Research Article

Underachieving Students’ Mathematical Learning Experience in the Classrooms in Nepal

Radha Devi Shrestha 1 , Bal Chandra Luitel 1 , Shashidhar Belbase 2 *
More Detail
1 Department of STEAM Education, School of Education, Kathmandu University, Hattiban, Lalitpur, NEPAL2 Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education, United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES* Corresponding Author
Contemporary Mathematics and Science Education, 2(2), 2021, ep21010,
OPEN ACCESS   1795 Views   1820 Downloads
Download Full Text (PDF)


There is limited evidence of underachieving students’ mathematical experiences and the challenges they face in mathematics classes in the context of Nepal. This study explores the lived experiences of underachiever students in learning mathematics in a public school in Kathmandu, Nepal. The study participants were three ninth-grade students (two females and one male) who failed mathematics and repeated the grade. A sequence of in-depth interviews was administered with each participant to explore their lived experience of mathematics. The participants’ narratives were constructed based on the temporal sequence of event analysis concerning their mathematics learning experience. Their narratives revealed three critical concerns in their experience of learning mathematics: mathematics is complicated, mathematics is abstract, and mathematics learning is rote memorization. Change of schools was one of the main reasons they had difficulty adjusting to the new environment, affecting their mathematics learning. Another concern they revealed was the obligation to support their parents during the out of school time or even during school time and being frequently absent in the class.


Shrestha, R. D., Luitel, B. C., & Belbase, S. (2021). Underachieving Students’ Mathematical Learning Experience in the Classrooms in Nepal. Contemporary Mathematics and Science Education, 2(2), ep21010.


  1. Acharya, B. R., Kshetree, M. P., Khanal, B., Panthi, R. K., & Belbase, S. (2021). Mathematics educators’ perspectives on cultural relevance of basic level mathematics in Nepal. Journal on Mathematics Education, 12(1), 17-48.
  2. Agaliotis, I., & Kalyva, E. (2019). Motivational differences of Greek gifted and non-gifted high-achieving and gifted under-achieving students. International Educational Studies, 12(2), 45-56.
  3. Alexander, P. R., & Dooey, P. M. (2017). English language interventions that improve international business student group-work performance. In P. R. Alexander & P. M. Dooey (Eds.), Intercultural responsiveness in the second language learning classroom (pp. 202-221). IGI Global.
  4. Andrews, M., Squire, C. & Tamboukou, M. (2013). Experience-centered and culturally oriented approaches to narrative. In M. Andrews, C. Squire, & M. Tamboukou (Eds.), Doing Narrative Research (pp. 47-71). SAGE Publications, Ltd.
  5. Belbase, S. (2013). Images, anxieties, and attitudes toward mathematics. International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science, and Technology, 1(4), 230-237.
  6. Bhagat, K. K., & Chang, C. Y. (2015). Incorporating GeoGebra into geometry learning-A lesson from India. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 11(1), 77-86.
  7. Biggs, E. E., & Hartung, M. L. (1971). What’s your position…on the role of experience in the learning of mathematics? The Arithmetic Teacher, 18(5), 278-295.
  8. Brezavšček, A., Jerebic, J., Rus, G., & Žnidaršič, A. (2020). Factors influencing mathematics achievement of university students of social sciences. Mathematics, 8, 2134.
  9. Butina, M. (2015). Focus: Conducting qualitative research-- a narrative approach to qualitative inquiry. Clinical Laboratory Science, 28(3), 190-196.
  10. Chowdhury, S., & Halder, S. (2019). Academic help-seeking: A constructivist approach in learning and achievement. International Journal of Education & Management, 9(4), 227-231.
  11. Chukwu-Etu, O. (2009). Underachieving learners: Can they learn at all. ARECLS, 6, 84-102.
  12. Clandinin, D. J., & Rosiek, J. (2007). Mapping a landscape of narrative inquiry: Borderland spaces and tensions. In D.J. Clandinin (Eds.), Handbook of narrative inquiry: Mapping a methodology (pp. 35-75). SAGE.
  13. Curriculum Development Center (CDC). (2007). The national curriculum framework for school education in Nepal 2063. Sanothimi, Bhaktapur: Government of Nepal, Ministry of Education.
  14. Curriculum Development Center (CDC). (2019). The national curriculum framework for school education 2076. The Government of Nepal, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
  15. Elliott, J. (2005). Using narrative in social research: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. SAGE.
  16. Ernest, P. (1991). The philosophy of mathematics education. Falmer Press.
  17. Fletcher-Campbell, F. (2005). Special Teaching for Special Children? Moderate learning difficulties. Open University Press.
  18. Foong, P. Y., & Ee, J. (2002). Enhancing the learning of underachievers in mathematics. Supervision and Curriculum Development. 11(2), 25-35.
  19. Fraser, H. (2004). Doing narrative research: Analyzing personal stories line by line. Qualitative Social Work, 3(2), 179-201.
  20. Fuchs, L. S., Fuchs, D., Malone, A. S., Seethaler, P. M., & Craddock, C. (2019). The role of cognitive processes in treating mathematics learning difficulties. In D. C. Geary, D. B. Berch, & K. M. Koepke (Eds.), Cognitive foundations for improving mathematics learning (Vol. 5, pp. 295-320). Academic Press.
  21. Gadzella, B. M., & Fournet, G. P. (1976). Differences between high and low achievers on self-perceptions. The Journal of Experimental Education, 44(3), 44-48.
  22. Gasper, J., DeLuca, S., & Estacion, A. (2012). Switching schools: Reconsidering the relationship between school mobility and high school dropout. American Educational Research Journal, 49(3), 487-519.
  23. Heydari, H., Abdi, M., & Rostami, M. (2013). The survey of relationship between the degree of mathematics anxiety in high school students and the personality characteristics of their mathematics teachers. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 84, 1133-1137.
  24. Hoek, D., Van Den Eeden, P., & Terwel, J. (1999). The effects of integrated social and cognitive strategy instruction on the mathematics achievement in secondary education. Learning and Instruction, 9(5), 427-448.
  25. Huijsmans, M. D. E., Kleemans, T., & van der Ven, S. H. G. (2020). The relevance of subtyping children with mathematical learning disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 104(2020), 103704.
  26. Keijzer, R., & Terwel, J. (2004). A low achiever’s learning process in mathematics: Shirley’s fraction learning. The Journal of Classroom Interaction, 39(2), 10-23.
  27. Kunhertanti, K., & Santosa, R. H. (2018). The influence of students’ self confidence on mathematics learning achievement. Journal of Physics: Conference Series 1097, 012126.
  28. Mandel, H. P., & Marcus, S. I. (1988). The psychology of underachievement: Differential diagnosis and differential treatment (Vol.127). John Wiley & Sons.
  29. Mathema, K. B., & Bista, M. B. (2006). Study on student performance in SLC: Main report. The Government of Nepal, Ministry of Education and Sports.
  30. Maxwell, C. (1996). The brooking of desire: Dorothea and deferment in ‘Middlemarch’. The Yearbook of English Studies, 26, 116-126.
  31. Ministry of Education (MoE). (2014). Status of SLC dropouts and identifying ways to engaging students in co-curricular activities final Report. Government of Nepal, Ministry of Education.
  32. Ministry of Education (MoE). (2015). Report on national assessment of student achievement (NASA) 2015. Education Review Office.
  33. Mullis, I. V. S., Martin M. O., & Foy, P. (2008). TIMSS 2007 international mathematics report. Chestnut Hill, MA: TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center.
  34. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). (2007). What are the characteristics of students with learning difficulties in mathematics? Research Clips.
  35. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). (2012). Programme for International Student Assessment, results from PISA 2012.
  36. O’Shea, A.J. (1970). Low-achievement syndrome among bright junior high school boys. The Journal of Educational Research, 63(6), 257-262.
  37. Panthi, R. K., & Belbase, S. (2017). Teaching and learning issues in mathematics in the context of Nepal. European Journal of Educational and Social Sciences, 2(1), 1-27.
  38. Panthi, R. K., Luitel, B. C., & Belbase, S. (2018). Teacher perception of social justice in mathematics classrooms. REDIMAT Journal of Research in Mathematics Education, 7(1), 7-37.
  39. Piaget, J. (1968). Quantification, conservation, and nativism. Science, 162(3857), 976-979.
  40. Pokropek, A., Costa, P., Flisi, S., & Biagi, F. (2018). Low achievers, teaching practice and learning environment. JRC Technical Reports. European Commission.
  41. Presswood, J. D. (2012). Sandbaggers: A guide for understanding and managing underachievers (Unpublished Master’s project) The University of Kansas.,%20Joseph%20D.%20EMGT%20Field%20Project.pdf;sequence=1
  42. Raviv, A., Keinan, G., Abazon, Y., & Raviv, A. (1990). Moving as a stressful life event for adolescents. Journal of Community Psychology, 18(2), 130-140.<130::AID-JCOP2290180205>3.0.CO;2-V
  43. Rawat, S. (2018). Non/collaborative teaching-learning practices in school: Lived experience of a teacher. (Unpublished M Phil dissertation) Kathmandu University, School of Education, Lalitpur, Nepal.
  44. Rawat, S., Luitel, B. C., & Belbase, S. (2021). Lived experience of pedagogical boomerang in mathematics learning. Journal of Education and Learning (EduLearn), 15(1), 104-118.
  45. Reis, S. M., & McCoach, D. B. (2002). Underachievement in gifted and talented students with special needs. Exceptionality, 10(2), 113-125.
  46. Ryan, A. M., Pintrich, P. R., & Midgley, C. (2001). Avoiding seeking help in the classroom: Who and why? Educational Psychology Review, 13, 93-114.
  47. Ryan, R. M. (2012). The Oxford handbook of human motivation. Oxford University Press.
  48. Sherard, W. H. (1981). Math anxiety in the classroom. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues, and Ideas, 55(3), 106-110.
  49. Smith, E. (2005). Analyzing underachievement in schools. Continuum International Publishing Group.
  50. Sousa, D. A., 2003. How the gifted brain learns. Corwin Press.
  51. Suan J. S. (2018). Factors affecting underachievement in mathematics. Proceeding of the 5th International Conference on Management and Muamalah (ICoMM 2018) (pp. 100-106). Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  52. Suan, J. S. (2014). Factors affecting underachievement in mathematics. Proceeding of the Global Summit on Education GSE (pp. 13-20), March 4-5, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  53. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Interaction between learning and development. Readings on the Development of Children, 23(3), 34-41.