Relationship between students' English language competence in solving word problems and mathematics performance in secondary schools in Maara District, Kenya
Njeru, Lawrence Gitonga
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The purpose of this study was to establish the relationship between students' English language competence and performance in Mathematics. In Kenya, researchers have in the past addressed the causes of poor performance in KCSE and found that over-enrolment, inappropriate syllabus and students' poor attitude towards Mathematics are some of the reasons. The government of Kenya through the Ministry of Education has tried to solve some of these problems by training more Mathematics teachers, revising Mathematics syllabus to review content and also appropriateness of topics. Most recent effort by the Ministry of Education was the introduction of SMASSE (Strengthening of Mathematics and Science in Secondary Education) programme in the year 1998.The problem of poor performance in Mathematics at KCSE remains a challenge in Kenya today, meaning the real cause had not been fully addressed. The contention of this study was that students' English language competence needed to be investigated for its possible relationship with poor performance and especially in Maara district. The study used a cross-sectional descriptive survey design. Maara district had been purposively chosen because 88% of the pupils selected to join secondary schools were local and spoke `Kimeru' as their first language and the district's performance in Mathematics for the last four years was very poor with an average of mean grade D. The study randomly sampled 341 form three students. The students did a Mathematics test set to test both English language competence and also Mathematics competence. Similarly, 20 trained Mathematics teachers were randomly sampled from the population of 66 trained Mathematics teachers within the district to fill a questionnaire. The data obtained from SMT was both qualitative and quantitative while data from TMTQ was qualitative. Both qualitative and quantitative data were analyzed using statistical package for social sciences (SPSS).The descriptive statistics derived included percentages, mean and standard deviation while inferential statistics used student t-value and Analysis of Variance (ANOVA). Pearson product moment correlation (r) was used to determine the relationship between students' English language competence and mathematical competence. Analysis of Variance was used to test the hypothesis H04 at alpha (a) level of 0.05 while student t-value was used to test hypothesis H05 at alpha (a) level of 0.05. The study found that there was a strong positive correlation (r = 0.705, a = 0.05) between students' English language competence in solving word problems and Mathematics performance in secondary schools in Maara district, Kenya. It was seen that those students who did well in English language competence also did well in Mathematics competence and vise versa. It was therefore concluded that since there was a positive correlation between students' English language competence and Mathematics performance, simple English language appropriate to the level of students should be used in teaching, learning and assessing Mathematics in secondary schools. In view of this, it was recommended that teaching of English language in secondary schools be given a lot of emphasis by both English teachers and Mathematics teachers in order to improve Mathematics performance.