10 Reasons Why Students Perform Poorly in Mathematics

Over the years, it has almost become an acceptable norm for lots of students to perform poorly in mathematics exams. Although this has been the trend for a couple of decades, it is a very negative one and has been a source of worry for parents as well as professionals in the education sector. While both parents and teachers look for ways to better the grades of students in math, all their efforts might be futile if the reasons for these frequent failures in mathematics are not identified.

This article contains 10 reasons why people perform poorly in mathematics, an understanding of these reasons will be a good first step in solving the problem of low scores in mathematics exams.

That said, below are 10 reasons why students perform poorly in mathematics

Lots of Teachers do not know Mathematics Well Enough to Teach

It is a generally accepted rule that you cannot give what you do not have. This rule holds water in every single aspect of life including education. The issue of people performing poorly in mathematics is not a very new issue. It is an issue that has lingered for a very long time. As a result of this, quite a number of people that now teach mathematics both at the junior and senior level never really had an in-depth understanding of what the subject is all about. This therefore implies that there is not much they can do for their students.

Textbook-Pupil Ratio

The ratio of textbooks to pupils in some schools is really low. Now if this occurs in an environment where students can afford to get their own textbooks, it might not be so pronounced. However, in environments where a lot of students cannot afford textbooks and depend on the school for access to textbooks, a low textbook-pupil ratio will definitely lead to very poor performances in mathematics.


There are many categories of students in schools. Of all these categories, there is a category of people that have a bad attitude to learning as far as an effort is required. With such attitude to learning, it is almost going to be impossible to understand mathematics or do well in mathematics exams.

Method of Teaching

Ideally, mathematics should be taught in a way that students can build a connection between what is being taught in the class and the real world outside the classroom. However, more often than not, lots of mathematics teachers rely on methods that make students rely on cramming their books as well as formulas. Now, the inability to properly understand mathematical concepts as a result of the teacher’s method of passing knowledge is chiefly responsible for the poor and below average performances of many students.

The Disconnect Between Students and Subject Matter

One of the many reasons why students perform poorly in mathematics is the failure to build a connection between what is being in class and their experiences in the past. A lot of times, cases like this are common when students are not constantly in class. Also, they happen when a student moves from one school to another. Usually, various schools make use of different mathematical curricula. What this means is; if a student transfers from one school to another and there is a difference in the math curriculum, there is a big tendency that such student would struggle. Now, if absolutely nothing is done to help the student out of such situation, the student might never get to understand mathematics for a very long time or worse for the duration of their education.

Also, when there is a gap between what is taught in class and the use of mathematics in real life, there might be nothing for students to relate what is being taught in class to.

A lack of Self Belief

A very large percentage of students attribute their success or failure in mathematics to factors such as fluke. This group of students believe that scoring well in a math assignment or quiz can only be attributed to factors beyond their control. They also believe that they can do well in mathematics assignments and quizzes only when they are easy.

As a result of this mindset, lots of students do not attribute their failures and successes in mathematics to a lack of understanding. This ends up resulting in a lack of commitment to study diligently and living everything to chance.

Low IQ

Cases of low IQ when it comes to failure in mathematics are usually swept under the carpet. However, the truth is IQ plays a major role in a student’s performance in a mathematics assignment or quiz.

Short Attention Span

Some students are not disciplined enough to put all their attention into what they are doing for a long time. As a result of this, if the math concept that is being taught in class requires lots of steps, lots of students would get lost. It is therefore the responsibility of the teacher to help students stay focused on what is being done in class by making use of learning aids as well as diagrams.

A lack of Understanding of Mathematical Languages

Not every student fully understands the words that are made use of in mathematics. A lack of understanding of words like volume, power, multiple, etc. in relation to mathematics can be a huge stumbling block between a student and an excellent score in a mathematics exam.

Teacher –Student Ratio

Mathematics is a subject that requires the teacher to give their pupils/students a lot of attention. Now, while this is supposed to be the norm, it does not always work this way. One reason why this does not always happen is because of the ratio of teachers to students in a classroom. The more students there are in a classroom, the more difficult it will be for the teacher to notice all those that do not have an understanding of what is being taught in class, thereby leading to bad performances by those that do not understand.

There are quite a number of reasons why students fail to perform as expected in mathematics exams. However, if the 10 reasons mentioned above are given quality attention, then there is a guarantee that there will be an improvement in the average scores on students in mathematics exams.

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