Teacher's use of play as medium for bridging pre-school children's mathematical experiences: a study of Kasarani Division, Nairobi, Kenya
Mathematical skills are basic requirement for socioeconomic development. However, poor performance in mathematics by pupils is a major concern worldwide. In Kenya, researchers have addressed the causes of poor performance of pupils in mathematics at primary and secondary school tiers, but there are no known studies focused on mathematics teaching methods in ECE. Mathematical skills developed in early years through play could affect learning and attitudes of children towards the subject at higher levels of learning. It is most likely that the problem of poor performance in mathematics lies in teaching methods in early childhood. The purpose of this study was to establish the extent to which preschool teachers use play as a medium for bridging classroom mathematics experiences in selected pre-schools. The main objective of the study was to establish the extent to which teachers used children play activities to contextualise their learning of mathematical concepts in pre-schools in Kasarani Division of Nairobi Province, Kenya. The study used an expost facto descriptive survey research design. Nairobi Province was purposefully sampled while Kasarani Division was randomly sampled using the lottery method. The study used a sample of 132 randomly selected pre-school teachers. A further sample of 31 pre-school teachers was similarly selected for observation. The data were collected using a questionnaire (PTQ) and an observation schedule (TSOD). Three observations were carried out per pre-school teacher leading to n=93 observations. The research instruments were adapted from other relevant studies to ensure validity and reliability. The data were analysed using both qualitative and quantitative techniques. The main descriptive methods used were tabulations of frequencies and percentages. Pearson product moment correlation (r) and Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) were used to test the hypotheses at alpha (a) level of 0.05. Probability values and f- values were determined using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). The main results of the study are that only 10% of pre-school teachers used children's play activities to bridge mathematics concepts. Majority of the Pre-school teachers encouraged direct teaching, which emphasized marking of written exercises (97%) and homework (93%), despite the fact that 90% of them were trained in child development theories and had adequate experience. Other findings are that only 3.4 % of pre-school teachers used thematic teaching approach. From the above contexts, it was concluded that the use of play in teaching mathematics was grossly inadequate. In view of this, the study recommended strengthening of DICECE training by adapting play as teaching strategies and providing adequate supervision of pre-schools.