Factors affecting mathematics performance among secondary school students in Nairobi province, Kenya
Miheso, M. K. O.
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This study examined factors affecting mathematics performance at secondary school level in Nairobi province of Kenya. The study was carried out in the public schools where a common syllabus is used. Teachers in public schools are all posted centrally after completing a professional program censured by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. The setting of the study was in Nairobi Province. Nairobi is also a cosmopolitan capital city of Kenya and as such provided the various expected differentials within classroom environment needed for this study. There are a total of forty-six public schools with at least 6,000 secondary school students. The study used a sample of five hundred and seventy (570) forms Two students from ten stratified and randomly selected secondary schools. A purposive sample of twenty mathematics teachers who were teaching the study classes at the time participated in the study. Using questionnaires, checklists and achievement tests the study collected information on achievement test scores, teaching methods, student textbook ratios, student gender, class size and other auxiliary factors. An unstructured interview schedule was also used to confirm details. The achievements test scores were generated from the topic on "equations of a straight line". The items in the test were categorized into three levels of cognitive development; computation, application and comprehension. These formed the dependent variables. The information on gender, textbook availability, class size and teaching method formed the independent variables of the study. The central thesis of this study is that classroom level factors have significant effect on achievement. The study was guided by four hypotheses. The hypotheses tested the significant of the availability of textbooks, teaching approaches, class size and student gender on performance in mathematics. The study also sought to determine if other classroom factors could be used to explain variation in performance. Data was triangulated, coded and computer analyzed using the SPSS package. A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) technique was used to test the effect of the factors at each level of cognitive development. Further analysis was done to determine the between and within group variation using the Univariate F tests (ANOVA). The equality of means was tested using the t-test. When the information was analyzed, the findings were consistent with the basic proposition that the effects of classroom factors are differentiated within the school students. Major findings indicate that, variation in mathematics performance was found to be significantly influenced by type of teaching method. The interactive teaching method was found to be superior to the traditional approach especially with respect to achieving higher order cognitive skills. The study also found that there was no significant difference in performance when the availability of textbooks was at the student/textbook ratio level 1:1 and 1:2. However, ratio levels beyond 1:3 were found to have a negative effect on performance. Although student gender was found not to directly affect the performance of mathematics, the performance in mathematics in this study favored girls albeit not significantly. Class size was found not to have significant and direct influence on achievement in assignments. However the amount of time students spent on mathematics tasks was found to be minimum. The study indicated that students' attitude was a major predictor of performance. The findings in this study also revealed that, the majority of students attained at computation cognitive level, a competency class that test reproduction, definitions and computations skills. Poor performance was evident in application level, which tests connections and integration for problem solving skills. The comprehension level which tests ability to mathematics situations, invoke mathematical thinking, generalization and insight, was attempted by very few students. Generally students' level of achievement reduced with respect to the increased level of cognitive skills. The study found that there was a direct relationship between the learning environment created by the intensity of some of the existing classroom factors and poor performance.