This study was carried out to investigate effect of mathematics laboratory on students performance in mathematics in secondary schools in Enugu State using 10 selected secondary schools in Enugu, Enugu state as a case study. Specifically, the study aimed at finding out the availability of mathematics laboratory facilities in secondary schools, investigate the extent to which the use of mathematics laboratory will enhance the student’s performance in mathematics, and find out mathematics teachers’ perceptions on effects of availability or non-availability of laboratories on students’ performance. The study employed the survey descriptive research design. Questionnaire was used for data collection which was analysed with frequency tables and percentage. The hypothesis test was conducted usingthe Pearson correlation statistical tool, (SPSS v.23). A total of 338 respondents were conveniently selected as sample size comprising of residents of Northern and Southern Ghana. Out of the 338 respondents, 259 responses were received and validated from the survey. From the responses obtained and analysed, the findings revealed that majority of the schools have mathematics laboratory in their schools. Also, the use of mathematics laboratory has enhanced the student’s performance in mathematics to a very high extent. Furthermore, the study revealed that there is a significant relationship between the usage of laboratory and students performance in mathematics. On the basis of these findings, it was recommended that mathematics teachers should use mathematics laboratory in teaching mathematics. Also, government should establish mathematics laboratory in all schools like other science subjects laboratories.More so, seminars/worships should be organized for mathematics teachers in secondary school on the use of mathematics laboratory. Also, mathematics student–teachers should be trained on the use of mathematics laboratory in the mathematics methodology class.
Keywords: Mathematics, Laboratory, Students, Performance
1.1 Background to the study
The importance of mathematics in man’s growth and way of life cannot be overstated. In general, mathematics is a valuable tool in almost every field of human endeavor, including science, engineering, industry, technology, and even the arts. No country can progress scientifically or technologically if mathematics is ignored (Azuka, 2003).
According to Okereke (2006), mathematics is the basis of science and technology, and its functional role in science and technology is so complex and diverse that no field of science, technology, or commercial organization is immune to its application.
Umoinyam, (1997) referred to mathematics as the foundation of science and technology without which a nation can never be prosperous and economically independent.
According to Oyedeji, (2000) a major objective of many curricular is to ensure that the children are equipped with at least the basic mathematical skills which will enable them to think mathematically and be able to apply this thinking to the rapidly changing demands of the modern world. Hence mathematics skills are essential to every individual in order to cope with life’s activities.
Mathematics is a key subject in the school curriculum and is considered a knowledge that is indispensable to the educated person. According to Azuka, (2003) all major professions in life today require the knowledge of mathematics to practice. These professions include engineering, accountancy, medicine, economics, banking, technology etc. In offices, industries and other human establishments, mathematics is needed for analysis, organization and evaluation of the information needed in order to make new decisions.
Ukwu, (1995) states that “it is the qualities and characteristics of this subject make everything about it a matter of concern to every nation of the world. Mathematics is made compulsory in both primary and secondary schools. In Nigeria Universities today there is hardly any course one can study without a show of evidence of little knowledge of basic principles of mathematics by way of a least a credit pass in an ordinary level examination in the subject. In fact almost all the institutions of higher learning have one or two mathematics courses that the entire students take as general studies to equip them in their various disciplines.
In spite of the aforementioned importance of mathematics, it has been observed all over the world that the subject has peculiar features, nature and structure that make many people afraid of it and loose interest in it (Ukwu 1995), Nigeria is one of those countries that suffer most effects of the problems of poor performance and under achievement in Mathematics, (Azuka 2003).
Galadima (2002) reported that almost every year students manifest poor performance both in internal and external examinations in mathematics. Supporting this report are the researches of (Odili, 1986), Salau (1995), Amazigo (2006), Agwagah (2001) and Okereke (2006).
The West Africa Examinations Councils (WAEC) chief examiners in mathematics (2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006) consistently reported candidates’ lack of skills in answering almost all the questions asked in general mathematics. Abakporo (2005) also reported that the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) had in mathematics for 11 years a credit pass of not more than 36.91%. WAEC chief examiners (2003, 2005) further observed that candidates were weak in Geometry of circles and three dimensional problems.
According to their report, most candidates avoided questions on three dimensional problems, when they attempted Geometry questions, only a few of the candidate’s showed a clear understanding of the problem in their workings.
Ojo (1990) and Adetula (1987) have both attempted to find out some of the reasons why students perform poorly in mathematics. Among the factors identified for the poor performance and failure of students in mathematics in secondary schools was the teachers’ failure to use the appropriate method of teaching.
Studies like those of Habor Peters (2002) and Iji (2005) have pointed at teaching approaches and strategies used in the classroom by mathematics teachers as one of the root causes of the undesirable poor achievement of students in mathematics.
Also Okereke, (2006) attributed students’ poor performance to factors such as the society’s view that mathematics is difficult, shortage of qualified teachers, lack of mathematics laboratory and lacks of incentives.
Abstractness attached to the teaching of mathematics by some teachers scares some students who are supposed to be best in the subject.
Ukwu, (2008) observed that the only way to make the teaching and learning of mathematics effective, meaningful and interesting is by the use of instructional materials or teaching aids and pleasurable activities the learners like to do.
The present status of teaching and learning of mathematics is far from being satisfactory. Mathematics is not a spectator sport learning mathematics requires active participation of the learners in the lesson and the best way to learn mathematics is to actively engage in mathematics. Teachers should not dominate mathematics lessons.
Teachers follow age old methods such as lecture method (Talk and chalk) in a classroom. As a result, the power of thinking understanding and retention are not developed amongst students, owing to which the student show less interest towards mathematics learning. Hence, the traditional methods being used all along by teachers have failed to develop the skills such as those needed in formulating, modelling and solving problems. Students are not always able to remember and retain what they have previously learnt. Simple geometrical shapes such as cubes, cuboids, pyramids, cylinders, cones to mention but a few are studied in the classroom without presenting the real objects to the students.
The abstract nature of mathematics should be reached through demonstration and practical methods. In order to develop the skills and provide practical experiences of mathematics concepts assumptions, assertions and rules, a strategy is needed.
Agwangah, (1997) observed that the problem of ineffective teaching can be tackled through planned and intelligent application of the mathematics laboratory. Hence, in search for the method of teaching that can cater for the cognitive affective and psychomotor aspects of learning, the concern of this researcher is to ascertain whether the students performance of mathematics in secondary schools could be improved upon by using the laboratory method of teaching. Since mathematics is a subject which has to be learnt by doing rather than by reading the doing of mathematics gives rise to the need for a suitable method and a suitable place. Laboratory method and mathematical laboratory are the proper answer to it. This activity method leads the students to discover mathematical facts. It is based on the principles of learning by observation and proceeding from concrete to abstract.
Mathematics laboratory is a place where students can learn and explore various mathematical concepts and verify different mathematics facts and theories using varieties of activities and materials (Igbokwe, 2000). The use of mathematics laboratory helps to integrate theory and practical work in mathematics teaching and learning. Ogunkunle, (2000) enumerated the advantages of using mathematics laboratory which include:
· Display mathematical information
· Avenue for experimentation through practical work
· Pool of storage of mathematical materials for easy access
· Removing abstractness and increasing effective teaching/learning.
Based on the advantages of mathematics laboratory, it is expected that teaching and learning of mathematics using the mathematics laboratory may help to reduce abstract nature of the subject and increase the students’ interest in the subject.
1.2 Statement of the problem
Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, morals, beliefs, and habits. Educational methods include teaching, training, storytelling, discussion and directed research.
Many subjects in the secondary can not be taught effectively and efficiently without the use of a well-equipped laboratory for proper dissemination of the subject to the students.
Mathematics is a subject feared and hated by students and it is made compulsory for every school child and even in many professions and careers. Evidence of poor performance in mathematics by secondary school students pointed to the fact that the most desired technological, scientific and business application of mathematics is not being sustained. This makes it paramount to seek for a strategy for teaching mathematics that aim at improving its understanding and performance by students. The lack of mathematics laboratory and non-use of laboratory techniques in teaching mathematics is one of the major factors that contribute to poor performance in mathematics by secondary school students (Ogunkunle, 2000). Therefore, this study is designed to find out the effect of using mathematics laboratory in teaching on the performance of Senior Secondary School (SSS) mathematics students.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
Research objectives are just as useful as they are in most other aspects of life. “Research objectives provide the researcher a wonderful feeling of aim and direction,” according to Etim (2004). The study’s overall purpose is to investigate the effects of using mathematics laboratory in teaching on the performance of Senior Secondary School (SSS) students mathematics. The study, on the other hand, was focused on achieving these precise goals.
1) Find out the availability of mathematics laboratory facilities in secondary schools.
2) To investigate the extent to which the use of mathematics laboratory will enhance the student’s performance in mathematics.