This study was about the factors leading to poor performance in mathematics subject in Kibaha secondary schools. The study was lead by four research objectives which were to examine the influence of cultural backgrounds on students’ performance in mathematics, to identify influence of teacher - students’ relationship on student’s performances in mathematics, determining the nature of school environment where teaching is practiced and to examine influence of school management system on teaching and learning process in mathematics. Relevant literatures were reviewed on theories and findings that emerged from different authors. The study involved 4 secondary schools, 8 mathematics teachers and 60 students. These were obtained through simple random sampling. Four academic masters and four head of school from four schools were purposely selected. Data collection was done by using questionnaires, interviews, focus group discussions, observations and documentary review. The findings indicated teaching and learning of mathematics was facing challenges such as poor teaching environment, mathematics departments were not well-managed, inadequate self-practice and students’ poor background in mathematics. Therefore the researcher recommends teachers to make assessment on the background of their students in to decide teaching methods that can help students perform better in mathematics. Moreover, students should put self-efforts and practice in learning mathematics. Lastly, the researcher recommends future research on individual factors that affects students’ learning of mathematics.















Background to the Problem1

Statement of the Problem4

The Purpose of the Study5

Objectives of the Study5

Research Questions6

Significance of the Study6

Limitations of the Study7

Delimitation of the Study7

Definition of Terms7

Cultural Background8


Teacher Characteristics8

School Environment8


Teaching Method9

Qualified Teacher9




Conceptual Framework10

Theoretical Framework11

Empirical Literature Review15

Empirical Studies in Mathematics World Wide15

Empirical Studies done in Africa17

Similar Studies Conducted in Tanzania19

Research Gap21

Chapter Summary22




Area of Study23

Research Design and Approach24

The Study Population24

Sample size of the Study25

Sampling Procedures25

Data Collection Instruments26



Focus Group Discussion27


Documentary Review28

Data Analysis Procedures29

Ethical Consideration30

Chapter Summary31




Demographic Profile of Teachers32

Educational Attainment32

Length of Teaching Experience33


School Administrators34


The Influence of Cultural Backgrounds on Students’ Performance in Mathematics35

Preferred Instructional Strategies39

Teacher – Students’ Relationship and Students Performance

in Mathematics 41

The Nature of School Environment in Kibaha District42

4.8 Summary 45






Mathematics Teachers49


School Administrators51

Future Research51




Table 4.1: Demographic Profile of Teachers 33

Table 4.2: School Surveyed 38

Table 4.3: Teachers’ Responses on Teaching Methodologies in Mathematics Subject 38

Table 4.4: Relationship between Teacher and Students 40


Figure 2.1: Conceptual Framework 11

Figure 4.1: Applied Teaching Methods 40

Figure 4.2: Teachers’ Relationship with Students 41


Appendix I: Proposed Research Budget and Research Time Frame 57

Appendix II: Proposed Research Time Frame for the Year 2014/2015 58

Appendix III: Questionnaire for Teachers and Administrators 59

Appendix IV: Interview Questions for Teachers 66

Appendix V: Focus Group Discussion for Students 69

Appendix VI: Research Clearance Letters 70


CSEE Certificate of Secondary Education Examinations

DAS District Administrative Secretary

ETP Education and Training policy

MOEVT Ministry of Education and Vocational Training

OUT Open University of Tanzania

PGDE Postgraduate Diploma in Education

PhD Doctor of Philosophy

RAS Regional Administrative Secretary

SEDP Secondary Education Development Programme

SPSS Statistical Packages for Social Sciences

TIMSS Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study

UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

URT United Republic of Tanzania




This chapter discusses the background of the problem, statement of the problem, purpose of the study, objectives of study, and research questions, delimitations and limitations in this study was put down. The researcher had read various writings at global, African and those in Tanzanian context on factors leading to poor students’ performance in mathematics subject.

Background to the Problem

Mathematics is the science of reasoning and computations. It is the science or study of numbers, quantities or shapes. Kitta (2004), defined mathematics as the language that helps us to describe ideas and relationships drawn from the environment. Mathematics enables one to make the invisible to be visible, thereby solving problems that would be impossible otherwise.

According to Lambdin (2009), mathematical demands on students increases as they progress through school; take up their adult lives at home and in the workplace. In order to function in a mathematically literate way in the future, students must have a strong foundation in mathematics. A strong foundation involves much more than the rote application of procedural knowledge. Ontario Ministry of Education report in 2004 shows that, all students should be able to understand, make sense of, and apply mathematics; make connections between concepts and see patterns throughout in mathematics.

The report shows that students must be able to communicate their reasoning, the flexibility of thinking that will allow them to tackle new areas of mathematics and be willing to continue in doing mathematics.

However findings by Iheanachor (2007), indicate that, there is a significant positive relationship between students’ academic achievement in mathematics and teachers’ background. Teachers who have good qualifications in mathematics have their students performing better in mathematics.

Tata (2013) made his study in Nigeria and came out with findings that, students’ negative attitude toward mathematics, fear of mathematics, inadequate qualified teachers and inadequate teaching materials were some of the causes of poor performance in mathematics. Developing positive attitude, motivation and proper guidance toward mathematics and provision of relevant teaching materials could make students perform better in mathematics.

In Tanzania education curriculum, mathematics is a core subject that every student is studying at both primary and ordinary secondary education (ETP, 1995). In spite of being the core and compulsory subject, student’s performance in Mathematics in Tanzania had been low for number of years in Certificate of Secondary Education Examinations (CSEE) (Kita, 2004, Mlozi, Kaguo & Nyamba, 2013, URT, 2008 and SEDP, 2004). According to (URT, 2008) large number of students fail to pass mathematics exams with required grades as the report indicated that national form four examination results in 2004, 2005 and 2006 failures in Mathematics were, 70%,

77% and 76% respectively.

Report by HakiElimu (2013), identified general performance of the year 2009 that about 27.5% of the students scored division zero, in the year 2010 failure increased to 49.6%, in the year 2011 failure was 46.4% and 60.5% in the year 2012. It was not indicated in the report that students performed better in mathematics. Factors for students’ failure according to (HakiElimu, 2013) was inadequate in service training, few qualified teachers to teach mathematics and poor working conditions. This was also associated with a lot of confusion caused by limited understanding of the requirements of the 2005 competence based curriculum and syllabi currently in use (HakiElimu, 2013 & Mtitu, 2014).

According to Mabula (2012), students’ performance in science subjects was affected by poor quality of science classroom teaching and a decline in interest of students toward science subjects. Mabula (2012) had shown that 83.9% of students who set for CSEE failed mathematics in the 2010 national examination and only 16.1% passed mathematics. It was therefore concluded by Mabula (2012), that teacher- students relationship in classroom teaching and learning of science need to be improved. Researchers such as Biotenbeck (2011), and Clement (2013), had associated student’s failure in mathematics with teachers’ teaching practices. Biotenbeck (2011), defined teaching practices as what teachers do in the classroom, how teachers apply instructional methods and traditional ways of teaching. These were such as lecture style teaching, teacher centre methods and rote memorization in teaching mathematics.

However according to Mlozi, Kaguo & Nyamba, (2013), students’ performance in mathematics was not good at all in Tanzania as there were no enough teaching and

learning materials, mixing of two languages of English and Kiswahili which confuse students. According to SEDP I (2004), generally there had been low quality of schooling outcomes with over 66% failing. This was associated with overloaded curriculum, weak teacher qualifications and teaching abilities of some of the mathematics teachers.

The government had lay down a strategy to improve performance in mathematics through optimum use of available mathematics teachers as per strategies set by the (URT, 2010). To optimize the available teaching the study by (Pantziara & Philipou, 2007) tells us that teaching practices such as problem solving and use of visual aid in the mathematics classroom could increase students’ motivation and morale to their performance. This was also supported by (Mtitu, 2014, Kafyulilo, Innocent & Ikupa, 2012 & URT-MOEVT, 2010) that teachers have to be encouraged to apply student centered methods that require teachers to actively involve students in the teaching and learning process.

Statement of the Problem

Effective and efficient teaching methods that could help improve student’s performance in mathematics are most desired. According to Gurney (2007), teaching is effective and efficient when students are taught the right content, having enough learning materials and high ratio of teachers’ time on the teaching activity. This requires a teacher to have passion in sharing knowledge with students while motivated with school management system. Mtitu (2014) also identified that, for effective and efficient teaching, learner centered methods that require teachers to actively involve students in the teaching and learning process must be applied.

However enough effort was put to improve students’ performance in mathematics through programmes like SEDP (SEDP I, 2004 & SEDP II, 2010), updating teaching syllabus with all the guides to teachers on the competence based teaching practice (URT, 2010). The number of mathematics teachers was increased compared to before and were provided with frequent seminars and workshops that emphasized on the application of competence based teaching methods.

Despite all the efforts (Mkumbo, 2013) the rate of students’ performance was 16.09% in the year 2010, 14.55% in the year 2011, 12.14% in the year 2012 and 18% in the year 2013. Performance in the year 2013 was a bit exceptional due to the change in national examination grading systems for CSEE, but still performance was low.

Therefore the study motive was to seek to answers on the following questions on what was the influence of cultural backgrounds on students’ performance in mathematics. How does school environment affects students’ performance in mathematics? In which ways does school management influence teaching and learning process?

The Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study was to make an assessment on the factors that leads to poor performance in mathematics Kibaha district secondary schools.

Objectives of the Study

The specific objectives of this study were:

(i) To examine the influence of cultural backgrounds on students’ performance in mathematics.

(ii) To assess the influence of teacher – student’s relationship on students performance in mathematics.

(iii) To identify the nature of school environment where teaching is practices in relation to student’s performance in mathematics.

(iv) To examine the influence of school management system on teaching and learning process in mathematics.

Research Questions

(i) What is the influence of cultural backgrounds to students’ performance in mathematics?

(ii) How does teacher- students’ relationship affect student’s performances in mathematics?

(iii) What is the nature of school environment where teaching is practiced?

(iv) How does school management system influence teaching and learning process in mathematics?

Significance of the Study

This study is important to other researchers as a reference on studies concerning students’ performance in mathematics. It is the sincere hope of the researcher that by going through this work, it will make mathematics teachers to help their students perform well in mathematics subject. Teachers will consider students’ cultural backgrounds before actual classroom teaching to know if the students have the basic concepts in particular unit of study in mathematics. Then teachers can be in a position to improve students’ performance in mathematics. The study will also help

future researchers to come with findings on how school environments and teachers backgrounds are connected to students’ cultural backgrounds that affects performance in mathematics.

Limitations of the Study

The foreseen possible limitations in this study were characteristics of the respondents for both teachers and students. The researcher was not able to involve every member of the population but the sample of study was randomly selected from both teachers and students. The head of schools and academic masters were purposively selected while mathematics teachers and students were randomly selected. These were the representative sample for which findings was found from and generalized.

Delimitation of the Study

The study was done in ordinary level secondary schools in Kibaha district. The district was rich in nature resembling to other districts in the country as there were public and privately owned secondary schools. Some of the schools in Kibaha district were located in urban and rural areas. Mathematics teachers were in a position to be involved in the sample of study as they would provide reliable information on teaching and learning process and students’ performance in mathematics as they concerned in teaching mathematics.

Definition of Terms

To set ground for assessment on the factors that leads to poor performance in mathematics Kibaha district secondary schools, the researcher presented the working definitions for some of the terms used in this study.

Cultural Background

The cultural background refers to tribal, religious, racial, gender, linguistic or other socioeconomic factors and values that shape an individual’s upbringing. A cultural background can be shaped at the family, societal or at primary school level. In this study it refers to what do students do to help themselves excel in their academic carriers.


Accomplishing or achievement of specific goals, objectives set in any academic undertaking in basic mathematics.

Teacher Characteristics

This refers to the attributes and practices which contribute immensely to teacher success or failure. These are such as displaying fairness, having a positive outlook, being prepared, using a personal touch, possessing a sense of humor, possessing creativity, admitting mistakes, being forgiving, respecting students, maintaining high expectations, showing compassion, and developing a sense of belonging for students— center around the theme of caring.

School Environment

School environment encompasses physical environment such as buildings like classrooms and teachers’ houses, classroom size, how dark or light it is, temperature, the arrangement of chairs, the noise which affects teachers and students’ attraction.


A sequence of potential experiences, set up in the schools to discipline children and youth in ways of thinking and acting whether it is carried out in groups or individually, inside or outside the school.

Teaching Method

This comprises the principles and techniques used for instruction. Commonly used teaching methods may include class participation, demonstration, recitation, memorization, or combinations of these, teacher centred and student centred methods.

Qualified Teacher

This is the teacher who holds the following certificate such as: Diploma in Education, B.Ed., B.Sc. (Ed), B.Sc. and PGDE, Masters in Education and PhD from a recognized university or college in Tanzania and outside Tanzania.





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