Mathematical symbolization: students’ proficiency in using symbols

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)

First Supervisor/Advisor

Peter Kajoro

Second Supervisor/Advisor

Dr. Fredrick Mtenzi


Institute for Educational Development, East Africa


This study examined the students’ proficiency in using mathematical symbols. The study objectives explored how learners connect symbols and their meanings, find out how learners use mathematical symbols in problem solving and ways in which learners’ problem-solving goals, activities and organization of results are influenced by mathematical symbols. The study was conducted in a public secondary school in Rarieda Sub-county in Western part of Kenya. It employed a qualitative approach with case study research design. The sampling techniques used to identify research location and recruit participants included convenience, purposive and stratified sampling where 2 secondary mathematics teachers and 8 secondary students were used as respondents. The primary data was collected using interviews, document observation and analysis. The data obtained was transcribed and the analysis followed the descriptive coding. Open coding was applied to develop initial codes and further axial coding was done to refine the codes and generate themes. The findings of the study indicated that different levels of conception of symbol and symbol meanings existed among the students,-some had difficulties in revealing meanings of symbols. Also the findings revealed that students had awareness of the role of mathematical symbols in saving time and shortening work; perceived effective learning of mathematics as requiring concerted effort and that symbols influenced problem solving procedures, goals and organization. Drawing from the findings, the recommendations are: Emphasis ought to be put on reading, writing and verbalizing symbols to enable comprehension of symbols and meanings; good instructional strategies ought to be employed by the instructors to reduce the cognitive load exerted by symbols on students.

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