Background of the Study
Education has become one of the most powerful instruments through which a child acquires knowledge, skills, habits, values and attitudes in modern societies. It is also used for laying the foundation for sustainable growth and development of a nation. This explains why the National Policy on Education (FRN, 2004) stipulates that every Nigerian child has a right to education for the purpose of engendering national development. National development is achieved through preprimary, primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education. At the lower and middle basic education which is from primary 1-6, the child is expected to develop the ability to read, write, and do arithmetic. According to the National Policy on Education (FRN, 2004), primary education is the education given to children aged 6 to 11 plus. It is at this level that the rest of education system is built upon; it is the key to the success or failure of any educational system. The World Bank (2006) has rightly stated that primary education is the foundation of all learning and the first phase of lifelong education. Primary education is one of the levels of the educational system, and it runs for six years. It is aimed at developing basic skills as well as transmission of the culture of the people to younger generations. These basic skills prepare a child for future life in society. In other words, primary education helps to eradicate illiteracy which seems to be one of the strongest predictors of poverty. Primary education appears to be the only level of education that is available in both developed and the developing countries as well as in urban and rural areas. This explains why, according to United Nations Economic Social and Cultural Organization [UNESCO] (2007), primary education is the largest sub-sector of any education system and contributes to the transformation of societies through the education of the young ones. A primary school pupil is a young child. According to UNESCO (2007) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC, 2007), a child is a human being below the age of eighteen years. In formal education terms and according to National Policy on Education, a primary school child is someone who is aged six to eleven years plus (FRN, 2004). The child is physically very active and is intellectually teachable, curious, and eager to learn. Meremikwu (2008) states that children at the primary school level like to explore, experiment, create and interact intensively with the environment. Slavin (2009) maintains that primary school-age children are rapidly developing memory and cognitive skills, including metacognitive skills which is the ability to think about their own thinking. At this level, according to the author, they also learn how to learn. Primary education enables pupils develop the basic learning skills. In recognition of the key role of primary education, the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN, 2004: 14) states that the goals of this level of education include, to: inculcate permanent literacy and numeracy and ability to communicate effectively, lay a sound basis for scientific and reflexive thinking, give citizenship education as a basis for effective participation in and contribution to the life of the society, among others. In order to achieve these goals, Nigeria prescribed that the curriculum of this level of education will include mathematics. Mathematics is a science subject that deals with numbers. Gouba (2008) defines mathematics as a science of structure, order, and relation that has evolved from counting, measuring and describing the shapes of objects. It deals with logical reasoning and quantitative calculations. Gelfand and Shen (2011) describe mathematics as the science of quantity which treats whatever can be measured or numbered. The authors further state that it is the science of numbers and their operations, interrelations, combinations, generalizations and abstractions. Pierce (2007) views mathematics as a body of knowledge centred on concepts such as quantity, structure, space, change and the academic discipline that studies them. For Agwagah (2008), Mathematics is the study of topics such as quantity, structure, space and change. According to the author, these topics provide the major sub-divisions of Mathematics – arithmetic, algebra, geometry and analysis.
Statement of the Problem
Primary education is the foundation of the education pyramid. It is a very vital aspect of the nation’s educational system, especially as it concerns the child’s basic education needs. It is at this primary level that foundation of school subjects are laid, especially in mathematics. Any error committed at this level of education may likely have adverse effect on other levels of education. Mathematics has been generally accepted as an important component of science and technology. It is essentially needed for sustaining scientific and technological development. Unfortunately, pupils’ achievement in this all important subject is very poor at all levels. The researcher’s experience over the years shows that right from the primary school; pupils begin to complain about mathematics. Furthermore, experience gathered from the marking exercise of pupils’ scripts during Common Entrance Examinations and during Primary School Mathematics Olympiad tells so much about pupils’ lack of strong foundation in mathematics. More importantly, the teachers who marked junior secondary school examination scripts also complained about the poor performance of the children in mathematics. This is probably because the mathematics foundation which is very weak at the primary level is carried forward to junior secondary and eventually into senior secondary school. Many researchers have attributed poor achievement of pupils in mathematics to lack of interest in the subject, and the resultant fear that makes them see the subject as difficult. Also, the inadequate provision of appropriate textbooks; attitude of teachers who teach the pupils, many of whom are nonspecialists, are major factors that inhibit the achievement of pupils in mathematics. Teachers’ use of inadequate teaching strategies such as conventional talk and chalk, lecture, and descriptive methods also contribute to pupils’ poor achievement in the subject. The inappropriate teaching strategies reduce pupils to passive participants and the implication of this is that pupils do not get deeply involved in the learning process. Many educationists have made attempts to remedy this anomaly and many strategies have been proffered to remedy this situation. Despite all these attempts, the poor achievement in mathematics still persists. Some studies from foreign nations suggest that exposing pupils to self-instruction strategy may enhance their achievement and interest in mathematics. But one does not know what will be the effect of self-instruction strategy on pupils’ achievement and interest in mathematics in Nsukka. Put in a question form, therefore, the problem of this study is, “what is the effect of self-instruction strategy on pupils’ achievement and interest in mathematics?”