Factors contributing to low achievement levels in mathematics among hearing impaired learners: A case of selected Schools of Lusaka, Zambia
The University of Zambia
Performance of many learners in Mathematics has continued to decline. For learners with Special Educational Needs (SEN), their academic performance is far below their non disabled peers. Further comparison tests on performance in Mathematics among different SEN learners indicate that those with Hearing Impairments (HI) were lagging behind. This study attempted to highlight the factors that contribute to low achievement levels in mathematics among pupils with hearing loss and to suggest measures that would improve their performance. The focus was to establish methods used in teaching pupils with HI, ascertain factors that contribute to poor performance in mathematics among learners with HI as well as to determine the qualifications of teachers in teaching mathematics to learners with HI. The study also explored measures that can improve performance of learners with HI in mathematics. The research adopted a case study design and employed both quantitative and qualitative research methods. The population comprised of pupils and teachers from two schools, one primary and the other secondary schools in Zambia. A sample of 10 teachers and 22 pupils were purposively chosen. Questionnaires, interview guides, classroom observation checklists and group discussion guides were used to collect data. The learners were clustered into groups of 6 (Grade 5, 6 and 7), (Grade 11) and (Grade 12) before being engaged in group discussions. The inquiry showed that hearing loss significantly affected their ability to learn mathematics due to their failure to comprehend the mathematics language. Teachers were not enough and not all of those available were well qualified, supportive and with positive attitudes towards learners with HI. Teaching and learning materials were also inadequate. The study recommended the need to ensure that only trained and specialized teachers are deployed in classrooms for the HI. While schools offer literacy programmes such as Primary Reading Programme, New Break Through to Literacy and Step InTo English, there is need to ensure that they have numeracy components so as to aid in the mastery of mathematics especially for the HI. One option is to introduce simultaneous communication which comprises the spoken and signed parts of a language. The rationale of adoption is that deaf children who are exposed to speech and signs at the same time would develop their speech and lip-reading naturally, so extra speech training can be avoided. Furthermore, Examination Council of Zambia needs to consider modifying the examinations for the HI by removing certain components such as those that are sound-based and may be difficult for the Deaf to understand.
Mathematics , Mathematics Ability--Testing , Hearing impaired--Education--Zambia