Doctoral dissertation (article) (G5)

Beliefs about mathematics learning difficulties: opportunities for learning - A Namibian study

List of AuthorsHamukwaya Shemunyenge Taleiko

PublisherUniversity of Turku


Publication year2023





This dissertation used a phenomenological approach to explore beliefs regarding indicators of MLD that mathematics teachers, teacher educators, pre-service teachers, and high school students hold. In addition, the dissertation looks into the beliefs about practices in Namibian high school mathematics classrooms that may contribute to mathematics learning difficulties (MLD). The common beliefs regarding MLD that were discovered address numerous factors: (i) systemic factors (ii) emotional dispositions, (iii) students’ difficulties in solving basic mathematics tasks because of several different reasons, (iv) students’ knowledge and beliefs and (v) students’ poor learning habits.

This dissertation is based on the following four original publications. The notations and results of these studies have been modified and unified for the presentation of this dissertation.

Study I examined Namibian K–12 mathematics teachers’ (n = 231) beliefs regarding MLD as a reflection of their teaching practice. Teachers related students’ difficulties to students’ lack of mathematical understanding (knowledge and skills). These beliefs addressed a negative impact on classroom teaching practices, which can obstruct access to supportive learning opportunities.

Study II explored beliefs regarding the teaching and learning of mathematics by Namibian Grade 11 students (n = 27), who were considered by their teachers as experiencing MLD. The students’ perceptions provided an in-depth perspective on learning mathematics and the best way to assist students in studying mathematics. Despite their learning difficulties, students believed that they had the ability and potential to learn mathematics, but only if the educational system supported their learning.

Study III aimed to address one of the limitations of Study II, which was that the interviews with teachers were not conducted to obtain the reasons for identifying the characteristics of students experiencing MLD. In study III, the terminology shifted from beliefs about MLD to perceptions about the difficulties as the perceived difficulties in learning mathematics were explored from the perspective of Namibian Grade 12 mathematics teachers (n = 6) and compared to those of their Grade 12 students (n = 23). The findings of this study provided essential information for teaching practices and fostering students’ mathematics education.

Study IV aimed to investigate beliefs about MLD that had developed during a Namibian teacher education programme, the views and practices that might be emphasised in the programme, and any change in beliefs experienced in the first year of teaching. Pre-service teachers (n = 4) and teacher educators (n = 3) believed that high school students’ knowledge and beliefs are related to MLD. Teacher educators remarked the influence of teachers’ knowledge and practices concerning MLD, whereas pre-service teachers did not. The participants deemed individualised student learning and teaching to be necessary to minimise MLD among students in mixed ability groups.

Last updated on 2023-24-11 at 10:33