Exploring Students’ Proficiency in Mathematical Symbolization
This study examined the students’ proficiency in using mathematical symbols. The need to carry out the study was prompted by the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) report that revealed dismal performance in mathematics. Therefore, the study objectives explored how symbols affect learning of mathematics, students’ perception of the role of symbols in mathematics learning and students’ use of mathematical symbols. The basis of the study relied on a conceptual framework of epistemological approach to notations and supportive and problematic conceptions as a lens that helped in dissecting the kind of symbol sense that exist amongst students. The study targeted mathematics teachers and form four students and was therefore conducted in a public secondary school in Rarieda Sub-County, Siaya County, Kenya. A qualitative approach with a case study research design was employed with sampling techniques such as convenience, purposive, and stratified sampling used to locate the research site and recruit participants. Data collection instruments included interview guides and document analysis protocol. Thematic analysis was used. The findings of the study showed that symbols influenced the learning of mathematics in terms of prior knowledge and symbol meanings at hand, thereby posing challenges in the learning of mathematics. Also, the findings revealed that students had a perception of the role of mathematical symbols in giving easy time in understanding concepts due to their precise and succinct nature, conserved time and assisted in the solution of mathematics problems and that use of symbols is profound in the linkage of concepts across topics, multiple representations and problem-solving. It may be recommended that prominence ought to be put on various ways of symbol representation to enable comprehension of symbols and meanings; better instructional techniques ought to be used to reduce the symbol cognitive load on students.
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