FACTORS INFLUENCING THE ATTITUDE OF STUDENTS TOWARDS THE STUDY OF MATHEMATICS IN NIGERIA, USING KATSINA – ALA LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA, BENUE STATE AS A CASE STUDY
1.1 Background of the Study
There is no disagreement on the vital importance of mathematics to both the scientist, the technologist and even to every layman in his everyday life (Omenka, 2013). Mathematics is the key element and activity in the day to day living that every human being practices in one form or the other (Kurumeh, Akure, and Oguche, 2007). The knowledge of mathematics is an essential tool in our society (Baroody, 1987). It is a tool that can be used in our daily life to overcome the difficulties faced (Bishop, 1996). Due to this, mathematics has been considered as one of the most important core subject in a school curriculum. More mathematics lessons are likely to be taught in schools and colleges throughout the world than any other subject (Orton, Orton, & Frobisher, 2004).
The Nigerian education accorded mathematics a special position in the school curriculum. In fact, it made a core-subject for both Arts and Science students. All the junior secondary schools students have to pass it at the junior secondary school certificate examination before they are allowed to register for senior secondary school examination. In other words mathematics is one of the core-subjects both at the junior and senior secondary school levels. It is also required that a student gets a credit pass in it to get admission for science related courses in the universities.
However, the standard tests and evaluations reveal that students do not perform to the expected level. The student under achievement in mathematics is not just a concern for particular countries, but has become a global concern over the years (Pisa, 2003).
Despite the relevance of mathematics and the efforts made by the government to improve the student’s achievement in mathematics, the result is not yet satisfactory. The West African Examination Council, WAEC (2004) Chief Examiner’s Report shows that 1,090,503 candidates sat for external out of which only 10.5% passed. In 2005 out of 1464,301 candidates that sat for external only 15.2% passed mathematics. In 2007, out of 1,484,611 candidates, only 18.5% passed mathematics. National Examination Council, NECO (2006) reported that many of the candidates exhibited lack of knowledge of basic principles needed to tackle some of the mathematics problems.
Several studies and researches have been done in many countries to find the factors that influence the student’s performance in mathematics. Among these factors, student’s attitude towards mathematics is one important factor that has been consistently studied. Often, the studies on relationship between student’s attitude and the student’s academic performance show a positive relationship (Mohd, Mahmood, & Ismail, 2011; Bramlett & Herron, 2009; Nicolaidou & Philippou, 2003; Papanastasiou, 2000; Ma & Kishor, 1997). Hence students’ attitude towards mathematics is a major factor that might influence the performance of the students. Due to this, several studies have been conducted in different countries in order to find out the students attitude towards mathematics (Tahar, Ismail, Zamani & Adnan, 2010; Tezer & Karasel, 2010; Maat & Zakaria, 2010; Bramlett & Herron, 2009; Köğce, Yıldız, Aydın, & Altındağ, 2009; Tapia & Marsh, 2004; Fennema & Sherman, 1976) and hence to use these data to suggest the low performance of students and factors affecting it. The aim of this research is to find out the factors influencing the attitude of secondary school students towards mathematics in some schools in Katsina-Ala, Benue State. The research focuses on finding the students’ attitude towards mathematics and also finding the significant difference between student’s attitudes towards mathematics with regard to the gender of the students.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The rate of failure in both internal and external examinations in Mathematics these days is quite alarming. The failure rate deteriorates from year to year (WAEC, 2005).
The student’s attitude towards an academics subject is a crucial factor in learning and achievement in that subject. Whether a student views himself or herself as a strong or weak person in a specific subject may be an important factor in his or her academic achievement. Papanastasiou (2002) showed that there is a positive relation between Mathematics and mathematics achievement. According to Schreiber (2002), those who have positive attitudes towards Mathematics have a better performance in the subject. In Kenya, studies done by Auma (2004) and Achieng (2007) looked at the relationship between teacher factors and student Mathematics achievement as factors affecting Mathematics performance but did not consider students attitude. However, the study focuses on the factors influencing student’s attitude towards Mathematics with specific reference to objectives, content, methods and evaluation of the Mathematics curriculum and establishes their influence on Mathematics performance.
1.3 Purpose of Study
The subject is more positive. The researcher feels that a students’ negative attitude toward Mathematics as a subject has a damaging effect on their performance in the classroom. The researcher also feels that teachers who are more enthusiastic and have a more positive attitude about teaching mathematics have students whose attitude about the subject is more positive.
The main purpose of this study is to investigate the factors influencing the attitude of students towards the study of mathematics in Nigeria, using Katsina-Ala L.G.A, Benue State as a case study.
Therefore the Specific objectives of the study are:
1. To determine student’s performance in Mathematics across gender.
2. To establish student’s attitude towards Mathematics across gender, with reference to:
3. Determine the level of relationship between attitudes towards Mathematics and performance in Mathematics.
1.4 Significance of the Study
The findings of this research upon completion will help students to understand how their attitude towards mathematics can affect their performance in the subject and how their interaction with the society can influence their attitude and hence, their performance in mathematics. And also, to determine the extent to which the teacher’s attitude towards teaching the subject can affect the students’ performance in Mathematics.
1.5 Research Questions
The researcher collected data from students and teachers by using both open ended questions and scaled answers on a Likert scale. The researcher asked the students questions to get a general idea of their attitude about mathematics. The teacher asked about how they see attitude affecting student performance, if they are enthusiastic about mathematics, if they enjoy teaching mathematics.
1. What effect does the student’s attitude towards mathematics have on their performance in the subject?
2. How does gender affects the performance of the students in mathematics?
1.6 Research Hypotheses
: There is no significance difference in the performance of students as regards their attitude towards mathematics.
: There is no significance difference in the attitude of students towards mathematics as regards gender.
1.7 Scope of the Study
The study was investigated in five schools in Katsina-Ala L.G.A of Benue State, Nigeria. It consists of both junior and senior secondary students of these selected schools.