Mathematics Education Project Topics

Factors Leading to Poor Performance in Mathematics Subject

Factors Leading to Poor Performance in Mathematics Subject

Factors Leading to Poor Performance in Mathematics Subject

Chapter One

Objectives of the Study

The main objectives of this study is to find out the factors leading to poor performance in mathematics subject, specifically the study intends to:

  1. Find out whether there is any relationship between teacher attitudes towards mathematics and students achievement.
  2. Find out the relationship between available mathematics teaching resources and students performance in mathematics.
  3. Examine the school based factors that affect student performance in Mathematics in secondary schools
  4. Find out the socio-cultural factors that affect student performance in Mathematics in secondary schools
  5.  Investigate student personal factors that affect student performance in Mathematics in secondary schools
  6. Establish strategies that can be adopted to improve performance in Mathematics by students in secondary schools



Conceptual Framework

The conceptual framework hereunder presented variables that influence teaching and learning in mathematics subject. Sitko (2013), defined conceptual framework as the system of concepts, assumptions, expectations, beliefs, and theories that support and inform about the study. Students’ performance in mathematics is influenced by the teaching and learning methods and students’ cultural backgrounds. Teaching methods are such as teacher centred method, students’ centred method and type of homework assignments offered to students. Learning methods are such as group discussions when solving problems and individual work as provided by the teacher or as in textbooks. The relationship between teachers and students, the way students are punished and homework assignments might influence student’s performance in mathematics (Sitko, 2013). However learning environment affected students’ concentration in schools.

Causes of poor academic performance in Mathematics.

Studies have shown that many people’s images of mathematics are negatively andis perceived as difficult in many cultures and largely masculine. Walkerdine (1998) states that some societal views about Mathematics such as mathematical problems have oneanswerand can be solved in a particular way and its solitary activity done by individuals in isolation requires good memory and is for clever ones. People view it as a difficult subject and as such their performance is affected. Pupils seem not to have encouragement from people outside the school system. According to Sparks and Sarah (2011) the fear of Mathematics (mathophobia) has led to various scholars to conclude that mathophobia is a major contributory factor to the problem of learning and teaching of Mathematics. Hence, it immensely contributes to poor academic performance in Mathematics by Ordinary Level pupils. Mathematics is viewed negatively. This concurs with many scholars who assert that a review of school based education research has shown that majority of secondary school pupils find Mathematics as the most difficult, abstract, deadly and boring subject. Larzim, Abu and Wan (2003) have also observed that students’ interest in Mathematics declines as they move from the primary school to secondary school level because they have fear that Mathematics is a difficult subject. According to Armstrong (2009) mathophobiacan be caused by teachers’ methodology, mathematical knowledge, assessment and the nature of the discipline of Mathematics. Many Americans believe that Mathematics is a difficult subject. The notion of Mathematics as a difficult subject is taken by some people as a challenge such that if they succeed in solving Mathematical problems they feel satisfied and motivated into higher level Mathematics. Conversely if they fail the sense of failure result in low self-esteem. Teaching experience contribute to poor academic performance in Mathematics at Ordinary Level. Researchers observed that unqualified teachers do not have the experience and skills to properly instruct pupils in mathematical operations. In his study Armstrong (2009) noted that teachers who have specialised in the subject which they teach or in the education of that subject and had around 26 to 30 years of teaching experience, influence student performance positively. This concurs with a studyAdeyani (2008) which revealed that teachers’ teaching experience was significant to student’s learning outcomes as measured by their performance. Thus lack of relevant teaching experience may have a negative impact on the performance of pupils in Mathematics. Shumba (1988) noted that a significant number of teachers in Zimbabwe lack long teaching experience and they have weaker practical instructional skills.Therefore, according to him, the longer a teacher takes in teaching ‘O’ Level classes the more equipped he or she becomes in preparing learners for public examinations. Research has shown that poor teaching stand out as one of the reasons for poor academic performance in Mathematics. Stuart (2000) concurs with the above assertion and states that poor academic performance in Mathematics is traceable to poor or ineffective teaching. Studies done in America also made similar observations when they showed that poor Mathematics achievement is attributed to classroom factors such as poor teaching methods (Elliot et al 2013). Research shows that the commonly used teaching methods are question and answer, exposition, guided discovery and group work. A study done by Dhliwayo and Wadesango (2012) in Zimbabwe revealed that the lecture method is however occasionally used while hands on activities and field trips are not commonly used. This also confirmsJaji’s(1991) observations when he stated that the commonly used methods are question and answer, work from the textbook and teacher demonstration. Shumba (1988) had also made similar observations when he indicated that there is a high positive relationship between the methods used and pupils’ performance. A study by Ale (2000) showed that lack of appropriate materials for use by mathematics teachers compounds the problem of poor academic performance in the subject.In his study Ale (2000) found out that 60% of the students interviewed indicated that they performed badly in Mathematics because there were no adequate text books in their schools. Similar observations were also made by Kalejaiye (2005) when he noted that teachers need to have resources and that a variety of textbooks should be consulted by the teacher and pupils as they give different points of view. Similarly, Ale (2002) showed that some pupils fail their exams due to inadequate text books in their schools. Lance (2002) also made similar observations when he pointed out the shortages of essential materials such as text books, has an adverse effect on Mathematics as a whole. Fagbamije (2004) in his study revealed that inadequate supply of text books in schools is having a toll on teaching and learning activities in many countries in the world. The World Bank data on student text book ratio showed that it is at 20:1. Due to economic hardships experience from 2007 and 2008,Zimbabwe experienced the worst brain in its teaching fraternity. The hardest hit areas were mathematics and science where there was a mass exodus of teachers migrating to South Africa where there was an acute shortage of teachers in these areas. Consequently, unqualified teachers were employed to fill in the gaps. These however, lacked skills to properly instruct learners and as a result, it contributed to poor academic performance in Mathematics (Sibanda, 2009).According to Makopa (2011) also made similar observations when he noted that the economic sanctions in Zimbabwe also affected the performance of the education system especially that some qualified teachers started leaving the profession for neighbouring countries and abroad as their earnings were losing value due to the rising inflation. Because of this, the Zimbabwean education system lost some of its best teachers during that period. The absence of teachers and ineffective teaching during this era could be largely responsible for the pathetic performance in Maths and Science.








In this chapter, we described the research procedure for this study. A research methodology is a research process adopted or employed to systematically and scientifically present the results of a study to the research audience viz. a vis, the study beneficiaries.


Research designs are perceived to be an overall strategy adopted by the researcher whereby different components of the study are integrated in a logical manner to effectively address a research problem. In this study, the researcher employed the survey research design. This is due to the nature of the study whereby the opinion and views of people are sampled. According to Singleton & Straits, (2009), Survey research can use quantitative research strategies (e.g., using questionnaires with numerically rated items), qualitative research strategies (e.g., using open-ended questions), or both strategies (i.e., mixed methods). As it is often used to describe and explore human behaviour, surveys are therefore frequently used in social and psychological research.


According to Udoyen (2019), a study population is a group of elements or individuals as the case may be, who share similar characteristics. These similar features can include location, gender, age, sex or specific interest. The emphasis on study population is that it constitutes of individuals or elements that are homogeneous in description.

This study was carried to examine factors leading to poor performance in mathematics subject. Selected secondary schools in uyo, Akwa Ibom state form the population of the study.




This chapter presents the analysis of data derived through the questionnaire and key informant interview administered on the respondents in the study area. The analysis and interpretation were derived from the findings of the study. The data analysis depicts the simple frequency and percentage of the respondents as well as interpretation of the information gathered. A total of eighty (80) questionnaires were administered to respondents of which only seventy-seven (77) were returned and validated. This was due to irregular, incomplete and inappropriate responses to some questionnaire. For this study a total of 77 was validated for the analysis.




It is important to ascertain that the objective of this study was to factors leading to poor performance in mathematics subject. In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, certain recommendations made which in the opinion of the researcher will be of benefits in addressing factors leading to poor performance in mathematics subject


This study was on factors leading to poor performance in mathematics subject. six objectives were raised which included:  Find out whether there is any relationship between teacher attitudes towards mathematics and students achievement, Find out the relationship between available mathematics teaching resources and students performance in mathematics, examine the school based factors that affect student performance in Mathematics in secondary schools, find out the socio-cultural factors that affect student performance in Mathematics in secondary schools, Investigate student personal factors that affect student performance in Mathematics in secondary schools and establish strategies that can be adopted to improve performance in Mathematics by students in secondary schools. A total of 77 responses were received and validated from the enrolled participants where all respondents were drawn from selected secondary schools in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state. Hypothesis was tested using Chi-Square statistical tool (SPSS).


In conclusion, the findings of this study provide a foundation for targeted efforts to improve mathematics performance among students. By addressing the identified factors, educators and policymakers can pave the way for a more inclusive, equitable, and effective mathematics education system that empowers students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed academically and thrive in their future endeavors.


Based on the findings of the study on factors leading to poor performance in the mathematics subject, the following recommendations are proposed to address and improve students’ mathematical learning outcomes:

  1. Strengthen Foundational Knowledge: Implement early intervention programs to identify and address gaps in foundational mathematical skills. These programs should provide targeted support to students who are struggling with basic concepts and ensure that they have a solid understanding of fundamental mathematical principles.
  2. Student-Centered Teaching Approaches: Encourage educators to adopt student-centered teaching methods that promote active learning and engagement. Employ interactive teaching techniques, problem-solving activities, and real-world applications to make mathematics more relevant and enjoyable for students.
  3. Professional Development for Teachers: Provide ongoing professional development opportunities for mathematics teachers. These programs should focus on improving instructional techniques, incorporating technology into the classroom, and enhancing teachers’ ability to address the diverse learning needs of their students.
  4. Support for At-Risk Students: Implement support programs for at-risk students, such as after-school tutoring, mentoring, or peer-assisted learning. These initiatives can offer additional guidance and assistance to students who need extra support to improve their mathematics performance.


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