FACTORS INFLUENCING THE ATTITUDE OF STUDENTS TOWARDS THE STUDY OF MATHEMATICS IN NIGERIA
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We are living in a world that is rapidly progressing scientifically and technologically. The economic well being of any developing nation depends to a significant extent on her scientific and technological process. Organized exploration of nature for the benefit of mankind in the basic aim of modern science and technology. Nigeria being a developing country now encourages the study of science and technology in schools so as to be able to meet up with the man-power needs of the nation. This could be evidenced by the way State and Federal Governments build Universities of Technology, Polytechnics and even Technical Colleges. A few of such institutions include Federal Polytechnic Idah, Federal Polytechnic Bauchi. Anambra State University of Technology, Auchi Polytechnic, Technical School, Benin etc. The present administration has in her take-over note that sixty percent (60%) of students to be admitted into the University should be science oriented students.
All these approaches made by the government are good in themselves. A question stands to be answered “what of the students and their attitude to the subjects that will be used to achieve this purpose”? No matter the amount of investment, the government puts into education to make sure we are developed scientifically and technologically, it will be a wasted venture if students’ attitude to mathematics is negative. This is because mathematics is the language of sciences. Mathematics serve as the vehicle of thinking. A real study of science is not possible without the facilities of this fact. Idah (2007) said “as a subject, mathematics is at the base of all the science and environmental professions”. In industry, mathematics is needed for the production of guided missiles and is useful in aerospace technology. In communication, mathematics is also very useful. If one is mathematically literate, on can communicate precisely and present his argument in a logical manner because mathematics helps one in logical thinking. Indeed, there is hardly any field where mathematics is not useful. The farmer, the hunter, the housewife etc. All use mathematics although they may not be of this fact.
Hence, we notice that if Nigerians are to realize their national objective in science and technology, hands must be on deck regarding the study of mathematics in both the primary, secondary and tertiary level of our education. Efforts would be made to improve students’ attitude towards the subject.
The right way to introduce young pupils to mathematics is not to teach Arithmetic, Algebra, Statistics and Geometry as separate branches, each with its own technical apparatus and methods. The ideal thing is to treat mathematics as a science in which the topics are chosen so as to develop a grasp of mathematical idea. Therefore, the early stage of mathematics teaching is very important since the pupils’ future performance in the subject depends on how well he performs at this stage. Mathematics is a way of thinking about pattern and relationship of numbers and shapes. It includes arithmetic, algebra, geometry, statistics and trigonometry.
The attitude of students to mathematics education whether positive or negative and affected by many factors. Most students are biased towards mathematics education before they start to study it. They are told that mathematics is very difficult. With this in their mind, they feel that they can never grasp the subject no matter how hard they try.
Another factor is the career expectation of those concerned. Many students who aspire to become doctors, engineers etc develop interest in the subject as early as possible. This interest is seen in the effort made to understand the subjects. Although some of this type of students may have problems in understanding the subjects due to level of aptitude for them, the interest already developed assist in no small measure in their performance.
Another factor that can affect the attitude of students is the method of teaching mathematics in secondary schools. The traditional method of verbal learning and memorization had led to formal and abstract approach to mathematics teaching.
Finally, attitude towards mathematics may be influenced by social status of the parents and associated with peer group.
Statement of Problem
Despite all efforts towards scientific and technological development, it is observed that most students have negative attitude towards mathematics. This attitude is reflected in their poor performance in school certificate mathematics examination. It then becomes necessary to answer the following question:
Are student no aware of the fact that mathematics is a prerequisite for professional courses like medicine, pharmacy, engineering, etc?
Do secondary school students lack adequate background in mathematics?
Does the way mathematics is taught affect the attitude of students towards the subject?
Does lack of motivation affect students’ attitude?
Is it because some students are naturally weak and find the study of mathematics very difficult?
Do parents, peers and teachers influence the attitude of students towards the subject?
If all these questions would be answered and analyzed, the writer would be able to determine what is responsible for the attitude of students towards mathematics and perhaps make suggestions on how the attitude could be improved.
The attitudes of a student towards mathematics influence his life in many aspects. It cannot only affect his performance in mathematics but also in other related subject. This can affect his reasoning faculty and his logical approach to day to day issues in life.
The problem associated with mathematics disturbs parents, teachers and educationist. The slow rate of development of this country is attributed to the low science manpower, tradesmen, the technicians and other skilled labour to facilitate development. Since it is only mathematics that will solve this problem, it become necessary to identify those factors that affect students’ attitude.
Purpose of Study
The purpose of the study is to investigate the attitude of secondary school students towards mathematics with a view to identifying the basic factors underlying them. attempts would also be made to find solutions to these problems.
The writer’s choice of this topic for research is based on the urgency of the need for a positive attitude towards the study of the subject. This need is based on the usefulness of this subject towards the scientific and technological development of our country.
Significance of the Study
It is hoped that this would really reveal the factor that affect students’ attitude towards mathematics. On identification of such factors, student would be advised on how best to tackle their problems. The best way to solve a problem is not to shy away from it but to face the problem squarely and the result will appear.
To the educationist and curriculum planners, this study would reveal the relevance of arithmetic taught in primary school to the mathematics teachers who would be able top motivate students so that they can develop positive attitude towards mathematics. It will also enable them to start holding workshops for teachers more often than before so as to furnish teachers with techniques for improving their students’ attitude as well as performance.
It will also serve as a resource material for those who like to carry out research into problems encountered in the teaching of mathematics in secondary schools.
Scope/Delimitation of Study
The main concern of this investigation would be on the effect of teachers on the students’ attitude toward the study of mathematics, its relevance to the vocational aspiration of the students concerned, the effect of low score in mathematics examination to student attitude.
In order to be able to direct this study to specific areas, the following questions were formulated:
Do most students have negative attitude towards mathematics?
Can students’ attitude toward the study of mathematics be influenced by teachers’ method of teaching.
Can students’ attitude towards mathematics be influenced by their parents?
Can attitude of students towards mathematics be influenced by their friends?
Do students who do badly in mathematics during examinations have negative attitude towards the study of mathematics?
Do students whose vocational aspiration require mathematics have positive attitude towards the study of mathematics?
This study is limited to only S.S.S I and S.S.S II students in five selected secondary schools in Benin City.
In administration of questionnaire, the students and only qualified mathematics teachers in the secondary schools were interviewed.