.

One of the deepest critical perceptions of adult education in South Africa in the past was that it had little application to life and work. Industry and labour unions, therefore, requested that training become a major focus of adult education. Adding the word “training” to Adult Basic Education demonstrated a resolute commitment to the integration of education and training into ABET. We must never lose sight of this mandate. Refer to

Primary focus of ABET


The primary focus of quality ABET or AET is, therefore, on imparting the broad skills that employees need to perform at their peak. At the most basic level they need numeracy skills. The maths skills taught by adult numeracy training enable employees who work with chemicals how to use real number systems for practical purposes. They can also sensibly use calculators to estimate reasonable answers. These employees also need to be proficient in the rounding off of answers derived by calculator. This is so that they are appropriate to the purpose at hand. Related to this proficiency is an ability to calculate within the metric system. This includes the practical measurement of chemicals, distances, areas and speed, to name a few. Meanwhile, this must be done while also converting milligram to kilogram; millimetre to metre; and square metre to hectare.

Associated tasks entail measuring calculated amounts within margins of error appropriate to the task at hand. This is in addition to reading and interpreting non-standard graphs, tables, chemical labels, charts and other ready reckoners.

ABET incorporates literacy and numeracy

ABET or AET incorporates both adult literacy and numeracy training. This is considering that maths and literacy skills are often used together in workplaces.

For example, workers who prepare, apply, handle, store and transport chemicals will be required to complete record sheets and templates accurately. They also need to be able to communicate this information efficiently with co-workers and their higher-ups. This includes in both the written and spoken word. Similarly, staff are expected to follow workplace instructions with regards to best practice. They also need to locate information using chemical labels.

Moreover, they use their literacy skills to work effectively in team environments when performing calculations. These skills also enable junior employees to work alongside more seasoned employees to gain valuable skills and knowledge.

In addition to being able to communicate in realistic circumstances and cooperate, they need to be able to plan and organise. This also requires strong literacy skills.

ABET teaches pure maths

ABET or AET teaches “pure” maths and not maths literacy. Therefore, adult numeracy training is suited to developing the numeracy skills of workers who have only done maths literacy. Many employees who have completed ABET or AET enrol for adult matric with “pure” maths as a subject. The most enterprising then go on to study for a degree or diploma.

More school learners have been taking maths literacy since it was introduced to the school curriculum as an alternative in 2006. Government has been criticised for this decision, which is exacerbating our maths problem.

“Pure” maths primarily focuses on the abstract science of numbers, which develops problem-solving, logical, critical thinking and reasoning skills. However, maths lit focuses on real-world problem solving and understanding the language of maths. It is, thus, considered an easier alternative to its “pure” counterpart. Therefore, there are very few university courses open to individuals who have studied maths lit. Students need an A or Level 7 code to study at a university with maths lit. Even then, their career choices will be severely restricted. Many career paths require “pure” maths.

Worryingly, numerous schools appear to be encouraging learners who are struggling with “pure” maths to switch to maths lit in Grade 10. This could because they do not want to be placed on the low pass rate list of the Department of Basic Education. Refer to National Department of Basic Education > Home. According to the South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA), only 12 matric learners out of 100 are taking “pure” maths. SAIPA has been providing accounting, maths, science and maths lit support programmes to Grade 12 learners since 2017. Refer to The South African Institute of Professional Accountants – SAIPA.

ABET is a second chance

ABET or AET is a second chance for individuals to gain proper numeracy skills. Without adult numeracy training, they would always be held back due to their lack of maths skills.

Maths skills are not only required by knowledge workers to perform professional roles. It is a proficiency that is also needed for many “blue-collar” jobs. A case in point are those workers who are involved in the preparation, application, handling, storage and transport of chemicals. This is another way that South Africa’s ongoing poor performance in this important subject hinders the productivity of the economy. However, this facet of problem is seldom given due regard by experts. Instead, the focus is on the decline in matriculants who are able to study science or engineering at university. The reality is that poor numeracy skills hinder every level of an organisation. It is a problem that is already encountered where the work is actually being done. Innumeracy at this level manifests in productivity losses, errors and waste.

Worryingly, there has been a notable decline in the number of students who take maths as a subject over the year. This trend persists.

The number of matric students who wrote maths in 2019 declined to 222 034 in 2019 from 270 516 in 2018.

Then, we need to take into consideration that only 54% of the pupils who wrote the exam passed it. This pass rate declined from 58% in 2018. Yet, the minimum score for a pass is 30%. Of all the maths candidates, only 2% or 4 415 achieved distinctions, which is a score of between 80% and 100%. This is a drop of 2,5% in 2018. Refer to Reports (

It is evident that the “school-industry-maths divide” is widening in South Africa.

Employees who have completed ABET

Employees who have completed the adult numeracy training component of ABET or AET understand basic maths. They can, therefore, perform functions which require confidence to identify, use and apply numeracy skills to solve problems. They also have knowledge of the consequences of the procedures.

Employees must be able to recognise and identify how and when maths is used to perform their jobs. To do their jobs, they need an understanding of maths concepts, procedures and skills. Moreover, they must have knowledge of the kinds of practical tasks that they need to perform. This is in addition to the strategic processes that they must use when applying their numeracy skills. Worryingly, young adults straight out of school and into entry-level positions struggle to integrate these numeracy skills.

Workers who have completed all four ABET or AET levels can perform tasks in the workplace that involve measurement. They can make initial estimates of measurement and perform these calculations correctly using appropriate instruments. Moreover, they can interpret concepts and units of measure and describe them using suitable language and symbols. They can also choose appropriate formulae to calculate quantities of common shapes and convert between metric units. In addition, they can check reasonableness of results and interpret them in terms of original purpose.

They also have estimation skills. Workers must be able to estimate approximate answers when exact calculations are not required. Employees also need to know when it is appropriate to estimate based on a particular process. Estimations are usually suitable when accurate calculations are not required or to check mentally whether an error has been made.

ABET teaches numbers skills

The adult numeracy component of ABET or AET teaches numbers skills that are necessary for most jobs, no matter how general or mundane. Workers apply basic numeracy skills to calculate information in the workplace. This is even the case when they use technology to perform calculations. They still have to ponder a problem to determine the correct calculations to perform with the help of technology. These tools are only as effective as the skills of those who use.

Typical calculations undertaken in the workplace include multiplication, addition and subtraction. They are performed on whole numbers for product quantities and decimals when measuring money, for example. Meanwhile, percentages are also used widely to understand and communicate information, such as productivity and performance data. An ability to determine ratio and proportion enables staff to also understand and work with quantities.

Holders of an ABET or AET Level 4 certificate can also cope with the diverse range of simple mathematical formulae used by workers in the course of their jobs. They use these when calculating areas, volumes, dimensions and flow rates, for instance. Moreover, employees use appropriate formulae to calculate the measurement properties of common shapes. Many employees will also be required to create formulae based on an understanding of relationships between variables.

Equipped with numeracy skills, workers can also read and interpret some aspects of plans and diagrams with an array of symbols and measurements. Furthermore, they can interpret scales in diagrams and solve problems using plans, drawings and diagrams. This is in addition to an ability to investigate shapes and their representations.

Our quality ABET

Our quality ABET or AET also teaches the numeracy skills that your workers need to use tables of product sizes, specifications and costs.

Employees who have completed our adult numeracy training possess the maths skills that they need to correctly interpret mathematical data. This is used for problem solving and quality improvement. Employees are expected to be able to read, interpret and transform data from charts and spreadsheets and to read statistical data to monitor quality. Certainly, numeracy skills also enable workers to recognise trends in data.

Shakuntala Devi, the Indian writer and mental calculator, said, “Without mathematics, there’s nothing you can do. Everything around you is mathematics. Everything around you is numbers.”  We agree!

Learn more about Triple E Training and how we are proving that anyone is capable of doing maths. Of course, this is if they are willing to put in the work. The many workers who have completed our adult numeracy training have shown that this is certainly the case.

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Book a Call

Unlock the Full Potential of Your Employees. Leave your details & our team get back to you.

Note: Please be assured that all personal data submitted is handled with the utmost confidentiality & will only be used for the purpose of addressing your inquiries.