Background of the Study
The poor achievement of students in mathematics at various levels of education has been variously expressed. In an attempt to provide solutions to this persistent poor achievement in mathematics among students, areas that need improvement and are of learning difficulties are being identified. In the recent past, authorities like Countryman (2007) and Heidi (2000) identified an area which is of learning difficulty in the mathematics instruction. This area is in the teaching and acquisition of problem solving skills. These authorities contended that problem-solving skills can and should be taught in the mathematics classroom. Several skills in problem – solving have been identified and one of the basic skills is writing (Rob, 2001). It is believed that understanding mathematics is doing mathematics, and one cannot do mathematics without writing. Writing is an ideal situation for being active, creative and responsive to the physical world. In order to teach, teachers must be proficient in exploring, justifying, representing, discussing, using, describing, investigating and predicting, which are important for effective writing.
Countryman (2007) expressed the relationship between mathematics and writing, and also provided a comprehensive description of the approach necessary to teach mathematics in Junior Secondary School and Senior Secondary School. This may lead to the idea that the use of writing exercises in mathematics classes leads to both better understanding of the contents and heightened mathematics communication skills. Mathematics communication skill is the act of using mathematics terms and notation to talk about their insight rather than giving one word answers, that is, explaining writing in communication. Furthermore, writing in mathematics may lead to a less restrictive view of mathematics instead of a series of formulas and rigid answers. The students come to see mathematics as a process and a dialogue to which they too can contribute. The techniques Countryman employs in teaching writing include journals, free writing, learning logs, description of problems. Drake and Amspaugh (1998) observed that teachers who add writing to their mathematics instruction often find it easier to recognize and diagnose the nature of student‟s conceptual problems. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM, 2003) stated that the very act of communicating clarifies thinking and forces students to engage in doing mathematics. Incorporating writing assignments into mathematics courses helps students develop as both writers and mathematicians. David (1999) argued that writing can help teachers interpret unfamiliar texts, construct arguments, struggle to understand complex systems, and develop new approaches to problems. These would also help teachers to develop many writing activities that are involved in problem solving processes. Quinn and Wilson (1997) acknowledged that incorporating writing activities into the mathematics instruction has benefits for teachers as well. They found that teachers gain important information from students‟ writing that can help them improve in their instructional pedagogy.
Statement of the Problem
Over the years, mathematics had been dreaded by many students as a result of the impression created in their minds that the subject is difficult. The situation has even been further compounded by the quality of instruction offered by mathematics teachers. The trend of students‟ achievement according to the WAEC report of 2010 revealed abysmal achievement. This has greatly affected enrolment into the science related courses in tertiary institutions in Nigeria, and Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) (2009). Furthermore, Amoo (2000) and Adedeyo (2001) also observed that in Nigeria, evidence from research findings shows that students‟ achievement in mathematics is characterized by low achievement. The West African Examination Council (WAEC 2010) has consistently reported poor achievement in mathematics especially in Algebra. The Chief Examiner in Delta State (2009) reported on this poor achievement in mathematics.