Exploring students’ difficulties in solving mathematical word problems: case of a private secondary school, Dar es salaam, Tanzania.

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)

First Supervisor/Advisor

Veronica Sarungi

Second Supervisor/Advisor

Dr. Nipael Mrutu


Institute for Educational Development, East Africa


This study was about exploring students’ difficulties in solving mathematical word problems. To do this a case study was designed and data were collected using questionnaire, interview and data analysis in order to obtain qualitative and quantitative data. Twenty-three secondary school students from a private school completed a questionnaire in form of a test and this provided general information about difficulties students face when solving word problems. After this, six students, three boys and three girls who performed better in one section and low in another section were selected and collaborate in an interview in order to get in depth feeling on difficulties students face while solving word problems. The impact of students’ difficulties in solving word problems was explored. Most students reading ability was good even though they faced problems in comprehension stage. Understanding is a stage, which challenged most of students to transform word problems correctly and proceed with other stages like process and encoding. In addition other difficulties were that most students were not able to encode correctly as were not able to write statement and few students were not able to process. An emerging finding of the study was that students’ attitude about their ability to work with word problems may impact negatively on some students’ mathematical workings especially when the task is challenging. Recommendations provided were that students were to be encouraged to practice word problems and teachers to use appropriate strategies while teaching word problems by starting from concrete to abstract as well as enhancing students’ ability in formulating their own word problems before solving those from textbooks.

This document is available in the relevant AKU library