Under-performance in mathematics is a challenge in South African schools. The purpose of this study is to
advance views expressed by teachers and learners on factors that facilitate learners’ performance in
mathematics. The participants in this research were educators and learners from historically
disadvantaged schools from similar socio-economic backgrounds in the Limpopo Province. Ten rural
schools participated in the study, all government schools, with schools selected on the basis of their
accessibility and performance. They represent both high-performing and low-performing schools in
mathematics. Data were collected from learner focus group interviews and individual teacher interviews.
Perceptions expressed by educators and learners from high-achieving schools and from low-achieving
schools are juxtaposed and point to factors such as learners’ and teachers’ commitment and motivation,
attitudes and self-concept, learners’ career prospects, learners’ perceptions of peers and teachers and
teachers’ perceptions of learners. These factors appear to influence disadvantaged learners’ decisions to
persist and achieve in mathematics despite their difficult circumstances.