The Causes of Poor Performance in Mathematics among Public Senior Secondary School Students in Azare Metropolis of Bauchi State, Nigeria

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Original research article, perceived causes of students’ poor performance in mathematics: a case study at ba and tavua secondary schools.

Poor achievement in mathematics is an issue of great concern for many countries across the globe. Fiji is one of the countries in the South Pacific experiencing the same trends, pressures, and concerns. This study aims to seek the views of stakeholders (students, teachers, heads of departments, and school heads) with regards to the causes of poor achievement in mathematics at the senior grades of secondary schools in the districts of Ba and Tavua, Fiji. A descriptive design using both quantitative and qualitative approaches were utilized whereby data were collected from 201 upper secondary school respondents comprising 171 students, 16 mathematics teachers, 7 department heads, and 7 school heads from seven randomly selected schools in the districts of Ba and Tavua. The study found that the students had a negative attitude toward mathematics. It was also found that an ineffective mathematics curriculum in secondary schools was the reason behind poor performance in the subject. Moreover, many of the primary school teachers lacked potential and competence to teach mathematics at primary school levels, and this largely contributed toward the lack of interest amongst students, hence translating into poor achievement at both upper and lower secondary levels. On the other hand, however, it was gathered that secondary school teachers were rather positive, good quality, performing, and fully qualified as far as the teaching of mathematics and delivery of the subject matter was concerned. Review and amendments to the year 12 and 13 mathematics curriculum, use of technologies to teach mathematics, improving the quality of primary school mathematics teachers, reducing the emphasis on exams, introducing internal assessments, projects, and field work in the mathematics curriculum were a few of the significant recommendations made from this study.


Globally, mathematics is regarded as one of the most important subjects in the school curriculum [ 1 ]. It is the foundation of scientific and technological knowledge that contributes significantly toward the socioeconomic development of a nation [ 1 – 6 ].

Mathematics plays a vital role in everyday life of so many people [ 7 , 8 ]. According to [ 2 ], mathematics is one subject that affects all aspects of human life at different levels. A study by [ 9 ] claimed that both education and human life do not effectively function without the knowledge of mathematics. In formal education, mathematics forms the basis of many of the sciences such as physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, and IT disciplines as well as the nonscience disciplines such as accounting, economics, geography, and even physical education, music, and art [ 1 , 4 , 6 , 7 , 10 – 15 ]. It is one of the most important subjects in the school curriculum, which acts as a bridge for all knowledge [ 3 ]. Studies by [ 16 , 17 ] stressed that mathematics is the bedrock and a tool for the scientific, technological, and economic advancement of any country. It is a common belief of educationists that no one can make progress in any field without having the basic knowledge of mathematics [ 18 ]. According to [ 1 , 8 ], mathematics is the foundation of science and technology without which a nation will not prosper and achieve economic independence. That is why mathematics is one of the leading core subjects in the secondary schools’ curriculum.

Personnels require mathematical skills in various disciplines, workplace, and sectors. Even things like the hydrogen bomb, missiles, space crafts, and satellites would not have been possible without the knowledge of mathematics [ 19 ]. Mathematics has its application in a wide range of informal settings, including vegetable selling, sewing, fishing, construction work, shopping, purchasing, carpet laying, video games, cabs and buses, farming, entertainment, sports, and everyday family activities [ 20 , 21 ]. Ultimately, the survival of any human being in this competitive world is almost impossible without the knowledge and skill in mathematics.

Despite the highly decorated and recognized importance of mathematics and the fact that it is the prerequisite for most of the subjects, poor achievement and lack of interest in mathematics (and STEM) among students remains as an issue of concern in schools, colleges, and universities in developed and developing countries alike [ 22 – 25 ]. Mathematics continues to be one of the most challenging subjects in schools as perceived by students [ 7 , 26 – 28 ]. There is a general impression that its very nature complicates mathematics. Because of this impression, majority of students have a phobia for this subject [ 9 , 29 – 31 ]. Besides, mathematics students of the 21st century enter mathematics classrooms with a serious lack of fluency and reliability in numerical and algebraic manipulation and simplification, problem-solving, and negative attitude [ 28 , 32 , 33 ].

It is quite evident that students with good mathematical skills can think analytically and have better reasoning abilities. That is why mathematics is used as an essential entry requirement for most of the courses at the higher education institutes, especially for courses relating to science, technology, and engineering disciplines [ 22 ]. Reference [ 34 ] claimed that the number of students enrolling in higher level mathematics courses had declined significantly. Due to this, there was an increase in mathematically underprepared students enrolling in undergraduate courses leading to curtailed enrollments and low pass rates in higher education (HE) institutes. Fiji with three major higher education institutions, namely, The University of the South Pacific, The Fiji National University, and The University of Fiji face the same challenge of decline in the quantity and quality of applicants enrolling for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses due to low pass rates in mathematics at years 12 and 13 national examinations [ 22 , 25 , 28 , 35 ]. Many Fijian students fail to meet the basic entry requirements for HE institutions in STEM courses that require either a pass or a higher cutoff mark in mathematics [ 36 ]. The domino effect of this over the years has forced HE institutes to remove the high cutoff marks for specific disciplines in order to avoid losing on students [ 37 ].

The Fijian government and its academic stakeholders have long been investing profoundly in the education sector. The government over the past few years has been providing initiatives such as transport assistance (bus fare and boat fare subsidies), free textbooks, and grants to uplift the standard of education in Fiji [ 11 , 38 ]. Despite such massive investments in education and the important role that mathematics plays in society, there has been a continuous trend of poor achievement in mathematics, especially at the years 12 and 13 grades of secondary schools in Fiji. The national examination results of FY12CE and FY13CE is demonstrated in Table 1 .

TABLE 1 . Performance in years 12 and 13 mathematics national examinations.

Studies by [ 16 , 39 , 40 ] claimed that the continual trend of poor achievement in mathematics is a function of cross-factors related to students, teachers, and schools. It is evident from several studies that student, teacher, and curriculum factors seem to have a significant effect on mathematics achievement [ 1 , 16 , 33 , 41 , 42 ].

While there are anecdotal pieces of evidence on why we are facing low achievement, there has been a dearth of formal and high-quality research in this area. The present study intends to carry out a thorough investigation on the student, teacher, and curriculum factors by cross-examining the views and perceptions of students, teachers, heads of the mathematics department, and the school heads. The article analyses and discusses the views of the respondents on the factors contributing to students’ poor achievement in mathematics, especially at the senior grades of selected secondary schools in the west of Fiji Islands. The findings of this research would provide an empirical insight to the Curriculum Development Unit (CDU), Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts (MEHA), Higher Education Institutes (HE), and other relevant academic stakeholders to bring about effective reviews and reforms in the education system in order to improve the achievement of students in mathematics at the senior secondary grades. It is anticipated that the recommendations of this study would bring about a positive mental attitude and perception of students toward mathematics. Moreover, the way mathematics is taught in both primary and secondary schools has to be changed.

Secondary School Mathematics Reforms in Fiji

The secondary school mathematics in Fiji has not seen any significant structural changes in the past 3 decades. Whereas almost all areas of the curriculum have changed to fit better with the context of Fiji, it is still an academic system that is driven by examinations [ 43 ]. The examination system in mathematics at the secondary level, which currently has external examinations at years 10, 12, and 13, is an entirely written examination in mathematics with no form of internal assessments.

However, for several years, the Overseas School Certificate and the General School Certificate Examinations from the United Kingdom were adopted in the Fijian education system. Then in the 1960s, came the switch to the New Zealand syllabi and examinations—the School Certificate and the University Entrance Examinations. The former was dropped and the latter replaced by local examinations in 1989 [ 44 ].

There were no significant changes in the mathematics curriculum for the next 2 decades until internal assessments came into effect. In 2011, Fiji Junior Certificate Examination was abolished, and internal assessment was implemented in all the secondary schools in Fiji [ 45 ]. It was anticipated that the reform in the curriculum would allow teachers to adopt a student-centered approach, shifting the focus of instruction from the teacher to the student. The shift from the teacher-centered approach would have allowed a student to be free from the constant pressure and trauma of external examinations. Form six (year 12) and form seven (year 13) examinations remained since they play an important function in the selection of students for further education and employment opportunities.

However, a report presented to the cabinet by the Education Minister in 2015 stated that the raw results for the external examinations showed very low mean marks and percentage pass rates in years 12 and 13 examinations which portrayed a failure in the education system. Mathematics recorded a percentage pass of 7.5%, one of the lowest performing subjects’ among all the other subjects in Fiji Year 13 external examination in 2014 [ 35 ]. The predicament was seen to be due to the removal of external exams up to year 11, and thus, poorly prepared students passed on from one year to the other without their teachers and parents knowing the true status of the students’ level of attainment that year. Removal of scaling was further proposed and passed by the cabinet to reflect a student’s true ability as results in mathematics in the past showed exaggerated percentages and averages that did not correctly portray the true stock of knowledge that the student had acquired [ 46 ].

In 2015, the honorable minister for education, Dr. Mahendra Reddy, further stressed that the Fijian curriculum was below the standard of some of the countries, whose graduates were more competitive at an equivalent level [ 47 , 48 ]. Dr. Reddy claimed that the graduates from HE institutes were fraught with lack of soft skills, lack of competency in English proficiencies, unwilling to think outside the box, and had poor research skills [ 47 ].

In the year 2018, the repercussions of poor achievement in mathematics were felt when the Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts identified an immediate shortage of mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, and industrial arts teachers anticipating the shortage to continue in the foreseeable future [ 49 ]. The shortage of teachers in STEM disciplines is attributed to poor achievement in mathematics at senior secondary grades since very few students are able to qualify for such courses. Most of these elite students who qualify and graduate prefer joining the private sector rather than teaching, contemplating better pay scale, and faster promotion chances, the trend shared by other countries in the South Pacific region [ 22 ]. To add on, MEHA has gone to the extent of hiring retired industrial arts teachers who wish to rejoin the service as assistant teachers. In few cases, teachers of nonengineering discipline are even appointed by the school administrators to take up the role of teaching engineering subjects at secondary schools due to the shortage of industrial arts teachers in the country. Also, some graduates who do make it to the teaching programs for STEM courses prefer to migrate to neighboring countries after few years of service, for attractive and better salary packages in comparison of what is paid to teachers locally.

Removal of scaling in national exams; preparation of localized and prescribed textbooks; reintroduction of national exams in year 10; introducing standard exams for years 9, 10, and 11; upgrading the quality; and providing detailed solutions of past year national exam papers were few of the reforms that took place over the past 4 years. Still, the result in mathematics at years 12 and 13 grades, the number of students enrolling at universities for STEM programs, and the number of graduates in mathematics, science, and technology continued to decline significantly.

Literature Review

The continuing trend of poor achievement in mathematics in Fiji secondary schools raises concerns to the Fijian government and the stakeholders on whether or not the Fijian education system can supply graduates who possess the essential skills to enable them to cope with the ever-evolving technological society. Several studies have attributed students’ low achievement in mathematics to student, teacher, and curriculum factors. For this study, students’ attitude and perception toward mathematics, teachers’ attitude, and perception toward mathematics, teaching methodologies of mathematics teachers, quality and performance of mathematics teachers, and the effectiveness and relevance of mathematics curriculum were the five factors identified to be influencing students’ achievement in mathematics at the senior grades of secondary schools in Fiji. The following review summarizes from the literature the above five factors that contributed to the low achievement of students in mathematics.

Attitude and Perception of Students Toward Mathematics

First, attitude determines the effort a student is likely to put in his or her learning of a subject. It refers to someone’s basic liking or disliking of a subject [ 13 , 50 ]. Several studies have been carried out in many countries to find the factors that influence the students’ performance in mathematics. Among these factors, student attitude and perception is one significant factor that has been consistently studied [ 13 , 51 – 55 ]. Studies such as [ 2 , 3 , 43 , 55 ] attributed challenges to teaching mathematics to the negative attitudes and perception of students as they perceive mathematics as a difficult subject to pass. A recent study by [ 1 ] found out that 92.50% of students hated mathematics, whereas 86.25% had unjust fear toward mathematics. The prolonged fear and anxiety of students in mathematics ultimately generates a negative attitude of students that becomes relatively permanent in future [ 56 ].

On the contrary, a study by [ 2 ] on the three colleges of Ghana found that students had a positive attitude toward mathematics with a willingness to learn. However, they are uncomfortable due to the conditions around them. These conditions do not necessarily mean that a student is always liable for his or her poor achievement. However, to date, while there have been local studies assessing school teachers’ preparedness for mathematics [ 57 ] and secondary students’ attitude in science [ 25 ] and ICT [ 58 , 59 ], there has been no research carried out locally to assess students’ attitude and perception toward mathematics. This requires views from students, teachers, heads of departments, and school heads to gain deeper insights into students’ lack of interest and low achievement in mathematics at the senior grades of secondary schools in Fiji.

Attitude and Perception of Teachers Teaching Mathematics

Second, the question that arises here is can the students be blamed for the poor attitude toward mathematics? According to [ 60 ], teachers’ negative beliefs about mathematics have a strong influence on students’ attitude and achievement in mathematics. Studies such as [ 6 , 53 , 54 , 61 , 62 ] have stressed on teachers’ attitude in mathematics being the significant determinant of negative attitude among students. The way students perceive teachers’ characteristics will affect their attitude toward mathematics [ 5 , 57 ]. Teachers’ personal and professional characteristics play a significant role in students’ liking or disliking of mathematics. Studies by [ 53 , 62 ] show that boring teachers, teachers’ lack of commitment, teachers’ personality, students’ failure to understand the topic, and the poor performance of students in exams relate to teachers’ negative attitude. While there is a dearth of relevant studies in Fiji, an international study by [ 6 ] has found out that the majority of the mathematics teachers in secondary schools display a positive attitude toward teaching mathematics. However, there are no recorded observations of this issue in Fiji. Therefore, an in-depth and comprehensive formal research needs to be conducted to find the general trend of local teachers’ attitude toward teaching mathematics and if this attitude affects their students’ attitude toward performance in mathematics.

Teaching Methods Used by Mathematics Teachers

Third, several studies have attributed poor academic achievement of students to the deficiency in teaching method(s) used by mathematics teachers [ 1 – 3 , 63 – 65 ]. According to [ 65 ], teachers employ wrong teaching methods of learning, which results in general hatred for the subject by the students. The author further concluded that if mathematics is to be appreciated by students, teachers must use new pedagogies and technologies that can stimulate students to gain interest in mathematics classes. A recent study by [ 1 ] found that 85.63% of students claimed that poor teaching methods of some mathematics teachers scare students from the subject. According to [ 66 , 67 ], in the current era of education, students are encouraged to discover and build their knowledge through active participation. Teachers should incorporate methods that involve active participation of students, considering students’ interest. A local study by [ 68 ] justified that due to the exam-oriented system, teachers are too much concerned with finishing the syllabus and drilling the students with the exam questions and answers. He further stressed that teachers are reluctant and sometimes hesitant to use other approaches to the teaching and learning of mathematics as it would take up too much time and are deemed irrelevant to passing exams.

Quality, Performance, and Qualification of Mathematics Teachers

Moreover, great teachers are quality and better performing teachers who tend to inspire people around regardless of any challenges or barriers. Quality, performance, and qualification of mathematics teachers are other important factors that significantly influence the attitude and achievement of mathematics students. It is evident through research that the achievement of students is strongly linked to high-quality and qualified teachers [ 68 ]. A recent study by [ 1 ] revealed that the majority of the students indicated that their teachers did not have enough potential to teach mathematics. Most of the mathematics teachers do not make the teaching of mathematics practical and exciting due to inadequate training at HE institutions or lack of training for preservice teachers on the 21st-century pedagogies in mathematics, which ultimately leads to negative attitude and poor achievement in mathematics among students. It is, therefore, important that both preservice and in-service training are essential for the quality professional development of the teacher [ 2 ]. Studies by [ 28 , 69 ] have emphasized that technology is essential in teaching and learning mathematics. Some secondary schools in Fiji, such as Nadi Sangam Kuppuswamy Memorial College, Swami Viveka Nanda College, Tilak High School, and Vunimono High School, have already blended ICT entirely in years 12 and 13 of the school curriculum. A recent local study by [ 70 ] emphasized that ICT in this modern era allows various innovative and creating assessments to be incorporated in lessons, which were not possible using traditional assessment methods. He further added that the workload of teachers is significantly reduced by the use of ICT, allowing teachers to utilize more time to focus on the key role, that is, to enhance learning among students. Many primary and secondary schools have plans underway to integrate ICT in every classroom [ 10 , 13 , 72 ]; however, investing in such initiatives still proves to be an expensive affair for many schools in Fiji. Another local study conducted by [ 10 ] shows that together with the implementation of ICT in the teaching and learning curriculum, students need to have relevant skills such as computer competencies and computer self-efficacies in order to successfully and effectively utilize these tools for their learning processes. Additionally, students also need to have relevant digital literacy skills in order to survive and thrive in this digital world [ 71 , 72 ]; hence, the teachers as mentors of the students need to have relevant digital literacy skills themselves.

Also, teachers play a very crucial role in integrating ICT in the school curriculum, and without proper training, knowledge, and competency of teachers, ICT may fail to deliver its expected outcome in education. Use of ICT, mobiles, laptops, podcasts, videos, Internets, and other assistive technologies improve the way mathematics is taught and enhance students’ understanding of the basic concepts more rapidly and effectively. However, a study by [ 73 ] found that mathematics teachers are not fully utilizing these facilities in their classroom teaching. According to [ 9 ], most of the mathematics teachers do not even make the teaching of mathematics practical and exciting. They are not competent enough to teach mathematics dynamically, which leads to negative attitude among pupils implying improper guidance by the teachers as well. A study by [ 74 ] concluded that the lack of competent mathematics teachers leads to the failure of students in mathematics in Nigerian secondary schools. Teacher’s language and background knowledge of the content contributes significantly toward academic achievements [ 75 ]. A study by [ 72 , 76 ] shows that linguistic and conceptual comprehension is a matter of concern. Mathematics teachers need to give a clear explanation to students about mathematical concepts where both language and a basic understanding of the concept is required to ensure each student understands rather than left confused. A study by [ 77 ] proved that teachers’ clarity, communication skills, content knowledge, and assessment procedures significantly impact students’ achievement in mathematics. To add on, studies such as [ 1 , 74 , 78 , 79 ] have attributed students’ low achievement in mathematics to lack of qualified mathematics teachers teaching at secondary schools. To address such issues in the South Pacific, a new cohort-taught pedagogical model known as the Science Teachers Accelerated Program (STAP) was introduced by The University of the South Pacific (USP) for those in-service science teachers outside the vicinity of USP campuses have to upskill and upgrade their qualifications through cohort teaching [ 22 ]. The program has mixed delivery modes and leverages heavily on ICT tools and technologies, including tablets and virtual classrooms [ 23 ], which have proven to be statistically significantly effective and productive in terms of quality and qualification of science teachers teaching at secondary schools in the South Pacific.

Effectiveness and Relevance of Mathematics Curriculum

Finally, a study by [ 80 ] described the curriculum in developing countries as too compact and exam-oriented. For teachers and stakeholders, the exam results of the schools are of great concern to them. Thus, due to the exam-oriented system, teachers are too much concerned with finishing the syllabus and drilling students with the exam questions and answers [ 68 ]. In the same view, [ 81 ] claimed that curriculum and assessment in Fijian schools do not serve the actual purpose effectively and efficiently. Examinations are not able to assess the attitude of students, leaving an important facet of life underdeveloped and probably the reason for not attaining quality. He further claimed that the gap in the curriculum content and the forms of assessment to achieve the outcomes has labeled the Fijian education system hapless. The Education Commission Report 2000 even reflected that the exam-oriented curriculum does not allow for outcome-based teaching and learning to progress. In many developing countries, several studies and researches have been carried out on curriculum and examinations influencing students’ interest and achievements in mathematics [ 7 , 81 – 84 ]. Local studies by [ 85 , 86 ] recommended that the Ministry of Education should review the curriculum to make it relevant and flexible to the diverse needs of different regions and background of the students. Reference [ 5 ] emphasized that the curriculum that currently exists focuses primarily on impoverished ideas about student learning or are based on no model of learning at all. It is quite evident that the mathematics content and assessments at years 11, 12, and 13 are dominated by arithmetic and is broad, non-contextualized, and irrelevant to real life when compared to years 9 and 10.

The majority of the local research works from the literature were conducted in primary schools, which focused on limited factors affecting performance in mathematics. At the same time, there are several factors responsible for students’ poor achievement in mathematics. Therefore, the study intends to contribute to the existing literature investigating the above five factors contributing to poor achievement in mathematics at the senior grades of secondary schools in the Western Division of Viti Levu, Fiji.

Research Objectives

The aim of this study was to examine and assess the factors that contribute to students’ poor achievement in mathematics at the senior grade (years 12 and 13) of secondary schools.

The study sought to:

a) assess students’ attitude and perception toward mathematics at senior grades of Tavua and Ba secondary schools

b) assess student perception on teachers’ attitude toward teaching mathematics at Tavua and Ba secondary schools

c) evaluate the qualification of mathematics teachers of Tavua and Ba secondary schools

d) identify teaching methods used by mathematics teachers of Tavua and Ba secondary schools

e) student and teacher perception on the effectiveness of the current mathematics curriculum at the senior secondary grades.

Research Questions

Specifically, this study aims to answer the following research questions:

a) What is the students’ attitude and perception toward mathematics at senior secondary grades?

b) What is the student perception on teachers’ attitude toward teaching mathematics at senior secondary grades?

c) What are the teaching methods used by mathematics teachers at senior secondary grades?

d) What are the qualifications of mathematics teachers in Tavua and Ba schools?

e) What is the student and teacher perception on the current mathematics curriculum at the senior secondary grades effective?


This study is a descriptive study in which a cross-sectional survey research design was adopted. The data for the research were collected by the use of questionnaires, interviews, and student focus group discussion. The target population was 201 respondents which comprised 171 students, 16 mathematics teachers, 7 department heads, and 7 school heads from seven randomly selected secondary schools in the districts of Tavua and Ba. Random Sampling technique was used to select the seven secondary schools from a population of 14 secondary schools within the districts of Ba and Tavua. The sample, therefore, represented 50% of the population of Ba and Tavua secondary schools. The mathematics teachers, heads of departments, and the school heads were a part of the sample, who answered the questionnaires and also took part in the individual interviews as per the schedule. The stratified random sampling technique was then used for the selection of students from years 12 and 13 by obtaining a list containing recent overall academic results of each student in order to group them with varied abilities. This was done to ensure that the views of all the students with different abilities are equally represented. Furthermore, the purposive sampling method was used to select the students for the focus group discussion. Students within the Ba community were identified by the principal researcher, who were very inquisitive about the study’s objective and were outspoken to give personal and true opinions for the study. All the respondents were assured of confidentiality and their identity anonymity to protect the privacy of each respondent and to get the required information, which are the true opinions of each respondent. The appointments with the school heads were made and the consent of each respondent was also taken prior to the field research.

Research Tool Development and Pilot Study

There were four sets of questionnaires designed for each group of respondents (students, teachers, heads of departments, and school heads). The questionnaires were almost the same except for the content being rephrased to suit the opinion of the different groups of respondents. The questionnaire utilized the Likert scale to collect quantitative data for the research along with a section for suggestions and recommendations to curb the issue of poor achievement in mathematics. Three sets of interview questions were then designed. This was only for the mathematics teachers, heads of departments, and school heads. The students were not considered to be interviewed due to time constraints and a busy schedule for students after the reopening of schools post–COVID-19 lockdown in the country. Students were rather selected for the focus group discussion that was held at one of the libraries in the Ba town. The interviews and the focus group discussion only collected the qualitative data for the research. Pilot testing of these tools was also done in the two secondary schools in the district of Ba and Lautoka, which were not part of the sample. This was done to establish the clarity, meaning, and comprehensibility of each item in the tools. After the pilot study, the research tools along with the responses were discussed among the co-researchers for further review and amendment for its reliability and validity. A Cronbach alpha test using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) was carried out. The alpha value of 0.86 indicated that the questionnaire was valid and reliable for the study.

Demographic Characteristics of the Respondents

From the target population of 201 respondents, 181 respondents comprising of 151 years 12 and 13 students, 16 mathematics teachers, 7 heads of mathematics department, and 7 school heads answered the questionnaire. The same 16 mathematics teachers, 7 heads of the mathematics department, and 6 school heads from the 181 respondents group were the respondents who were also interviewed. The remaining 20 respondents from the target population were the years 12 and 13 students from the four secondary schools in the Ba district. They volunteered to be part of the student focus group discussion. From the 13 secondary schools in the districts of Tavua and Ba, 7 schools were randomly chosen to be the sample of this study. Data on Table 2 indicate the gender distribution of the participants in the study.

TABLE 2 . Gender of respondents.

Results and Discussion

a) Research question 1: What is the attitude and perception of students toward mathematics at senior secondary grades?

Students, teachers, heads of the mathematics department, and the school heads selected for the study were asked to give opinions on years 12 and 13 students’ attitude and perception toward mathematics. Each of the students selected expressed views on their own attitude and perception toward mathematics while the teachers, heads of mathematics department, and the school heads expressed their opinion on students’ attitude and perception toward the subject. The responses obtained are presented in Table 3 and Table 4 , as shown below.

TABLE 3 . Students’ attitude and perception toward mathematics—student perception.

TABLE 4 . Students’ attitude and perception toward mathematics—educators perception.

Table 3 shows that majority of the students perceived mathematics as a difficult subject. Students’ responses for each item showed that more than 50% of the students had a fear of mathematics as a subject and preferred learning other subjects, with the majority not wishing to continue with mathematics at the university level.

Table 4 shows responses from the 30 educators. More than 50% of the educators also perceived that students found mathematics a difficult subject and mostly failed because they had mathematics phobia. Looking at the educators’ responses, more than 50% believed that students lacked mathematics basics and hardly participated in any classroom activity. The responses from both the students and teachers were similar and derived from the “SA” and “A” columns. The following were a few of the responses from the interviews and student focus group discussions on how students perceive mathematics.

“I enjoyed and liked mathematics in my first three years of primary school only. Now I hate this subject. I do not see any reason why should we study mathematics? Where is it used in real life?” Student FG 13.

“I was really doing well in mathematics till year 4. Then I was taught by a teacher who always confused me. The explanations were not clear and understandable. The same teacher taught me in year 5 and from then I have lost interest in the subject.” Student FG 2.

“Students have a preconceived idea that mathematics is difficult. Till we change their attitude, we will never be able to achieve a better result in mathematics. Mathematics has to be made compulsory along with English in order to make them realise that they have to study and pass the subject if they want to achieve something in life”. Principal 2.

“Mathematics is a scoring subject. My teacher teaches us so well. She always motivates us to learn, but I do not know the basics. When now I am eager to study, I still find mathematics going over my head. I can answer few simple questions but when it comes to complex exercises, I just lose hope again.” Student FG 19.

“Students have a negative attitude and perception from primary school. Due to the ministry’s policy on compulsory education till year 12, they are just getting promoted. A child not knowing the previous year work is rarely able to grasp the concepts in the current year. It becomes very difficult for teachers in a classroom of over 30 students to go over basics and then teach them the concept.” Teacher 5.

“Mathematics is just numbers. It is so boring. Why are there no projects in mathematics like other technical subjects? I love to do technical drawing and computer studies as it has projects. In technical drawing we do practicals and projects which makes me enjoy the subject.” Student FG 12.

“My mathematics teachers work really hard. Some even take extra classes such as afternoon classes, Saturday classes and evening classes. Teachers go to the extent of going to students home and teach. Despite these efforts, some students do not bother. They do not even show interest and take advantage of extra efforts by our department teachers. Fact is that it is not their fault totally. They do not have a good foundation. By the time they reach year 12 and 13, mathematics is perceived to be a foreign language to them. They know that no matter how hard they try, nothing would change as they would still fail.”

b) Research question 2: What is the teachers’ attitude toward teaching mathematics at senior secondary grades?

The students were asked to give opinions on teachers’ attitude toward teaching mathematics at senior secondary grades.

Table 5 shows the student perception of the teachers' attitude in Tavua and Ba secondary schools. From the results, close to 85% of the students perceived that the teachers had a positive attitude toward teaching mathematics and always motivated them to learn. This is derived from the percentage of responses given under the “SA” and “A” columns. Similarly, teachers had been positively conditioning students at the senior grades; however, students’ prolonged negative mindset about mathematics from primary school failed to gain positive predilection for the subject. The teachers provided the students with summary notes for easier understanding and provided recaps before beginning new lessons. About 50% of the students indicated that their teachers' incorporated games, fun, and technology while teaching mathematics. Overall, the teachers’ attitude was positive in the delivery of mathematics lessons to the students.

c) Research question 3: What are the teaching methods used by mathematics teachers at senior secondary grades?

TABLE 5 . Student perception of teachers’ attitude toward teaching mathematics.

For this question, Table 6 was used as a guideline for the type of teaching methods used by the educators. In total, 23 educators answered this question and the results are presented below.

TABLE 6 . Teaching methods.

Data obtained from analyses show that 46.4% of the mathematics teachers used interactive lecture method, 24.3% use learner-centered method, 16.6% used teacher-centered method and 12.7% use collaborative learning method in their mathematics lessons. There were mixed reactions to the type of methods employed by the mathematics teachers of Tavua and Ba secondary schools. From the results it was evident that few of the teachers still preferred teacher-centered method (lecture method) of teaching their mathematics lessons. Many researchers have argued that the lecture method is a passive, ineffective, and antiquated teaching method used by teachers that would soon become obsolete [ 87 ]. However, few teachers find lecture method to be useful in covering a substantial amount of content, especially with large class sizes [88].

d) Research question 3: What are the qualifications attained by the mathematics teachers?

The survey also captured the mathematics and teacher training qualifications. The results are shown in Figures 1 and 2 .

FIGURE 1 . Highest level of mathematics teachers’ qualification.

FIGURE 2 . Teacher training qualification of mathematics teachers.

Figure 1 shows that majority of the teachers at secondary schools have degree qualifications with 24% having post graduate qualifications. The teachers with Diploma are upgrading their qualifications to degree. Figure 2 shows the teacher training qualifications and 100% of the teachers’ have teacher training qualification ranging from secondary teacher training certificate to post graduate diploma in education.

e) Research 5: Is the mathematics curriculum in senior secondary grades effective and relevant?

A 14-item Likert scale was developed to assist in detecting the nature and effectiveness of the mathematics curriculum at years 12 and 13 grades as opined by the respondents of Tavua and Ba secondary schools. The responses obtained are presented in Table 7 , as shown below.

TABLE 7 . Effectiveness and relevance of mathematics curriculum.

Out of 181 respondents, 145 (79.6%) have indicated that mathematics textbooks are very much dominated by arithmetic. It mostly deals with numbers, calculations, and complex computations. Also, 124 (68.5%) respondents agreed that the current mathematics curriculum at the senior secondary grades focuses only on examinations. In comparison, 101 (55.8%) respondents have shown that the mathematics curriculum in the senior secondary grades focuses mainly on the product (performance in exams) instead of the process (learning and understanding). This strongly agrees with the study by [ 43 ] who also identified the exam-oriented curriculum as one of the challenges in the senior grades of secondary schools in Fiji. Furthermore, the data obtained showed that 100 (55.2%) respondents have indicated that the mathematics curriculum at senior secondary grades is broad and lengthy compared to the other subjects. It was quite evident that majority of the teachers, heads of mathematics department, and school heads in the interviews have expressed disappointments regarding the current mathematics curriculum at the senior grades of secondary schools in Fiji.

“Curriculum is broad and lengthy and does not address the needs of students who wish to pursue further studies outside mathematics, science, and technical subjects.” (HOD Interview 5).

“Content of Year 13 has very less relevance to the real life.” (Teacher 13).

“People are not interested in certain topics because they do not find it relevant to real life.” (Student FG 5).

“Years 12 and 13 mathematics curriculum needs to be reviewed and the numbers of strands need to be reduced to incorporate more time for project work/class-based assessments.” (HOD Interview 5).

“Experienced teachers or department heads are the best stakeholders in terms of consultation and amendment of mathematics curriculum. Furthermore, there has to be consistency in external exam papers from year to year” (HOD Interview 5).

“The mathematics curriculum needs to be realigned to suit the Fijian context and the need of students.” (HOD Interview 2).

“Some students totally lose interest in mathematics upon reaching years 12 and 13 and therefore focus on subjects with projects to get a good aggregate. They ignore mathematics as they know that there is no chance of passing mathematics purely through exams.” (HOD Interview 6).

“External exams need not to be abolished but the weighting should be inclusive of projects and class internal assessments.” (HOD Interview 5).

There had been very poor results over the years in year 12 and 13 external exams. This means both the examination and the curriculum do not serve its purpose.” (HOD Interview 7).

• The overall mean response of the students, teachers, heads of the mathematics department, and school heads indicates that the mathematics curriculum at the senior grades of secondary schools is ineffective and irrelevant and therefore needs to be reviewed.

The data below show the rating of respondents’ perception of factors that contribute to poor achievement in mathematics. Out of 181 respondents, only 93 entries were analyzed since the remaining 88 entries were invalid. The responses obtained are analyzed in Figure 3 below.

FIGURE 3 . Factors that contribute to poor achievement in mathematics (A) . Students’ attitude and perception toward mathematics (B) . Teachers’ attitude toward teaching mathematics (C) . Teaching methods used by mathematics teachers (D) . Quality, performance, and qualification of mathematics teachers ( E) . Poorly developed curriculum and examinations.

Figure 3 revealed that students’ attitude and perception toward mathematics (58.1%) and poorly developed curriculum and examinations (34.3%) were the factors perceived to be significantly contributing to students’ poor achievement in mathematics at the senior grades of secondary schools. The respondents perceived that teacher attitude (2.2%); teaching methodologies (2.2%); and teacher quality, performance, and qualification (4.3%) had the least impact on students’ poor achievement in mathematics.

Limitations and Strengths

There was a dearth of local literature on poor achievement of students in mathematics and as such international literature was mostly referred to as a guide. Furthermore, time constraint was a factor since the principal researcher holds a full-time academic position during the time of this project. Hence, the sample schools chosen were around the vicinity of the principal researchers’ district origin. Despite these limitations, the study utilized an expansive approach to study different dynamics contributing to students’ poor achievement in mathematics from the views of students, teachers, heads of departments, and the school heads. The findings of the study also depict the notion of the problem faced in the teaching and learning of mathematics.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The study was carried out to examine and assess the factors contributing to the poor achievement of students at the senior grades of Tavua and Ba secondary schools in Western Fiji. Students’ attitude and perception toward mathematics, student perception on teachers’ attitude toward mathematics, teacher methodologies, teacher qualification, and student and teacher perception on the current curriculum in mathematics were the factors studied for this research. The study found that students had a negative attitude and perception toward mathematics. Furthermore, students perceived that mathematics teachers had a positive attitude toward teaching mathematics and are fully qualified to teach mathematics at secondary school levels as far as the teaching of mathematics and delivery of the subject matter was concerned. The method of teaching by the mathematics teachers was also appropriate and was fairly justified; however, limited use of technologies by the mathematics teachers in teaching mathematics was a matter of concern among most of the students. Furthermore, the study revealed the students and educators perceive that the current mathematics curriculum for years 12 and 13 are ineffective. This implied that students’ negative attitude and perception toward mathematics and the ineffective mathematics curriculum are the significant factors perceived to be significantly contributing to poor achievement of students in mathematics at the senior secondary grades. Moreover, many of the primary school teachers lacked potential and competence to teach mathematics at primary school levels, and this largely contributed toward the lack of interest among students, hence translating into poor achievement at both upper and lower secondary levels were found to be the reasons for students’ negative attitude and poor performance at secondary schools. The following recommendations are made based on the findings of the study: The mathematics curriculum at both years 12 and 13 need to be reviewed and amended in order to allow outcome-based teaching and learning to take place. The relevance and application of mathematics in real life should also be reflected in the curriculum.

The teachers, heads of departments, and the school heads have strongly emphasized ( via interviews) the need for MEHA and CDU to involve all the academic stakeholders including even the students and mathematics teachers in regards to any consultation, reviews, and amendments to the school curriculum. Exams should not be the only method of assessing students’ performance in mathematics. Internal assessments/field work/projects need to be a part of mathematics curriculum to understand mathematics better and at the same time develop interest among students with diverse needs. Students tend to learn better with technologies. There is a need for teachers to incorporate 21st century teaching tools, gadgets, and technology in teaching mathematics. Technology provides additional opportunities for students to see and interact with mathematics concepts and develop a positive attitude and perception toward the subject. Teacher quality should not be compromised at any cost, especially teachers who are responsible to teach the foundation of mathematics in primary schools. Content-focused teacher training to be implemented for primary school teachers in Fiji to teach specialized subjects in schools in order to build a good foundation among students and maintain positive attitude and perception of students toward mathematics across all levels.

Data Availability Statement

The raw data supporting the conclusion of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.

Author Contributions

Study conception and design: SC and KC; data collection: SC; analysis and interpretation of results: SC, AP, and VC; draft manuscript preparation: SC and KC. All authors reviewed the results and approved the final version of the manuscript.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

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Keywords: low academic achievement, teacher quality, curriculum, mathematics in schools, teacher attitude

Citation: Chand S, Chaudhary K, Prasad A and Chand V (2021) Perceived Causes of Students’ Poor Performance in Mathematics: A Case Study at Ba and Tavua Secondary Schools. Front. Appl. Math. Stat. 7:614408. doi: 10.3389/fams.2021.614408

Received: 06 October 2020; Accepted: 04 February 2021; Published: 23 April 2021.

Reviewed by:

Copyright © 2021 Chand, Chaudhary, Prasad and Chand. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Samlesh Chand, [email protected]

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LITERATURE REVIEW 2:1 INTRODUCTION 2:0 This chapter focuses on views of different authors and researchers concerning causes of low performance of students in mathematics at Ordinary level .The literature helped the researcher in trying to resolve the problem by identifying what had been tried and the results of those trials .The literature helped the researcher to identify gaps that need to be in the area of study .The chapter began by discussing the theory that influences the information of causes of poor performance then it went on to review what has been discovered on the sub problems in an attempt to answer the study problem . 2:2 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORKS In an academic arena the most important event is the success or failure of the learner to learn .Experience of failure in problems designed to test the level of learning is often followed by a na”ve reaction of blaming either lack of ability ,lack of luck or lack of effort of the designed problem .Success is often followed by access to possession of ability ,easiness of task or input of effort in school work .Mathematics is mostly disguised as a subject not for the weak and so this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that mathematics is a subject for those with great intellectual ability .A large number of studies seem to gravitate towards the problem of mathematics education in Zimbabwe as illustrated by the poor performance of students who have failed to meet the admission requirements of mathematics faculties . Mabila (etal) (2006) asserts that, mathematics is one of the most paramount fears of teachers and other mathematics educators globally. It is of paramount importance for teachers to have a theoretical background in order to better understand the behaviours and performance of students and be able to help them .In a study in Lesotho on causal attribution of performance in mathematics ,it was discovered that there is a relationship between causal attribution and performance (Kallenbach and Zaft ,2004 ).The theorem of na”ve psychology was first profounded by Fritz Heider in 1958 and was later developed into a theoretical framework by Weiner and friends in 1972 .The theories of success and failure in education are very important .In this study the theory helped to explain the origins of the students and teachers perceptions of pupils’ performance in mathematics .(Weiner 1992 )observes that, most explanations for success or failure have some characteristics which are , whether the cause of failure is within the person or outside the person ,the second being , whether the cause is seen as stable or unstable . Finally is whether the cause is perceived as controllable or uncontrollable. Thompson (1995 ) postulates that ,a central assumption of the Attribution theory is that people attempt to maintain a positive self-image .Therefore if people do well in an examination they are likely to attribute their success to their own efforts or abilities ,but when they do poorly they believe that failure is due to factors which they have no control . Basing on this theory, if learners perform badly in mathematics they attribute the cause to other factors other than themselves and in most cases it is the teacher who is given the blame and the teacher acts likewise and blames the students for not putting enough effort in their learning .Oloyede (1996)adds credence to the above sentiments in this study on effects of psychological theories in mathematics teaching when he said that for any mathematics teacher to be academically functional and effective in the classroom the knowledge of educational psychology should be the basis for new encounter in his or her teaching .The tendency for individuals to consistently make particular kinds of attributions overtime is referred as attribution style. Metalsky and Abramson( 1981 ) This means a self-enhancing style is one that habitually gives credit to hard work for success and attributes failure to lack of effort . Attribution Theory influences pupils’ perceptions and deals with four explanations for success and failure in, achievement situations, ability effort, task difficulty and luck. The internal attributions are ability and effort to the individual, whilst task difficulty and luck are external to the learner. Ability is taken to be a relatively stable, unaltered state, whilst effort can be altered. One concept that is central to attribution is locus of control (Bandura, 1997) .Locus of control has been defined by Weiner (2000) as a subjective personal belief that the extents to which one’s actions determine outcomes. A student with locus of control believes that success or failure is due to his or her own efforts or disabilities. Locus of control can be either internal or external to the individual .A student with external locus of control always believes that external forces cause his or her failure. On the other hand ,one with internal locus of control also known as self-efficacy believes that one’s behaviour makes a difference (Zimmerman ,1998) .Self efficacy or locus of control can be very important in explaining a student’s school performance if the teacher has knowledge of the theory . Several researchers have observed that students who are high in internal locus of control have better grades and test scores than students of the same intelligence who are low in internal locus of control .(Shell, (1995 ). According to (Bandura, 1997) observes that studies have established locus of control to be the second most important predicator of student’s achievement. Students who believe that success in school is due to luck, teacher’s effort or other external factors are unlikely to work hard because they have no confidence in their ability. In contrast ,students who that that success and failure are due to their efforts can be expected to work hard provided they are prepared to do so .If pupils believe that hard work results in improved performance they will put more effort and an improved performance will motivate them in future and will not blame external factors for their failure .Salami (1997)also agrees with the above statement when he says ,success that is attributed to good luck is not sustainable ,as failure may occur in the future since luck is unstable .Furthermore it has been observed that students who attribute their performance to luck avoid the front seats but prefer the back seats . In addition attribution to luck has been known to be characterised poor attitude to study, low motivation and low motivation to achieve (Forsth and MacMillan 1981). Attribution of failure to lack of effort may result in improved success because performance might be improved if more effort is exerted. This is echoed by Rao (2007) who asserts that, when students fail, they are most likely to persist and eventually succeed if they attribute their failure to lack of appropriate effort . Effort is most effective if it is reviewed as the persisting devotion of effective academic time to the task .It is important that when students perceive themselves as unsuccessful they are helped to develop the conviction that they have the ability to succeed in mathematics and they could succeed if they give their best. Attributing mathematics failure to lack of ability may result in low expectance for future success because ability is stable and will not increase greatly and also future performance will show little improvement. In reality success in a learning situation is a product of the student’s effort( internal factors ) and luck task difficulty ,behaviour of the teachers thus teaching methods and availability of resources (external factors ) .In a classroom situation ,students receive constant feedback concerning their level of performance on academic tasks either relative to others or relative to some norm of acceptability .Bandura (1997) asserts that ,the feedback students receive influences their self-perceptions . Attribution theory can help teachers to understand how students may interpret and use feedback on their mathematics performance be it negative or positive .It has been observed that constant reference to a student as being dull may influence the child’s self-perception that he or she is not good in mathematics and will attribute his or her poor performance to lack of ability hence will not bother making an effort to improve. The theory encourages educators to give feedback that has the greatest motivational value that will positively influence students’ self-perception (MacCown, Driscoll and Roop (1996). Burstein (1992) in a study that influences mathematics performance found that there is a direct link between students attitudes towards mathematics and the students’ performance in that subject .He also found out that twenty five per cent in England and twenty six percentage in Norway of the pass rate was accounted for by the students’ attitudes towards mathematics .To further substantiate the earlier observation ,results of a study on causal attribution of performance by students in Lesotho showed that generally a majority of the students had undesirable attribution patterns in mathematics performance and this contributed to poor and deteriorating performance in the subject (Nenty ,1998) . (Aremu and Sokan ,2003 ) have also identified four factors that contribute to low performance .The first one was identified as the cause resident in the learner such as cognitive skills ,physical and health factors ,psycho emotional factors and lack of interest in the school programme . For example, a learner can perform badly in mathematics because some concepts were introduced while the student was absent due to poor health. Again , a student can also perform poorly due to lack of awareness on the value of mathematics in his/ her life .The other factor identified is resident in the family ,such as lack of finance and lack of role model to influence the learners behaviour positively .To give credence to the above observations ,students have been known to do well because their brothers and sisters were also mathematics major at school .In this instance attributions are influenced positively by family members .The assumption here is ,if the student comes from a sound mathematical background and is not dull then the teacher should examine the school for the source of the student’s negative perception of one’s low performance . For a teacher to know and understand the Attribution Theory and be able to use it to change negative perceptions of students, he or she must possess a professional qualification in the teaching of mathematics and be in possession of knowledge in educational Psychology which is in the foundation of one to be an effective teacher. The next section discusses the teacher qualification in an attempt to find out if teachers and students influence performance in mathematics at Ordinary level. 2:3 Qualifications of the teacher and the teaching of mathematics Teacher qualification contributes immensely to the pupils performance in mathematics .Research has consistently shown that teachers’ content and pedagogical knowledge provide a basis for classroom practices .Ferguson and Ladd (1996) observes that ,research studies have found that teachers more effectively teach and improve student achievement if they themselves have strong academic skills .Varelas (1991 )asserts that ,a growing number of research shows that student achievement is more heavily influenced by teacher quality and not by student race, class ,prior academic record or school a student attends .Research indicates that the achievement gap widens each year between students with most effective teachers and those with least effective teachers .This suggests that the most significant gains in student achievement will likely be realised when students receive instruction from good teachers over consecutive years . Abraham and Keith (2006) used a questionnaire as a basis for constructing an index of school effectiveness and their findings revealed that teachers were the key drivers of internal school change. Oshodi (1991) investigated resource utilisation and students’ academic performance and used Spearman rank correlation coefficient to determine the most influential factor on students’ academic performance and found that the quality of teachers was the most important determinant of students’ academic performance in schools .There is need for appropriate formal training in the field in which they teach and several years of teaching experience. Sweeney (1998 )observes that ,students perform better in mathematics at Ordinary level when taught by teachers with more years of teaching experience considering the common saying that experience is the best teacher .Chivore (1997) concurs by saying that teaching is about how to put across what one knows to the learner. If a teacher lacks content knowledge he or she cannot teach effectively resulting in poor performance by students. Many studies support the notion that, teachers who teach subjects that they have previously studied in depth are particularly effective .However advanced degrees in general thus degrees that that are not in the subject matter being taught have not been found to be associated with higher student achievement. Galaba (2001) reiterates that, the teacher is the heart of classroom instruction and his or her effectiveness depends on his or her competence that is academic and pedagogic. In addition, the teacher needs efficiency which can be seen through his or her ability to tackle different mathematics concepts with confidence ,handle his or her work load without succumbing to the pressure and commitment to duty . Mosha (2004) has observed that mathematics is a skill that is difficult to acquire and because the teaching profession does not play well there is shortage of qualified teachers resulting in poor performance by learners .In most schools in Zimbabwe, there is always a vacancy for teaching in mathematics departments even if the school is overstaffed in other departments due to shortage of students in that area. Another situation that is common among Zimbabwean schools is the employment of advanced level school leavers to teach Ordinary level mathematics students as a way of alleviating the problem of the shortage of qualified mathematics teachers. Those mathematics teachers who are available are overloaded with work resulting in low morale as most of them are given examination classes and leave non examination classes for untrained teachers. This observation is supported by the findings by the Ministry of education through the Curriculum Development Unit (CDU) (1993) who discovered that, the majority of mathematics teachers were young and lacked experience .They also discovered that most teachers had Ordinary level as their highest academic qualification and a certificate in education as the highest professional qualification. A research carried out by the Department of education in California cited by Sweeney (1998) established many ways of explaining why many mathematics teachers perform poorly in the classroom besides lack of motivation .One of the findings was that ,the teachers never learned the subject properly all the way from kindergarten through college .This then precludes the possibility of good teaching because one cannot teach what one does not know .Another explanation offered for the teachers ‘poor performance is that their stilted ,constructed and rigid approach to the subject turns students off at the onset . This means that such teachers lack the knowledge of making their lessons interesting to enhance understanding on the student. Bandura in Oleyede (1996) through his theory of Social Learning supports that the teacher should demonstrate his or her own enthusiasm in mathematics learning so as to mode a desirable behaviour to students .If the teacher looks bored according to this theory so will the students . It is believed that a motivated teacher always complete the work set for him even when such work is difficult or uninteresting .Freud (1990 ) and other psychologists like Taylor (1994 ) generally agreed that man is motivated by the desire to satisfy a number of needs .This is true because there is no doubt that teachers whose financial needs are not satisfied will be psychologically and socially demoralised in their working attitudes and this is of great effect to performance of such teachers. Most teachers come into school only to put their names in the attendance register and moves out in pursuit of other jobs which will earn them a large amount of money to make ends meet since teachers ‘salaries are very small .This attitude of teachers make the students go home after the whole day with nothing learnt either one or two subjects for the day .This lowers the students’ academic performance . Maslow (1954 ) came up with the theory of the hierarchy of needs .Maslow’s theory states that ,if a number of the features of a person’s needs are satisfied at any given time ,satisfaction of the most proponent ones will be more pressing than that of the other .This implies that teachers’ behaviour at work like ,coming to work late ,lazy to teach ,poor teaching methods are caused by lack of motivation by the employer and hence there is poor academic performance in schools .Victor (1964 ) in his contributions advanced the Expectancy Valence Theory .He stated that ,if an individual worker believes that working hard will lead to salary increase ,he will intensify his or her effort and work hard .The theory recognises that people act only when they have a reasonable expectation that their actions will lead to a desired goal. The theorist goes on to say, motivation is the function of the expectancy of attaining a certain outcome in performing certain act multiplied by the value of the outcome for the performance. In support on the need for motivation McGregor’s (1960) asserts that, on average human beings have an inherent dislike of work and will avoid it if possible .Hence this will cause poor academic performance in students as teachers will relax whilst at work . This problem of poor performance in mathematics is not only in Zimbabwe alone, in South Africa it has been reported that out-dated teaching practices and lack of basic content knowledge have resulted in poor teaching standards .South Africa participated in the Third World International mathematics study conducted in 1995 and came out last with a mean score of three hundred and fifty one .This mean score was significantly lower than the international bench mark of five hundred and thirteen. The study was carried out again in 1999 and revealed that Ordinary level learners once again performed poorly .Their mean score was found to be lower than that of Morocco ,Tunisia and other developing countries like Chile ,Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines . Kour (2004) discovered that in Singapore the problem of teaching mathematics needed qualified teachers for students to perform better and recommended that the Ministry of education could do better to equip mathematics teachers with necessary skills through in-service courses. This came as a result of under qualified teachers who were producing poor results at Ordinary level. Odhiambo (2006) also pointed out that there is a shortage of mathematics teachers in Kenya .He further revealed that the student ‘teacher ratio in many secondary schools in Kenya is also contributing to the high failure rate. Huebler , (2008) agrees with the above notion and said that, the pupil teacher ratio is an indicator of education quality and in crowded classrooms with a high number of pupils per teacher the quality of education suffers. In Zimbabwe ,a number of mathematics graduates join the teaching service while hunting for something better to do and as soon as an opportunity arises they leave without giving notice to enable another teacher to be found hence affecting the students ‘performance negative as these pupils will be left without a teacher for a long time .Since mathematics teachers can be employed elsewhere ,the problem is going to continue to plaque the education sector unless the employer manages to match the level of remuneration with that offered elsewhere and with the current state of our economy the government will not manage to do so . In the research under study pupils are still producing poor results as evidenced by the ZIMSEC results cited before. Zimbabwe teachers are considered competent thus they possess both knowledge and skills .A proof of this is that teachers are being recruited in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia and also abroad like in UK in large numbers. Whilst Zimbabwean teachers are labelled as competent elsewhere, one is left wondering why students at home are still producing poor results at Ordinary level in mathematics. The problem could be that teachers with high qualifications are the ones who are in demand and are leaving the country leaving those with lower qualifications to teach the Ordinary level mathematics. 2:4 Teaching methods and students’ performance The fashion of teaching mathematics has historically changed from one approach to the other and in practice ,individual teachers have picked their own place on the methodology spectrum dependent upon their mathematics background ,training and their experiences with students .The instruction process is very crucial in terms of equipping the student with mathematical knowledge and skills . Henderson and Landesman (1995) advocate that mathematics should not be taught in a top ‘bottom approach, that is from the teacher to the student all the time, but should be dominated by bottom up information processing assumptions. It is assumed that all teachers have undergone teacher training and refresher courses and have been introduced to Piaget’s theory on teaching which is based on pre operational, concrete operations and formal operations which caters for every learner. Such background knowledge on the teacher will enable him or her to structure problems according to the student’s level of learning and this would solve the problem of poor performance on students. This is stated by Bruner’s Theory of Instruction which states that any body of knowledge can be presented in the form simple enough so that any learner can understand it in recognised form (Oloyede, 1996).Clark and Steir (1988) blames teachers for poor performance by candidates in Ordinary level mathematics due to teaching methods which they employ ,which show lack of commitment in preparing and imparting knowledge to pupils .They argue that variation of teaching methods by teachers tend to improve performance .They also argue that the methods of teaching which enhance performance are those methods that are child centred rather than teacher centred ones .These learner centred methods are guided discovery ,group process ,projects and programmed learning. Bruner (1993) encourages learning mathematics through the method of guided discovery .He argues that knowledge acquired without sufficient structure to it is the knowledge likely to be forgotten .He went on to say that one must acquire rational understanding that centres on how something works and why it works . However, the situation on the ground is different as some teachers have academic qualifications only without professional qualifications that equip them with the necessary theories of education and appropriate teaching methods .Such teachers are likely to lack knowledge needed for them to cater for individual differences which would result in very few students understanding the mathematical concepts. Quilter and Harper (2003) observed that many students have negative attitudes towards mathematics because of how it is taught and that there is also perception that mathematics teachers present Ordinary level Mathematics as being difficult and only accessible to the selected few. They carried out a study on students who had graduated from University but who were not interested in mathematics and were unable to solve simple mathematics problems .In their investigation they used attitude questionnaires and interview schedule and came up with several variables. Good and Brophy (1990) said pupils remember 10% of what they see ,40% of what they do .Cognitivists like Bruner (1996 ) and Piaget (1969 ) support Quilter and Harper’s (1988) findings because they believe in learning by doing where students discover their knowledge through guided discovery. Bruner (1966) believes that learners who use their energy to discover knowledge gain intrinsic motivation and Piaget (1969) maintains that a more satisfactory means of advancing learning should be the one which brings the child face to face with inadequacy of existing schemata and new accommodation .Hence performance can be enhanced if the afore mentioned principles are instilled in pupils . In Bruner’s theory of instruction, the technique of simplifying content involves what he terms three modes of presentation which are enactive, iconic and symbolic. Enactive presentation involves action which is psychomotor activity thus a student can demonstrate an understanding of an action if it is inactively presented. Understanding a concept is by doing .The iconic presentation involves the use of images or model to present an idea object or principle .Hence, the teacher should make teaching materials such as charts, graphs and others to enhance the student’s understanding of mathematical concepts .The symbolic presentation can be used to explain some concepts that use language to demonstrate an idea or event .Bruner’s theory of instruction implies that the teacher should analyse mathematics content to be taught so that the modes of representation are appropriate to the different levels of the material as well as to the development of the learner .Hence knowledge of which mode to use depends on the teacher’s qualification . Tharp (1989) believes that using cooperative methods can improve performance in mathematics .This is in agreement with Henderson and Landesman (1995) who also advocate for cooperative teaching in learning situations. They believe that this method can improve students’ performance in mathematics .However the two differ slightly with Tharp (1989) in their findings on effects of thematically integrated mathematics instruction on students of Mexican origin .They discovered that cooperative learning and heterogeneous grouping do not by themselves guarantee success .However this was disputed by Mevarech (1999) in his study of meta cognitive training ,embedded in cooperative learning methods .He discovered that cooperative methods work well in small groups of students of mixed ability when they work together to solve mathematics problems and complete tasks . Good (1989) cited by Mulyran (1992) in his study of cooperative small group instruction in mathematics, identified important cognitive and effective consequences of work in this setting for students. Thus students who worked in cooperative small groups were more active learners and more motivated and enthusiastic about mathematics than students who did not have the opportunity to work in cooperative groups. Kwari and Mtetwa (2003) in their study on active learning in Zimbabwe in mathematics performance said, one of the reasons for low performance was the methodology used during instruction. They discovered that students were performing poorly in mathematics because of the way the subject was taught. In support of this notion, Nziramasanga (1999) observed that most students failed mathematics because of the methods employed by the teachers which were not motivating. Engels (1993) cites three goals of instruction that every mathematics teacher should aspire to achieve so as to avoid poor performance by students .These goals are content coverage ,understanding and problem solving ,positive attitudes and equitable outcomes .According to Kwari and Mtetwa (2003 ) content coverage is not a problem in Zimbabwe as most teachers aim at it and succeed in completing the syllabus .It is the other two goals that do not seem to be getting adequate attention and that is equipping students with problem solving skills and cultivating in them positive attitudes towards the subject .A number of factors such as space ,time ,materials and poor teaching strategies could be contributing to this inadequacy . Anthony (1996) carried out an investigation in active learning in a constructive frame work in mathematics teaching and discovered that there are two dimensions .The first dimension denotes learning activities in which students are given considerable autonomy in and control of their direct learning .This is identified as investigation work ,problem solving ,small group work ,collaborative learning and experimental learning .The second dimensions concentrates on developing the quality of pupils’ mental experience through active intellectual involvement in the learning experience characterised by increased insight and understanding .Sosniak ,Ethington and Varelas (1991) pointed out that ,a teacher should not waste time waiting for each and every learner to discover a concept because the curriculum would not be completed .They believe that giving autonomy to the students would waste time and could lead to discovery of concepts not related to the syllabus .This view is also shared by Siann and Ugwebu (1989) who gave a warning that ,mathematics teachers should not give autonomy as this can lead to absence of structure ,both in the classroom and in the student’s understanding resulting in confusion .This means that a teacher should dictate what is to be learnt most probably through the guide of the syllabus ,otherwise poor performance would persist and there would be confusion in the classroom as each pupil learns what he or she wants through discovery work . Therefore it is of importance for teachers to have background knowledge of psychological theories that guide classroom operations by the teacher .The next section will look at the value of mathematics in the learners’ lives in an attempt to find out the causes of low performance in mathematics at Ordinary level. 2:5 Value of mathematics to students Sayers (1991) asserts that, pupils failed to see the usefulness of mathematics as applied to daily living .It was taught as an abstract subject, a subject that is not related to life, with no social context of problems exploited. Failure to accept and recognise the usefulness of mathematics at school and in society caused low achievement of pupils in the subject .Most pupils thought that at school mathematics was mainly needed in science subjects like Physics which could not have been in their field of interest. A study carried out in Jamaica on poor attitudes to mathematics as a subject proved that many students had negative attitudes towards the subject and some viewed it as being of little or no use to them outside school, Ministry of education Youth and Culture Jamaica (2003).Hence pupils memorise formulas for examination purposes and forget about the subject as soon as they leave school. In South Africa Mji and Makgato (2006) pointed out that, few students take mathematics and those who do so do not perform well because they are not motivated which ultimately lead to mass failures .Many factors can cause lack of motivation in the student and it could be how the subject is taught or it’s because of pupils’ ability .If students know the true value of the subject they would make an effort to understand it. Yeya (2002) had similar views that many teachers, students and parents have a negative attitude towards the teaching and learning of mathematics .Chiriswa (2003) agreed with the issue and recommended that mathematics teachers and students be given incentives to raise their morale for better grades in mathematics. He recommended students to be given awards for excelling in mathematics or offered scholarships even at school level or encourage mathematics projects where students display their accomplishments. Values influence how students feel about mathematics .If students learn mathematics because it is one of the core subjects at Ordinary level ,they are likely to aim for a minimum pass ,but if they learn that they would need the subject in their lives they are likely to develop an interest in the subject .This knowledge would influence the students ,attitude towards the subject . Attitude is the behaviour that is measured by various evaluating processes .In Zimbabwe, Ordinary level students view mathematics as a subject for the gifted students, mainly because when students start Ordinary level syllabus they are screened into sciences, arts and commercial subjects. After high school a pass at Ordinary level mathematics is also a prerequisite for entry into college irrespective of what one wants to study .Therefore mathematics subject is viewed as a filter that filters students out of careers or university. At teachers’ colleges bridging courses have been introduced hence one needs to pass mathematics at Ordinary level to actually start teaching programmes .If students are aware of how available mathematics is then one has to seriously examine the amount of time allocated to the learning of the subject in the school system in an attempt to find out the causes of low performance in mathematics at Ordinary level. 2:6 Time allocated to the teaching of mathematics Keiser and Lambdin (1994) postulates that, numerous studies have documented how little time is allocated for mathematics at all levels .Zimbabwe has not been spared in the aspect of little time especially with the common double sessions in our high density schools .Mji and Makgato (2006) asserts that non completion of the syllabus is a major determinant to the students’ performance in mathematics.Yeya (2005 ) observed that students in boarding schools cover the syllabus in time and are exposed to more remedial exercises because they are ever in school compared to day schools which are characterised by absenteeism of both teachers and students of which this will lead to non-completion of the syllabus in a given year .In Zimbabwe coverage of a syllabus is not a problem as most teachers aim at it and succeed in completing it .Zimbabwe schools seem to have a limited time allocation for mathematics at Ordinary level that is six hours per week .Again it is a perennial problem in terms of lesson delivery as most pupils engage in extra lessons to compete the syllabus ,hence research for time must be carried out so that undeveloped countries will follow what developed countries are doing for further enhancing students ‘performance in mathematics . The problem of time is found to be caused mainly by double sessions that are conducted per school which limits use of resources for teachers and students as they have to share .There are a number of cases when mathematics lessons loose much time due to activities such as assemblies, staff meetings and sports.

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The purpose of the research was to investigate the causes of poor performance of mathematics subject in Karama division, Tigania East District. The goals of the review are threefold; one to highlight the factors that leading to poor performance in mathematics subject in secondary school. Secondly to highlight the educational consequences of poorly developed mathematical competencies. Thirdly to provide recommendations that will contribute to effective learning, teaching and performance in mathematics in secondary schools. The researcher used descriptive research, in attempts to describe such variables as possible characteristics, behaviour, values and attitudes. Karama division consist seven (7) secondary schools. Target population was made up of 200 students all form three and form four students from the four secondary schools chosen as a sample. Subject teachers were included in addition to the target population. Researcher used a systematic random sampling of 10 people from a population of 50 students from each secondary school’s. The researcher then picks a random number, 4, as the starting number. The sampling interval is calculated by dividing the population size by the sample size. This is arrived at by 50/10= 5. The study was conducted using the questionnaires which contained a series of questions which will guide the researcher to get the required information from the respondents. The coded data was edited, organized, classified and presented using percentage indices. This helped in the proper organization and interpretation of data in tables and graphs. The study showed that some of the factors attributed to poor performance in mathematics, 25% are attributed to poor teaching methodology by mathematics teachers, 35% are attributed to negative attitude and cognitive deficits in the child development and 40% are attributed to other external factors.

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Mathematics plays a vital role in individual, national and global development. However, over the years mathematics has been one of the most poorly performed subjects in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education Examinations (KCSE). In an attempt to improve performance, great effort has been put into completion of the syllabus. This study was done in Kakamega South district, involving a total of 85 secondary schools. The main objective was to determine the percentage of the syllabus covered, and correlate it with student performance. 16 out of 85 schools were purposively selected and used in the study. The head teacher, the head of mathematics department, and two randomly selected mathematics teachers from each of the 16 schools took part in the study. In total there were 64 respondents. A descriptive survey design was adopted for the study, and data collected using three questionnaires. Correlation between syllabus coverage and student performance using Pearson’s Product Moment Correlation Coefficient (PPMCC) was 0.8343. Furthermore, a One Way Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was determined and confirmed that syllabus coverage has a significant effect on student performance in mathematics at KCSE level. Also, a number of factors were identified as being responsible for early, late or non-coverage of the coverage. Keywords: Syllabus Coverage, Student Performance, Mathematics, Entry Behavior, Extra Tuition, Absenteeism, Resources.

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Abstract: For many of the world’s people, agriculture is both a source of food and a means of livelihood. In Kenya, the agriculture sector has immense contribution to the economy in terms of providing food, employment and foreign exchange among other roles. Women make essential contributions to the country’s agricultural and rural economy. Besides their daily routine consisting of cooking, cleaning, and other domestic chores, women are heavily involved in all aspects of the country’s agricultural sector; from crop production to livestock rearing. Secondary school girls’ performance in agriculture is therefore vital for it determines their future ability to engage in productive agricultural activities that would enhance food security and generate income for the family and the society at large. Unfortunately, girls in Kirinyaga Central sub - county’s public mixed day secondary schools continue to perform poorly in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) agriculture examination. This study therefore aimed at investigating the extent to which parental factors, involvement in household chores, and school factors influenced girls’ performance in agriculture in the sub - county’s public mixed day secondary schools. Target population was form three girls taking agriculture and agriculture teachers in the public mixed day secondary schools in Kirinyaga Central sub - county. Descriptive survey research design was used. Systematic random sampling technique was used to select girls for the study. Agriculture teachers were purposively sampled. Sample size included 20 teachers and 131 girls out of a population of 195 girls. Questionnaires and a standardized form three agriculture examination were used to collect data. A t-test and ANOVA at α = 0.05 were used to analyze the data. Study findings indicated that parental factors (parents / guardians’ education and parental support), girls’ involvement in household chores and school factors (teachers’ academic qualification, teachers’ experience and agriculture facilities) had a statistically significant p ≤ 0.05 influence on girls’ KCSE performance in agriculture. The study concluded that parental factors, girls’ involvement in household chores and school factors are all important determinants of girls’ performance in agriculture. To improve girls’ performance in agriculture, the study recommended: support by the parents, reduced household chores for girls, adequate facilities for teaching agriculture, and use of agriculture teachers with higher academic qualifications and experience. Key Words: Girls’ performance in agriculture, Household chores, Parental Support, Parents’ Education, Agriculture facilities, teachers’ academic qualifications, Teachers’ experience

mildred ayere

Abstract This paper reports of a study that compared Information Communication Technology application in NEPAD ICT Project secondary schools, and NON-NEPAD secondary schools in Kenya. NEPAD stands for NEW PARTNERSHIP for AFRICA’S DEVELOPMENT. The purpose of the study was to find out the input of ICT in NEPAD and NON-NEPAD schools by comparing ICT application areas and s a result suggest guidelines for future implementations and integration of ICT in all curriculum subjects. The study used a combination of descriptive survey and ex post factor designed to compare areas of ICT application. This was because the descriptive survey helped to determine the reasons for the existing differences in the programs while ex post factor design yield objective data that already existed before the study was done. The study population consisted of 1600 form students in 37 secondary schools that teach computer studies of which 8 schools were in Vihiga, 2 in Isiolo, 3 in Wajir, 9 in Muranga 2 in Bondo, and 11 in Nakuru Districts where the six NEPAD schools were situated. The sampling unit was the school and saturated sampling technique was used for the NEPAD schools while simple random sampling was used in selecting the non-NEPAD schools. The sample consisted of 339 people made up of 3 specialists and 396 in the consumer categories. The data collection instruments were the questionnaire, interview and check list. Analysis was done using both descriptive and inferential statistics. The results from the research indicated that there was significant difference in ICT application areas. The learners in NEPAD schools performed much better than their non-NEPAD counterparts in the KCSE examinations. The NEPAD schools (Mean=6.65+0.360) posted a higher mean grade than the non-NEPAD schools (MEAN=5.70+0.297). But there was no significant difference in the professional qualification of teachers in NEPAD and Non-NEPAD schools. The study suggested further research on the state of ICT programmes, modes of implementation, and possible models private sector involvement.

beatrice makworo

IOSR Journals publish within 3 days

Abstract: Young Farmers’ Club (YFC) activities are vital in the mastery and attainment of skills in the agriculture subject since it is best found out by practicing. Increased youth participation in agricultural production is necessary and vital in facilitating food and nutritional security. The primary objective of YFCK is to train young people to be productive future farmers. Since secondary school education is terminal to the majority of the youth, non-attainment of lifelong skills in agriculture may lead to low standards of living and a decline in agricultural productivity. The study sought to demonstrate the influence of YFCK activities on secondary school students’ performance in KCSE Agriculture in Rongai Sub-County. It employed a cross-sectional survey design to collect data from a target population of 1,506 YFCK members in 30 public secondary schools. Purposive sampling method was used to select eight secondary schools to represent all the types and categories of schools in the four Divisions of the Rongai Sub-County. Proportionate sampling method was then used to obtain a sample of 175 YFCK members. All the 13 Agriculture teachers were used for data analysis. Questionnaires validated by two experts from the Department of Agricultural Education and Extension of Egerton University were used to collect data. Reliability of the instrument was estimated through a pilot-test using 50 YFCK members of the Jomo Kenyatta secondary school in the Nakuru North Sub-County. It achieved a reliability coefficient of 0.72 and 0.73 for YFCK members and Agriculture teachers respectively, at a significance level of α= 0.05. Data was collected using questionnaires administered to Agriculture teachers and YFCK members. Computations were carried out using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). The outcome of the study indicated that there was no statistically significant difference between the mean scores in KCSE Agriculture of schools with active and non-active YFCK. Participation in YFCK was limited for schools in the study. The KCSE Agriculture mean scores for schools in the study were higher than the overall schools mean scores between 2008 and 2012. The researcher recommends that Agriculture teachers in liaison with school administration should enhance YFCK activities. This is for effective practical activities in teaching and learning of agriculture subject according to the syllabus. Key Words: Academic performance, Agriculture teacher, Young Farmer, Young Farmers’ Club

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sheila Amuko

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victor asuga

Mawazo Chafumbwe

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Mutua K. Muyanga

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Teachers’ Perceived Causes of Poor Performance in Mathematics by Students in Basic Schools from Ningo Prampram, Ghana


(University of Ghana, School of Educational and Leadership, Ghana)

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    The study aimed at determining factors influencing poor performance of students in mathematics in selected Basic Schools in the Ningo Prampram District in Accra, Ghana. Descriptive research design was adopted in which random and convenience sampling method was used to select 60 teachers for the study.

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