Perceptions and Attitudes of Zambian High School pupils towards Mathematics : a case of selected Schools on the Copperbelt
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One's perception and attitude towards Mathematics affects their conception of how it should be learned and presented (Ernest, 1998). This study was a survey of high school pupils' perceptions and attitudes towards Mathematics in the Copperbelt Province of Zambia. Pupils' perceptions and attitudes were assessed using the Questionnaire on Learner Perceptions and Attitudes towards Mathematics (QLPAM). From a population of about 4350 pupils, the QLPAM scales were administered to 100 pupils in Grades 10, 11 and 12 classes in four schools. Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were also conducted with the pupils and teachers of Mathematics.Data from the questiormaires were summarized and scored accordingly in terms of positive and negative perceptions and attitudes. Descriptive analyses were used to describe the respondents' views regarding their perceptions and attitudes towards Mathematics. FGDs were analysed using the Qualitative Focus Group Content Analysis (QFGCA) technique. The Pearson correlation analysis was conducted in order to explain the relationship between learners' perceptions and attitudes towards Mathematics. A Pearson correlation coefficient, r = 0.5079 was obtained and was rejected at both the 5% and 1% levels of significance. An Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was conducted to test the differences in learners' perceptions and attitudes towards Mathematics according to schools and it showed that learners' perceptions and attitudes towards Mathematics were not significant (a = 0.05) among the four schools. The findings of this study show that pupils rank Mathematics second to English as the most liked subject. The findings also indicated that learners regard Mathematics as the most difficult subject to learn. The study revealed that 87.6 percent of the learners in the sample have positive perceptions and 94.4 percent have positive attitudes towards Mathematics. Findings also revealed that teachers of Mathematics have given little regard to non-cognitive issues such as learners' feelings, perceptions, attitudes, beliefs and interests. In general the study concludes that learners in high schools in Zambia have positive perceptions and attitudes towards Mathematics even though they regard the subject as the most difficult subject to learn.If learners' performances are to improve, teachers of Mathematics and other educators need to understand their perceptions and attitudes towards Mathematics. Perceptions and attitudes are essential for learners' development and seldom change without significant intervention. Therefore, teachers must be informed about the importance of non-cognitive factors in the learning process through Continuous Professional Development (CPD). The study recommends for reforms in the Mathematics curriculum and in teaching approaches. The study further recommends that the MoE should establish an Educational Television Channel (ETVC) on which positive perceptions and attitudes could be promoted through programmes that can help learners and teachers appreciate Mathematics.
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