John Keogh - Tallaght lecturer sums it all up in new book

By Sean Heffernan 

After spending more than 30 years working for a shipping company in Dublin’s North Wall, John Keogh suddenly found himself at a crossroads in his life, does he continue doing what he has done for decades or take on a new challenge?

He chose the latter, and aged 47 he undertook  a degree course in Dublin City University, which lead to him completing his PHD in 2013.

005 Adults Maths Work

He then went on to work for An Cosán and in the Tallaght Adult Education Centre and now lectures in Mathematics and Statistics in the Tallaght Campus of Technical University Dublin (formerly IT Tallaght).

He recently launched his new book ‘Adult Mathematics and Work’ which was co-written with Theresa Maguire and John O’ Donoghue in The Royal Irish Academy on Dawson Street.

He spoke to The Echo about his life and why he wrote the book.

What part of Dublin are you from, and what did you do before you went back to education?

I was born and reared in Camden Street, but moved to Tallaght when I got married in 1975.

When I left school I had a choice, either get into the Civil Service or get into Industry, my sister worked in the Tax Office, and I didn’t like what I heard from her, so I chose industry.

I got a job in a shipping company on the northside, as cover for a guy who was out of work for a few months due to an operation.

When he came back I got a job in another area of the company, and over the years increased my skills and earned numerous promotions, but the company was then bought over by a bigger rival and I found myself wondering, do I continue as is or seek a change in my life?

What inspired you to go to college as a mature student?

I remember sitting at meetings in work, and thinking of an idea, I was afraid to say it, and then someone else would come up with the same idea and everyone would be telling them how great it was and I would be kicking myself for not speaking earlier, I just lacked the confidence to speak up.

Years before I had made a promise to myself that someday I would get a degree, and decided now was the time to do it.

I received a scholarship from Dublin City Council and I got my degree in Dublin City University.

I then decided to go and do my PHD. Apart from the PHD and all that Jazz, coming out the other side makes you realise just how good you are.

What inspired you to write this book?

The book started as my Masters, but my lecturer said this would make a great book and he worked with me to turn it into one.

The book is an academic perspective informed by the workplace, everybody has the capability to do it (maths) and the more training you get the better you get at it.

What did you take from the process of writing the book?

While I was researching for the book I realised it’s not the mathematics you know, it’s how you use it.

 If someone makes a mistake in a shop they might lose a few tins of peas, whereas if a nurse did that someone could die.

The first obstacle you have to overcome is to tell people to calm down it’s only sums.

I would say to students you have done a lot of numerical things in your everyday life, don’t tell me you are no good at maths. For example, My daughter came home from school one day saying she was finished with maths, that she couldn’t do it anymore; I helped her with it and now she is an accountant.

John Keogh’s life story just shows you how you can really and truly achieve anything if you put your heart, soul and mind to it.

“Adults Mathematics and work” is now available to purchase at or

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