University of Leicester
2018EkanayakePEdD.pdf (2.96 MB)

An Exploration of the Learning Experiences of Low- Attainers in Primary Mathematics in Sri Lanka

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posted on 2018-06-15, 13:58 authored by Prabhath Chandana Sri Ekanayake
The curriculum for primary mathematics in Sri Lankan schools was revised recently with the aim of introducing constructivist approaches to the teaching and learning process. When initiating these changes, only minimal attention was given to the learning experiences of young pupils, especially for the low-attainers in primary mathematics. Recent studies also have shown that low attainment is still a major problem in Sri Lankan primary schools. Thus, this study aims to fulfill the major requirements by giving attention to the learning experiences of low-attainers in primary mathematics. The intention is to gain a better understanding of the practical experiences of low-attaining students and their teachers. Therefore, the main objective of this study was to explore the learning experiences of low-attaining pupils in mathematics in primary grades in order to recommend a set of suitable remedial measures to overcome the problem. Under the qualitative research approach, the embedded multi-case study design was used to explore the learning experiences of low-attainers in primary grades. The data collection instruments used in the study included a lesson observation schedule and semi-structured interview schedules for teachers and students. The study investigated four Sri Lankan primary teachers’ lessons pertaining to the following fields: (i) The teaching process (ii) The learning process (iii) teachers’ perception in teaching mathematics (iv) students’ experience in learning mathematics. The qualitative analysis of the data revealed an insight into the teaching and learning process in primary schools in Sri Lanka. The important themes identified within the case were: teachers under pressure in teaching, problems of time management and emotional reactions of students in learning mathematics. Under those main themes the following crucial sub themes were also identified: poor physical environment of the schools, lack of resources, lack of expertise in teaching mathematics, poor support system, pressure of examinations, parents’ attitudes and gender issues. Under these themes and sub themes, the findings clearly showed that the negative attitude towards mathematics among the low-attaining students. Most of the low-attaining pupils believed that mathematics is a hard subject to understand and it is devoted only to more able students. They believe that teachers also neglect them. Lack of leisure activities, the workload, nobody helping them at homes to solve mathematical tasks and they were beaten by teachers or humiliated by peers due to failure in the subject were the common learning experiences of low-attaining pupils. The findings of this study have several implications for further investigations into classroom practices and classroom learning environment, re-designing the curriculum implementation, modifying the policy and decision making process to overcome the existing problem of low-attainment in primary mathematics within the Sri Lankan school context.



Ainley, Janet; Woodhouse, Joan

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Education

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • EdD



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