ATTITUDE OF STUDENTS TOWARDS TEACHING AND LEARNING OF MATHEMATICS IN SECONDARY SCHOOL
1.1 Background to the Study
The knowledge of mathematics is an essential tool in any society (Baroody, 1987). It is a tool that is necessary in daily life to overcome the human challenges (Bishop, 1996). Due to this, mathematics has been considered as one of the most important core subjects in the 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). 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).
Over the years, students’ attitude towards mathematics as well as other quantitative subjects such as economics and sciences has created great concern among educators and teachers of mathematics. This is because knowledge of mathematics affects major aspect of human life as well as performance of students in other quantitative subjects in secondary schools.
Several studies and researches have been done in many countries to find out factors that influence students’ performance in mathematics such as Nigerian association of Mathematics research. Similarly, according to the research study carried out by Burstein (1992) in a comparative study of factors influencing mathematics achievement found out that there is a direct link between students’ attitudes towards mathematics and student outcomes. Similarly, the work of Bolaji (2005), which studies factors influencing students’ attitude towards mathematics in the Junior Secondary Schools. Both studies are in agreement that students’ attitude towards mathematics is one important factor affecting their performance in mathematics.
Often, the studies on relationship between students’ attitude and the students’ 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.
There is widespread interest in improving the level of mathematics performance in schools. Apart from the economic benefits of better preparing young people for the numeracy demands of modern work place and raising the overall skill levels of the work force, there are also social benefits tied to the knowledge of mathematics.
The interest in raising levels of performance has led to a focus on identifying the range of factors that shape performance as well as understanding how these factors operate to limit or enhance the performance of students. However, poor performance in mathematics has been observed at various educational levels, and has raised serious concern from different researchers and educators from across border and within the border, which has led to the emergence of several workshops, seminars, and debate on the subject matter. The outcome of these workshops and debates has helped to identify and examine several factors responsible for students’ performance in mathematics such as gender, socio-economic status, and availability of instructional materials among others.
Although, Attitude of students is the primary concern of this research, other factors such as gender and the socio-economic situation are highlighted. Attitudes are only seen as more effective and less cognitive than beliefs or values (McLeod, 1992) and often they are defined similarly, and used interchangeably (Brahier&Speer, 1995). In general, attitudes are directed towards something and are seen as either positive or negative, and are grounded in experience (McLeod, 1992).
Attitudes are acquired through learning and can be changed through persuasion using variety of techniques. Attitudes, once established, help to shape the experiences the individual has with an object, subject or person. Although attitude changes gradually, people constantly form new attitudes and modify old ones when they are exposed to new information and new experiences (Adesina&Akinbobola, 2005).
Gagne (1979) defines attitudes as an internal state that influences the personal actions of an individual, he recognized attitude as a major factor in subject choice. He considers attitudes as a mental and neutral state of readiness, organized through experience, exerting a directive or dynamic influence upon the individual’s responses to all objects and situations with which it is related.
Carson (1990) in his own opinion stated that in teaching-learning processes, an opportunity is created whereby the teacher can talk to the students directly or in small groups. Teachers may raise questions to help direct students or explain concepts. In addition, a natural tendency to socialize with the students on a professional level is created by approaches to problem solving and about activities and attitudes, which influence performance in class. When students are successful they view the subject matter with a very positive attitude because their self-esteem is enhanced. This creates a positive cycle of good performance, building higher self-esteem which in turn leads to more interest in the subject and higher performance.
In Nigeria, students poor performance in mathematics have been attributed to poor teaching methods, habit of teachers, student attitude toward mathematic, and gender effect (Ivowi, 1997).
Also, issues of gender have been a rich area, and probably initiated interest in research about affective factors and mathematics learning. Historically, the achievement of girls in mathematics, across a range of different contexts, was lower than that of the boys, and this was attributed to a variety of reasons including affective factors such as belief, emotion and peer influence (Leder, 1992). In a meta-analysis of studies on “gender comparisons of mathematics attitudes and affect”, Hyde, Fennema, Ryan, Frost, and Hopp (1990) found that, in general, female students held more negative attitudes to mathematics than male students, and these differences increased with age.
Another factor that needs to be considered is the socio-economic situation of students (SES).There has been a long-standing understanding that SES has a significant effect on achievement in mathematics (Atweh, Meaney, McMurchy-Pilkington, Neyland, &Trinick , 2004). The Rothman and McMillan (2003) report noted that the effects of socioeconomic status on student achievement [in numeracy] were significant at two levels. There were small but significant effects of SES within schools, and there were larger significant effects of SES between schools.
Similarly, Peard (2002) quantitatively showed that SES has a prevailing influence on the mathematical achievement of students. In short, the literature seems to be consistent in confirming that students who attend low SES schools achieve significantly lower than students who attend high SES schools. Furthermore, often SES is closely related to ethnic background (Atweh et al., 2004)
1.2 Statement of the Problem
In consonance with some conventional research, student’s attitudes toward mathematics have performance problems simply because of the way students responds or view it. The attitude of an individual often affects his or her decision choices or the level of commitment to an action or an idea. Most students have phobia for quantitative courses because of the attitude they have developed towards it over time. Unfortunately, it is less likely for any student to pass through the educational cadres without having to undergo mathematics. This is because mathematics is very important in our daily life and important in preparing young people for the numeracy demands of modern work place and raising the overall skill levels of the work force.
Most of the records of poor performance in mathematics can be attributed mostly to attitude of students, gender issues in mathematics education as well as socio-economic status of students. Though the main focus of this study is primarily to investigate the relationship between student’s attitude and the consequential performance in mathematics, this study will also make attempt to examine how socio-economic status of students, gender differences, as well as roles of teachers affect students’ performance. It is the belief of the researcher to exhaustively deal with these identified problems associated with student’s poor performance in mathematics in order to proffers corrective measures to students’ poor performance in mathematics.
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