Mathematics is intimately connected to daily life and everybody’s life-long planning. Shut out mathematics from daily life and civilisation comes to a standstill. It is in the light of this, that the research seeks to build and elicit among students and teachers the proper appreciation and interest in the value of mathematics to the individual and society. This is done with a particular focus on the senior secondary schools in Idah local government area of Kogi state, Nigeria. The relevant data and information was collected by a teacher questionnaire. It is based on the 4-points Likert scale responses. Simple mean was used to analyse the data. Numerical values 4, 3, 2, and 1 were assigned to the options respectively. The mean value for acceptance is X>2.5 otherwise reject. For each cluster the acceptance point is 12.5. The finding of this survey confirmed the fact that; the teacher factor, students’ attitude and commitment, methods of teaching mathematics, use of instructional materials and the school environment are to a great extent valid factors that influences the students poor performance in mathematics in the senior secondary school certificate Examination.




1.1     Background to the Study

Osokoya (2003) defines Education as a continuous process which the society establishes to assist its members to understand the heritage of the past and to participate productively in the future. It is the leading out of the in-born powers and potentialities of the individuals in the society and the acquisition of skills, aptitudes, and competencies necessary for self-realisation and for coping with life’s problem. For Afe (2000), Education is considered as a tool to be used for the integration of the individual into the society to achieve self-realisation, develop national consciousness, promote unity, and strive for social, economic, political, scientific, cultural and technological progress. Education in science and mathematics therefore becomes bedrock and indispensable tools for scientific, technological and economic advancement in any nation. It gives the nation the capacity to apply technology for the exploitation of the resources of nature. Such exploitation will depend greatly on mathematics for laying the foundation for political, governmental, military, civil, scientific, technological advancement, economic development, socio-cultural and environmental peace.

There are number of questions which need to be answered at this stage. What then is Mathematics? Why should everybody learn Mathematics? What is the importance of this subject in life and in school curriculum? What shall be the advantage of devoting so much effort, time, and money to the teaching of Mathematics? The importance of mathematics transcends all the definitions and the prosperity of any country depends on the volume and quality of mathematics offered in its school system. Obe (1996) conceptualises mathematics as the master and servant of most disciplines and thus, a source of enlightenment and understanding of the universe. He further opines that without it, the understanding of national problems would be superficial.

Greaber and Weisman (1995) agree that mathematics helps the individual to understand the environment and to give accurate account of the physical phenomena around every person. To this end, Setidisho (2001) submits that no other subject forms a strong binding force among various branches of science as mathematics, and without it, knowledge of the sciences often remains superficial.

Emphasising the importance of the subject to the society, Robert (1987) stated that in the United States, mathematics has come to play important roles: in the engineering of highways, the search for energy, the designing of television sets, the profitable operation of most business, astronauts flying space-crafts, the study of epidemics, the navigation of ships at sea all depends on the study of mathematics. Ogunbanjo (1998) opines that all over the world, sciences has been accepted as a vehicle of technology, social and economic development. Mathematics is not only basic to these but is the language of science. In another related study, Igbokwe (2003) highlights the intricate link of mathematics to science and technology, and contends that without mathematics there will be no science and without science there will be no technology, and without technology there will be no modern society. These and many more reasons are why the Nigerian government believes that the subject should be taken seriously in our school system; and Nigeria in her march towards technological development, has not made mathematics a compulsory subject in the curriculum of the primary and secondary school levels of her educational system (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004) but also as a prerequisite to the study of science courses in her colleges, polytechnics and universities (JAMB Brochure, 19992-2007).

Shapiro (2000) defines Mathematics as the study of qualitative relations; put simply, it is the science of structure, order, numbers, space and relationships about counting, measuring and describing of shapes and objects. It qualifies in its own right as a science but it is often regarded as a language of and a link between all the sciences. Soyemi (1999) Mathematics is a body of knowledge that opens up the mind to logical reasoning, analytical thinking and the ability for creative thinking, deep focusing and clarity of thought and precision. It is the hub on which all scientific and technological studies find their bearings. In pure sciences it is the basis and language of study, in applied sciences and technology it is an indispensable tool of analysis, with the social sciences it is a scaffold and for the Arts the light that gives consistently and completeness to its study. Osafehinti (1990) observes that the learning of mathematics in schools represent first, a basic preparation for adult life and secondly a gateway to a vast array of career choices. And from the societal perspective, competence in mathematics is essential for the preparation of an informed citizenry and for continuous production of highly skilled personnel required for industry, technology and science. The progress of any nation depends upon her scientific and technological advancement which can only be built on a sound mathematical education capable of making the citizens effectively functional in the natural and applied sciences. The study of Mathematics therefore will go a long way to “equip students to live effectively in our modern age of science and technology” (NPE 2004).

Fakuade (1977) sums up this assertion; for the purposes of economic survival, the ordinary citizen needs to be able to compare and estimate values of articles, determine prices of foodstuffs, reckon distances and time, weigh evidence and be able to sift substances from chaffs. Thus in the complexity of the modern society everyman requires a certain amount of competence in basic mathematics for purposes of handling money, prosecuting daily businesses, interpreting mathematical graphs and charts and thinking logically.

In concluding this section therefore, Mathematics Education must contribute towards the acquirement of these values: knowledge and skills, intellectual habits and power, desirable attitudes and ideals that are indispensable tools for a successful and balanced human existence.

During the last fifty years there had been unprecedented efforts in curriculum reforms in Mathematics education in Nigeria, from the indigenous innovation of the Africa Mathematic Programme (AMP) (The Entebbe Mathematics (1961-1969), through the formation of Nigeria Educational Research Council (NERC) in 1969. In spite of the efforts made by these bodies, students’ failures rate in mathematics has been on the increase.

Similarly workshops and conferences have also been held to salvage the situation and gave a solid foundation to mathematic education, curricula developments and implementation. To name but a few of such events are: The comparative Education Study and Adaptation Centre (1976) that took care of the secondary level mathematics syllabus, the Benin Conference (1977) and The National Critique Workshop at Onitsha (1978).

Subsequently The National Mathematics Centre formulated and adopted the following objectives for teaching mathematics in Nigeria secondary schools:

  1. To generate interest in mathematics and provide a solid foundation for everyday living.
  2. To develop computational skills
  3. To foster the desire and ability to be accurate to a degree relevant to the problem at hand.
  4. To develop and practice logical and abstract thinking
  5. To develop capacity to recognise problems and to solve them with related mathematics knowledge.
  6. To provide necessary mathematical background for further education
  7. To stimulate and encourage creativity.

1.2     Statement of the Problem

Observations and reports from examining bodies like WAEC, NECO and JAMB revealed that a high percentage of secondary school students continue to perform poorly in mathematics examinations. Despite the laudable efforts at developing an acceptable general mathematics curriculum students’ performance in the subject appears to be declining over the years. To alleviate the situation in the 1989, the National Mathematics Centre was established. Chief amongst its functions include:

  1. To encourage and support activities leading to the improvement of the teaching and learning of mathematical sciences at all levels.
  2. To tackle national set goals in the development of mathematical sciences.
  3. To inject mathematical education to the rarefied area of theoretical mathematics with a view to increasing the number of mathematicians.

Yet in the face of all these efforts the rate and degree of students’ poor performance in senior secondary school examination in mathematics must now be a problem of national concern. This sad situation is aptly described by Adeniyi (1988) who rightly observes, that one’s involvement in the marking of mathematics for the West African

Examinations Council (WAEC) is enough to get anyone sorrowful at the state of Mathematics in Nigeria secondary schools. Some candidates submit their answer scripts without writing anything in them. Some candidates merely recopy the questions, while a high percentage of those who try to write anything at all score below 40%. This is aptly confirmed with the release of WAEC result for May/June 2011 as quoted in the Leadership newspaper, “the West African Examination Council (WAEC) released results of the May/June 2011 west African senior secondary certificate examination, (WASSCE) with an abysmal 30% of the candidates making credit in English and Mathematics. Details of the results showed that the results of 81, 573 candidates representing 5.29% were withheld.

The question that readily comes to mind is; what are the factors responsible for the students’ poor performance in mathematics in secondary school examination? This project will therefore take a survey of the factors responsible for these failures, the effect on students and the future of our society, the attendant problems and proffer means of the changing the trend of students’ poor performance in mathematics.

The decline in the numbers of candidates opting to pursue the studies in the sciences has become a matter of considerable societal concern and debate among researchers (Jenkins, 1996). Consequently, the promotion of favourable attitudes towards science and learning of Mathematics is extremely critical and important. However, the concept of poor performance in mathematics is rather ill-defined, often poorly expressed and not well understood.

Fundamental to this quest are the questions that the researcher seeks to address:

  1. Are the teachers of mathematics adequately qualified and properly trained in the subject?
  2. Is the excessive workload and lack of teacher training facilities at the root of poor performances of student?
  3. Is the WAEC syllabus inadequate, irrelevant and ambiguous?
  4. Are parents as committed to the progress and success of their ward?
  5. How is the Mathematics taught in schools?
  6. Has the taste for learning being diluted by the answer-centeredness of most school teaching?
  7. Is WAEC, NECO, GCE and JAMB only servicing failures yearly with profit? Is that ethical?

1.3     Purpose of the Study

This study examines the factors responsible for the students’ poor performance in mathematics in selected secondary schools in Idah Local government area of Kogi State.

Specifically, it will examine;

  1. Teachers’ and students’ attitude to teaching and learning of mathematics.
  2. The nature of school environment.
  3. Teachers’ teaching methods, and
  4. Teachers’ use of instructional materials.

Schools are established to accomplish specific goals and objectives and incidentally one of the most common criteria of evaluating the effectiveness of any school system is the extent to which the students perform in their examinations.

1.4     Research Questions

To achieve the objective of the study, five research questions were raised.

  1. Does teachers’ attitude to the teaching of mathematics constitute a problem in the students’ performance in the SSCE Mathematics?
  2. What is the nature of school environment in which teaching is done?
  3. Does the students’ attitude and commitment towards mathematics constitute a significant problem in performance in SSCE mathematics?
  4. Does teaching method constitute significant problem in students’ performance in mathematics examination. How is mathematics taught in schools?
  5. Does the lack of instructional materials, educational facilities and inadequate supervision constitute a significant problem in students’ performance in SSCE mathematics examination?

1.5     Significance of Study

It is the sincere hope of the researcher that by carrying out this study of the factors responsible for students’ poor performance in mathematics and proffering solutions, the findings and recommendations would be of a great help to all stakeholders who have anything to do with the success or failure of the child in school; school administrators, classroom teachers, psychologists, teacher trainers, theorists, examination bodies, curriculum designers and professional associations.

It will equally guide and guard government at all levels and ministries of education, school guidance counsellors and parents. It is hoped that this study will help in improving the whole system in such a way as to induce better performance in mathematics examination at the secondary school level.

1.6     Scope of Study

The present study used five secondary schools in Idah local government area of Kogi state. These schools present students for the senior secondary school certificate examinations conducted by both NECO and WAEC.

1.7       Limitation of Study

The research work covered only five sampled selected schools in only one local government area. It also covered only public senior secondary schools.

1.8      Definition of Terms

To set stage for our survey of the factors responsible for the poor performance of students in mathematics, we present working definitions of some of the terms.

Factor: In this study, a factor is taken to mean any element, force, condition or circumstances that has a causal influence or can contribute to the students’ performance in mathematics.

Performance: Accomplishing or achievement of specific goals, objectives or set mark in any academic endeavour. It is one of the most common criteria of evaluating effectiveness of schools.

Curriculum: A sequence of potential experiences, set up in the schools to discipline children and youth in ways of thinking and acting whether it is carried out in groups or individually, inside or outside the school.

Innovation: is a way of changing and adapting for the purpose of attaining certain goals and aspirations.

Qualified Teacher: For this study a teacher who holds the following certificate is assumed to be qualified: NCE, B.Ed., B.Sc. (Ed), B.Sc. and PGDE.


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