**ABSTRACT**

This study aimed to determine the correlation of the mathematical competence and the academic performance in Physics of STEM students in Bauan National Agricultural and Vocational High School, with an end view of proposing pre- physics module for STEM students. This study employed sequential mixed method design in identifying the level of the academic performance in General Physics 1 and its correlation to the mathematical competence of forty students of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics academic strand, conducted at Bauan National Agricultural and Vocational High School in the school year 2019- 2020. The survey questionnaire was subjected to Cronbach- alpha and got reliability coefficient of 0.87 inferred to a good reliability. Conversely, the physics test items obtained a very high reliability of 0.93 through the test- retest reliability. The data were analyzed by applying descriptive and inferential statistics; different tests were utilized such as the frequency distribution, Pearson-r moment of correlation, test- retest reliability, percentage, ranking and weighted mean. Findings revealed a significant positive correlation between mathematical competence and physics performance, highlighting the need for strengthened algebra instruction. Common challenges included scientific notation, algebraic manipulation, unit conversion, and mathematical anxiety. The study proposed a pre-physics module to enhance mathematical competence and improve physics performance. Addressing these educational gaps is essential for better preparing students for STEM careers. Future research should expand the sample size, explore diverse educational contexts, and evaluate the effectiveness of the proposed pre-physics module.

**Keywords:** *academic performance, competency, mathematical competence, mathematics, module, physics, science, technology and engineering and mathematics strand, scientific notation, senior high school, systems of equations, unit conversion vectors*

**INTRODUCTION**

Society relies heavily on scientific and technological innovations, which are fundamental for the sustainable development of health, commerce, industry, and environment. The convenience that modern humanity enjoys is the result of the relentless efforts of scientists and inventors. Physics, in particular, is the foundation upon which other sciences and technologies are built. However, physics is often perceived as a difficult discipline by many students, leading to low academic performance and achievements. To fully grasp sciences and technology, a solid understanding of physics, from its simplest to its most complex principles, is essential.

Mathematics is crucial for understanding physics, as it serves as the language through which physical concepts are expressed and understood. Mathematical skills and physics achievements are built upon each other, with physics requiring mastery of mathematical competencies for problem-solving, graphing, and explaining concepts. Mathematics, often called the "Queen and Servant" of the sciences, is indispensable for evaluating natural phenomena and developing new theories in physics. Similarly, Physics enhances mathematical skills by providing real-world problems that necessitates mathematical solutions, hence, deepening understanding and application of mathematical concepts. This practical application fosters a stronger grasp of abstract mathematical theories through tangible examples in Physics.

In the Philippines, students' poor academic performance in science, particularly physics, has been a persistent issue, evidenced by the results of both national and international examinations. The main reasons identified include a lack of necessary mathematical skills and the inability to apply these skills to solve physics problems. Physics teachers frequently highlight the insufficient mathematical preparation of students as a major challenge, which significantly impacts their performance in the discipline.

In junior high school, physics is introduced in a spiral manner with lessons spread from grades 7 to 10. In senior high school, students in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) strand take physics as General Physics 1 and 2 over two semesters in a year. Despite this structured approach, many students struggle with physics due to various factors, including low confidence and math anxiety, often stemming from weak mathematical foundations. This has been a common observation among physics teachers in the academe.

A complete understanding of the concepts in physics requires fluency in the mathematical language in which these concepts are couched. In the Philippines, the low academic performance of Filipino students in science has been known to the academe. Results of both national and international achievement tests show the poor performance of students in science, in physics particularly. There are at least two possible, distinct reasons for this poor performance: (1) Students lack the mathematical skills needed to solve problems in physics, or (2) students do not know how to apply the mathematical skills they have to particular problem situations in physics. Numerous physics teachers claimed that lack of mathematical skills is the problem.

Physics educators have noted the alarming trend of weak mathematical foundations among students, which threatens their success in fields requiring strong physics knowledge, such as engineering and health sciences. The Department of Education has set higher standards for incoming Grade 11 students enrolling in the STEM strand, emphasizing the need for strong math and science competencies. Physics classes are often delayed as teachers need to reteach mathematical concept prior to teaching the actual physics lessons. Addressing math anxiety is also crucial, as it significantly hinders students' ability to understand and perform well in physics. This study aimed to identify the necessary mathematical competencies for physics, guiding educators of Bauan National Agricultural and Vocational High School in enhancing their curriculum and helping students develop the skills needed to succeed in physics. Furthermore, a Pre-Physics Module is the ultimate goal of this study to provide academic assistance to the students.

The math and science academic performance of students in the Philippines has been a persistent concern, as evidenced by recent international assessments. Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) are two major international assessments that often include data on Filipino students' performance in math and science. These reports can provide insights into how students in the Philippines compare to their peers globally (Mullis, et.al, 2016) and (OECD, 2016).

Cruz & Garcia (2016) presented in their conference paper the trends and challenges in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education in the Philippines, shedding light on factors influencing student performance in math and physics.

A significant study by Tan and Lasaten (2018) highlighted that Filipino students consistently perform poorly in international assessments like the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). The study attributes these poor performances to several factors, including outdated curricula, insufficient teacher training, and lack of instructional materials.

The connection between Mathematics and Physics performance in the Philippines has been an area of interest, particularly in understanding how proficiency in one subject influences the other. Studies indicate a strong correlation between students' performance in Mathematics and their ability to grasp Physics concepts, as Mathematics provides the necessary tools for understanding and solving Physics problems. A study by Reyes and Torres (2017) found that students who excelled in Mathematics tended to perform better in Physics. Their research, conducted among high school students in Manila, showed that mathematical skills such as algebra and trigonometry are crucial for understanding Physics topics like mechanics and electromagnetism.

Analogously, Castillo and Ramirez (2019) explored the pedagogical approaches that link Mathematics and Physics education in the Philippines. They emphasized the importance of integrated teaching strategies that simultaneously develop skills in both subjects. Their study revealed that students often struggle with Physics because they lack the necessary mathematical foundation. Castillo and Ramirez suggested that curriculum development should focus on aligning Mathematics and Physics instruction to reinforce the interconnected concepts and problem-solving skills. They also highlighted the need for professional development programs for teachers to enhance their ability to teach these subjects in an integrated manner.

These findings are supported by the Department of Education's initiatives to improve STEM education through programs like the "Strengthened Technical-Vocational Education Program" (STVEP), which aims to enhance the integration of Math and Physics in the curriculum (DepEd, 2018). The program underscores the importance of a solid mathematical foundation for successful Physics education and seeks to provide students with practical and theoretical knowledge that bridges both subjects. This approach aligns with global best practices, emphasizing the interdependence of Mathematics and Physics in fostering a comprehensive understanding of STEM fields.

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