This study examined students’ attitudes towards the learning of mathematics in secondary schools in Jalingo Metropolis, Nigeria. The seemingly misconceptions by students, parents, teachers and even Government officials that mathematics is a difficult subject necessitated this study. The objectives of the study were to; determine the extent to which students’ attitude towards mathematics affect their academic performance in examinations; establish the relationship between teachers’ qualification, method of teaching, instructional materials and attitude of both teachers and students influence the teaching and learning of mathematics and the implication in academic performance of the students. It was also the intention of this work to find out whether the attitude of the students to study mathematics is a function of gender and finally, to determine if male students do perform much better than their female counterparts in mathematics examination, academically. A well-structured questionnaire was used to collect date from the respondents. A total of 120 respondents were used.
The results indicated that qualification of mathematics teachers, teaching method, and instructional materials were highly significant and important determinants of students’ success in learning mathematics and academic achievement. Also, students’ attitude towards mathematics teaching and learning was an important factor in the academic performance of students. Based on the results of this study, it was recommended that: There is need to improve the quality of mathematics teachers. Government of Taraba State should embark on serious in-service training of mathematics teachers to equip them with skills for teaching mathematics in secondary schools. Also there is need for mathematics teachers to try and understand the perceptions of their students and try to adopt instructional strategies and improvised teaching aids, where there is none so that whatever student perceived as easy would really turn out to be easy and whatever is difficult may be properly addressed to motivate and encourage students to see the need in learning mathematics and improve their performance in examinations and real life.
1.1 Background of the Study
Mathematics throughout the world is regarded as essential tool in many fields, including natural science, engineering, medicine, finance and social sciences. Branches of Mathematics include: algebra which are abstract algebra, modules, vector spaces, combinatory and number theory; analysis which include: calculus, real and complex analysis, vector and tensor analysis, differential equations and functional analysis; geometry which includes euclidean and geometry, affine, metric, projective geometry, discrete geometry, differential geometry and algebraic geometry; foundations which are Logic, computability, recursion theory, set theory, category theory and applied mathematics which are probability, statistics, game theory system and control theory and computer science (Obodo, 2004). Applied mathematics as a branch of mathematics is concerned with the application of mathematical knowledge to other fields. This branch of mathematics inspires and makes use of new mathematical discoveries which has led to the development of entirely new mathematics disciplines, such as statistics and game theory. The earliest uses of mathematics were in trading, land measurement, painting and weaving patterns and recording of time. The use of mathematics has since been greatly extended to politics, stock market, financial calculations (like budget), population, competition, and even as a prestige (Usman & Ojo, 2014).
Mathematics is a science with the basic scientific skills and objectives. Zakariyya (2014) posited that without mathematics, there will be no science, without sciences there will be no technology and without technology there will be no modern society. From this statement, it is therefore an accepted truth that no society can reach heights of greatness unless there is an ample supply of dedicated men and women in all fields critical to its growth, and developing such experts like scientists and technologists to satisfy the concept, there is a need for a good knowledge of mathematics in order to work efficiently. Education enables science and technology with a good knowledge of mathematics to convert human skills and enterprises into materials wealth and social amenities. It affords man a comfortable living and simplifies man activities. For instance, technology has provided a tractor for farming instead of a hoe and a vacuum cleaner for clearing instead of broom, while science is primarily concerned with the production of knowledge, technology is concerned with its use with mathematics playing an essential role in the development of technology. The future and longevity of any social sector depends on how many talented young people are attracted to mathematics (Usman & Ojo, 2014).
According to Thomaskutty and George (2008), mathematics cannot be considered as a classroom discipline only. This implied that not only an academician, a scientist, or an engineer, need mathematics but also a shopkeeper, a housewife, a sportsman, a farmer, and an employee need mathematics. A common man gets on sometimes very well without learning how to read and write, but he can never pull on without learning how to count and calculate. Thus mathematics has therefore become an everyday and everybody’s phenomenon. Man uses it directly or indirectly in everyday life or activities. It is a human invention, borne out of human in attempt to solve human problems (Kolawole & Oluwatayo, 2005). In spite of all these importance accorded to mathematics in the society, there exist low levels of mathematics attainment of students at every segment of the educational system in the country. This has given many educators/stakeholders a high level of concern (Ajayi, Abiola & Adeyanju, 2011).
While the content of subject curricular kept changing from time to time, the structure and practice remained stagnant (Akinlua, 2007: 99). One of the enduring features is that emphasis is still placed on the importance of examination and certification as a measure of assessing pupils in the learning process. Lugard (1965) had however pointed out that the main purpose of Western education was to produce clerks and interpreters to aid the administrative machinery of the imperial overlords. To Akinlua (2007: 95) this type of education was not “founded on realistic philosophical principles”, and though the frame of reference for curricular content was localized, other relevant issues such as models of learning and teaching were based on the British system. Mathematics as a core subject in secondary schools is one of the subjects that is affected by the curricular content of the Nigerian educational system. For this study, mathematics will be defined as numbers and operations, algebra, and geometry (Michelli, 2013).
The way students perceive a subject determines their success or failure in that subject. Some students perceive mathematics as a no go area because of the negative impression passed down to them by the past generations, who had bad experience with unqualified mathematics teachers; that mathematics is the most difficult subject in the school, that the subject is not meant for everybody, not everybody passes it, it is meant for those with special talent, some were born to do mathematics while others were not (Audu, 1995). On hearing all these negative expressions before school age or getting admission into school, the child psychologically develops and nurses fear for the subject and comes to the lesson with these bad notions and bias, which disassociate learning patterns, which are impossible to build upon. This notion has done a lot of harm to the teaching and learning of mathematics. Math phobia is the condition that these bad notions lead to. That is, fear followed by low productivity and consequently leads to low academic achievement in mathematics. This study explores the influence of students’ attitudes to the learning of mathematics on their academic achievements in senior secondary schools in jalingo metropolis.
1.2 Statement of the problem
The seemingly misconceptions by students, parents, teachers and even Government officials that mathematics is a difficult subject necessitated this study. Most Nigerian students perform poorly in Mathematics examinations and that they underachieved in mathematics when compared to students from other countries such as Ghana. These results give impetus to the development of further research that seeks to characterize and understand different variables, which may influence student performance in Mathematics. This will help to make possible strategies for future action in schools, families, and communities, in order to bring about an improvement in the failure rate in mathematics in school and public examinations.
Also, the way students perceive a teacher or a subject determines their success or failure in that subject. Some students today perceived mathematics as no go area because of the negative impressions passed down to them by the past generation who had bad experience with unqualified mathematics teachers, which is still in circulation: that mathematics is the most difficult subjects in the school, it is not meant for everybody, not everybody passes it, it is meant for those with special talent (Audu, 1995). On hearing all these negative expression since before school age or getting admission into school, the child psychologically develops fear for the subject and come to the lesson with these notion and if confronted with any mathematical problem-solving will quickly conceptualized him/her self: I cannot do any difficult task, it is not meant for people like me, accepting defeat
Therefore, the hierarchy needs of both teachers and students should be met to motivate both parties for better performance. According to Maslow, teachers should do everything possible to help students satisfy their deficiency (mathematics), because an inner motivation for knowledge will not develop until these basic needs are met. He observed that teachers are not always able to intervene in student’s life to the extent necessary to fulfill deficiency needs, but suggested that, teachers instead are in a position to provide a classroom conducive for learning,, that could fulfill deficiency needs, especially in mathematics, a subject which if not passed with credit, no student could be given admission into any tertiary institution, especially in science and technology-related courses. Teachers and primarily parents, as much as possible should help and encourage their children in meeting deficiency needs, which consequently could enhance effective teaching and learning of all subjects.
1.3 Objective of the study
The main objective of the study is to examine the influence of students’ attitudes to the learning of mathematics on their academic achievements in senior secondary schools in jalingo metropolis. Specifically, the study aims:
i. examine if the students’ attitude towards the study of mathematics affects their academic performance in examination
ii. investigate how teacher’s qualification and teaching methods students’ academic performance in mathematics examination in secondary schools
iii. evaluate if the sex of the student a determinant in his or her attitude towards studying of mathematics
1.4 Research Questions
Based on the research objectives, the following research questions were proffered to guide the study:
1. Does students’ attitude towards the study of mathematics affect their academic performance in examination?
2. Is teacher’s qualification and teaching methods students’ academic performance in mathematics examination ion secondary schools?
3. Is sex of the student a determinant in his or her attitude towards studying of mathematics ?
1.5 Significance of the Study
The aim is to educate the present and new incoming generations on the likely variables perceived to be affecting learning and teaching of mathematics in secondary schools, resulting to the persistent rate of failure in the subject. A person’s attitude to an idea or object determines what the person thinks, feels and how the person would like to act or behave towards that idea or the object. Therefore, the students’ attitude towards their teachers’ qualification could influence their attitude towards learning mathematics or any other school subject and subsequently, academic performance in examinations. Students more often than not, judge their teachers in such areas as the teachers’ knowledge of the subject matter, communication, ability and the choice of appropriate teaching method, class management and leadership style. A teacher who is rated high on these indices in the eye of the students is likely to enjoy the confidence, respect and admiration of his/her students and vice versa and in the process become their role model, mentor and inspirator in the subject taught.
By examining the different perceptions, attitudes, belief and myths of mathematics that parents, former students and even community people and policy makers hold, there is a potential for such perceptions, attitudes, beliefs and myths to be challenged, promoted or discouraged scientifically with proofs. The information obtained will enhance better strategies and measures, information and understanding for promoting