An Exploratory Study of Low Attainers in Primary Maths

Project Number
OER 34/08 BK

Project Duration
April 2009 - February 2012


The impetus for this project has been the intense concern, during the last half year, of school leaders and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education (Mrs Tan Ching Yee) about the growing proportion of low attainers in primary mathematics. It appears that this concern has arisen from some national and or international mathematics study/ies data. Ginsburg, et al., (2005) found in their secondary analysis of TIMSS (2003) data for the US that pupils who were failing at grade 4 continued to fail at grade 8 subsequently. Hence it is pertinent that efforts be stepped up to address the needs of low attainers in primary mathematics, so that they achieve their potential. Furthermore, mathematics is a core subject in the school curriculum for primary and secondary education. Failure in mathematics due to factors that may be controlled for would be unjust for the pupils. From focussed discussions with heads of math departments and teachers in the primary school, during the last few months, we have found that teachers do have remedial lessons for low attaining pupils in almost every school and that the scope of the mathematical conceptual knowledge increases rather steeply from primary 4 onwards. Bearing in mind the above observations, we have decided to carry out an exploratory study on low attainers in primary mathematics. The aim of this project is to explore the characteristics and education of low attaining in mathematics pupils in the primary school in particular primary 4 and 5. In this proposed project, we have chosen to adopt a very pragmatic approach by using the term ''low attainers'' to be all encompassing of what some may label as: less-able children, slow learners and under-achievers as in Haylock (1991).

Research Themes
Children at Risk (Academic)/Slow-progressing students

Funding Source

Related Links
NIE Research Brief Series 12-001: An Exploratory Study on Low Attainers in Primary Mathematics
ReEd Vol 7: Learning Experiences of Low Attainers in Math
SingTeach Issue 31 (Jul/Aug 2011): Helping Low Attainers to Keep Up

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