In this article we argue that in South Africa the current format of legitimised participation and practice in the examination papers for Mathematical Literacy restricts successful apprenticeship in the discipline of scientific mathematics and limits empowered preparation for real-world functioning. The currency of the subject, then, is brought into question. We further argue that the positioning of the subject as a compulsory alternative to Mathematics and the differential distribution of these two subjects to differing groups of learners facilitates the (re)production and sustainment of educational disadvantage. We draw on Dowling’s theoretical constructs of differing domains of mathematical practice and positions and focus analysis on a collection of nationally set exemplar Grade 12 examination papers to identify legitimised forms of participation in the subject. We conclude by arguing for a reconceptualised structure of knowledge and participation in Mathematical Literacy and make preliminary recommendations in this regard.