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Research projects in Mathematics ‘still begging’ in Schools

WHEN this paper published research findings about Teaching and Learning Mathematics in ‘Contexts of Language Diversity’, a number of interested readers asked for more details about the research.

Along this vein, there has been collaboration in research between institutions namely, University of Bristol, Sigmas, University of Alberta, Tanzania Institute of Education and University of Dodoma for the development.

These are partners in research and some of you who attended the International Commission on Mathematical Education (ICME) in 2014 organised by the Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development East Africa, had the opportunity to hear from the researchers.

One of the projects was Partnership Development for research possibilities for Primary Mathematics teacher development in rural and remote communities, conducted from 2011 to 2014.

The research project was set in rural and remote education institutions in Tanzania and was built around qualitative studies including the case of Teacher Training College (TTC).

The case study of the TTC looked at issues of teaching and learning mathematics as well as teachers’ preparation in multilingual classrooms and how to characterise strategies sensitive to multilingualism.

Key contributions of the study included insights into 

 

 practical in educating learners to translate from home to school language especially in mathematics classrooms.

Another project looked at what language has to do with school achievement and school performance in National examinations was considered especially the dynamics of language.

The sample was drawn from Public Secondary Schools in Zanzibar and it highlighted how English language proficiency may be a major barrier to examination success. In a context where Kiswahili is the children’s home language and English the language of school, the research showed three main factors contributed to examination underachievement.

First, the quality of the national examination results are determined by the kind of school a student attends. Second, by the level of the children’s English language proficiency, where majority of them have difficulties with Basic English words essential for learning and being tested through English.

Third, there was the quality of examination development processes and the examination papers themselves.

There was also a project for strengthening secondary education in practice and this is a language supportive Teaching and Textbook (LASTT).

This project is called ‘Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE)’. The overreaching goal of this project is to make textbooks and teaching accessible to second language learners through piloting innovations in disadvantaged rural schools in Tanzania, and establish expertise in key government institutions.

Key contributions related on how to design textbooks for second language learners: how accessible textbooks support interactive classroom learning and language acquisition; process of implementation that emphasises formative evaluation and system capacity building.

The fourth project concerned algebra. Introducing Algebra is a scoping study of the Aga Khan University and it is a small scale study aimed at establishing current practices in introducing Algebra in Tanzanian schools.

The ultimate aim of this project is to enhance learning of early algebra in Tanzania, where the beneficiaries would be children, teachers and employers across the country. This study also aims at providing insights that could enlighten on the practice of teaching algebra in the country and more broadly.

Currently, algebra is one of the five areas included in the Primary One and Two mathematics syllabus, and other areas are Numbers, Measurement, Geometry and Money. 

In 2006, the Inspectorate of Schools, Southern zone in collaboration with the Japanese International Corporation Agency (JICA) conducted a research to identify the contributing factors to students’ low performance in Mathematics in Secondary Schools in comparison to their performance in Primary Schools.

The research was a tracer study and it was conducted in 4 Secondary Schools in Mtwara Municipality involving 336 Form One students.

In the development, the ‘Mtihani wa Kumaliza Elimu ya Msingi Hisabati 2005’ (Primary School Leaving Examination, Mathematics 2005) was translated into English and administered to the sampled pupils.

All the students in the sample did the said examination when they completed Standard Seven and the examination had 50 items. There, PSLE mathematics 2005 results were analysed in the item-wise and compared with the 2006 Form One results. The mean score for the Secondary School (Form One) pupils in the test became 34 per cent while that of PLSE mathematics (2005) registered 45 per cent.

A comparison of the results in the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) and the Form Two Secondary Education Examination (FTSEE), equally indicated that candidate’s performance was better in the PSLE than in the FTSEE for test items which were similar and had the same level of “difficulty.”

The Form One and Form Two mathematics syllabus contains topics which are also covered by the Primary I – VII mathematics syllabus put in Kiswahili, whereas the Secondary School syllabus is in English, though translated into English for the English medium schools.

A number of educators have recommended the teaching of Secondary School subjects in Kiswahili to solve the problem, however in practice, some teachers have been teaching mathematics in both English and Kiswahili (kiswa-kinge) to help those who have problems with the English language.

The debate is still ongoing regarding the medium of instruction in secondary education, where some teachers have done researches in certain topics, but have not published their results. They should be encouraged to do because they can reveal that is not yet known.

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Author: BENIEL SEKA

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