CAUSES AND EFFECTS OF MATHEMATICS ANXIETY AMONG STUDENTS OF TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS IN NIGERIA
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Mathematics is one of the most important subjects in University admission criteria. Thus it is made compulsory for all students to offer at the JAMB examinations before they can be admitted into any higher institution of learning in Nigeria. This is because Nigeria as a nation solely depends upon mathematics as one of the most important subjects that could help the nation meet her objective for science and technological advancement (Jegede, 2002). It is a fact that students have a very low interest in mathematics. Students hate or dislike mathematics. Even at secondary schools level in Nigeria students do not attend mathematics lessons (Fatola, 2005). Those who attend the mathematics lessons do not pay attention to the teacher. Most of the students do not practice mathematics on their own neither do they solve mathematics problems on their own. According to Amazigo (2000), when the option is available, many students would prefer not to have anything to do with learning mathematics. This attitude has led them, among other things, to achieve poorly in mathematics examinations both internal and external. On the other hand, the recent paucity and anxiety of undergraduates in mathematics and mathematics education in Universities, Colleges of Education and Polytechnics suggests that mathematics is no longer popular among students particularly at the higher institution level. There is no doubt that the poor achievement in the subject enhances students’ hatred for the subject. This hatred is rooted in the fact that there is a general tendency for students to fear mathematics whenever it is mentioned (Amazigo, 2000). Anxiety refers to a feeling of distress or alarm caused by danger or pain that is about to happen (Tobias, 1993). In intensity it varies from a mild sense of apprehension to paralyzing terror. In anxiety there is always the desire to shrink, to get away or retreat from the exciting cause.
The stimuli for anxiety are many and varied. In early infancy any sudden or intense stimuli like loud and sudden noise, unexpected jerk, and flash of bright light or loss of support may cause anxiety though there are large individual differences. Any sudden change in the environment, which the individual regards as threatening and for which he is unprepared, produces anxiety. When the threatening situation is removed or controlled, and the danger real or imaginary has passed, anxiety disappears. Also, as activities or experiences expand or interests and abilities grow, the number and kinds of anxiety increase. But as the power of adjustment through experience increases many of childish anxiety disappear. Some anxieties are as a result of conditioning effect. They will have to be reconditioned by attaching pleasant circumstances and experiences with situations and objects, which causes the anxiety. Praise or rewards attached to or associated with fearful tasks or situations will help to reduce anxiety. There are some anxiety where the best thing to do is to act as the anxiety suggests, that is, get away. This would be true in the case of a poisonous snake, and mad dog. However, with other anxieties we need to face it, we must have courage. Example of such is mathematics anxiety. The phenomenon of mathematics anxiety is variously referred to as Mathemaphobia or Mathematics pathological fear in mathematics (Stephen, 2007). Pathological mathematics anxiety therefore means a behaviour disorder in which an individual becomes progressively unable to resist the impulse to fear mathematics. It is an abnormal and persistent dread of mathematics; sufferers usually experience undue anxiety even though they may rationally realize that mathematics does not pose a threat commensurate with their anxiety (Amazigo, 2000). Stephen (2007), describes mathematics anxiety as an academic disease whose virus has not yet been diagnosed for an effective treatment in the class, though the symptoms of this anxiety are always expressed on the faces of the learners in mathematics classes. This disease (otherwise known as pathological fear), is communicable as it is usually distributed to sciences that are mathematics related.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
It is widely known in Nigeria that larger number of students tends to choose non mathematics related courses while seeking admission to higher institutions. The number of students offering non mathematics related courses in higher institution is more than ten times the number offering mathematics related courses. This can be related to mathematics anxiety. Students perceives mathematics as a very difficult subject which is difficult to understand, hence they spent little time, interest and concentration on it. However, the researcher is examining the perception of students on the causes and effects of mathematics anxiety among students of tertiary institutions.
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