ASSESSING SENIOR SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS’ MOTIVATION TO LEARN MATHEMATICS AS RELATED TO GENDER AND PERFORMANCE IN MATHEMATICS

ABSTRACT

This study encompassed an assessment of senior secondary school students’ motivation to learn mathematics as related to gender and performance in mathematics. A total sample comprising of three hundred and fifteen senior secondary school students was drawn from two accredited senior secondary schools in the Education District 4 of Lagos State covering Apapa, Mainland and Surulere local government areas i.e. Zones 1, 2 and 3 respectively. Data analytical techniques used in this study include, percentages, means, standard deviation, independent samples t-test, Pearson Product Moment Correlation Coefficient (PPMCC) and standard and stepwise multiple linear regression analysis. Findings from the study revealed that there was a very high level of motivation to learn mathematics among senior secondary schools’ students in Nigeria. It was also revealed that Self-efficacy, gender and intrinsic motivationwere the major significant predictors of performance in mathematics among the sample of students investigated. The recommendation for further future study on the level of motivation to learn mathematics among senior secondary schools’ students and the correlation existing between gender and the various dimensions of motivation on the one hand and performance in mathematics on the other among this group of individuals emphasized that the instruments to be used may have to be further simplified and moderated to suit our peculiar environment.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY

Every nation of the world is desirous of achieving high level of technological development in order to achieve the collective prosperity and wellbeing of their citizenry. This underpins the necessity for the development of mathematical knowledge which is the basis for technological advancement.

Mathematics is a game of numbers. It is the science of numbers applied in proffering solution to problems. Awofala (2014) asserts that mathematics involves ‘magnitudes and numbers, quantity and space’ together with logical reasoning and judgment. Mukhtar (2008) in Gimba and Agwagah (2012) defines mathematics as

the science of structure, order, number, space, and quantity whose relationship revolves around the elementary practice of counting, measuring and describing the shapes of objects.

As a field of study and a discipline, mathematics involves the use of figures, symbols and statements in carrying out analytical procedures in problem situations in arriving at definite logical conclusions and by extension solutions to problems. Mathematics is a language through which scientists expressed their ideas, laws and principles (Gimba & Agwagah, 2012).

Mathematical processes pervade the entire spectrum of human existence from the point of conception to the point of death and burial. The importance of mathematics in our everyday life – as related to personal/family budget and spending, schooling and education, and the various professional/occupational engagements – cannot be overemphasized. Awofala (2014) itemized the universal applicability of mathematics in our everyday life i.e. at home, when travelling, at the store, at school, at work, and at pastimes.

It is as old as man, as can be seen in the various works of art, instruments, weapons, houses, palaces, ships etc of the pre-history and the medieval periods. A case in point is the construction of pyramids in the early civilization of Egypt which was a great mathematical/engineering accomplishment. According to Adewunmi (2004) in Gimba and Agwagah (2012), the pre-history Egyptian priests invented mathematics in order to determine the land available for agriculture because of the constant over flooding of the Nile River. This helped greatly in strengthening their economy and engendering the collective wellbeing of the people.

The subject – mathematics – is the bedrock of all technological advancements e.g. space exploration, computer technology, motor vehicles, electrical and electronic equipment, dams and irrigation systems etc are all products of series of mathematical operations.

As a result of the high importance of mathematics in our everyday life and its necessity for technological development one could safely say that it is one of the essential ingredients for national development. Ale and Adetula (2010) assert that mathematics is a catalyst for national development and wealth creation. Azuka (2001) in Gimba and Agwagah (2012) sees mathematics as the bedrock of science, technology and modern development. He is of the opinion that the survival of a nation hinges on technological development which is only achievable through effective teaching and learning of mathematics.

In view of this, the National Policy on Education (2004) accords mathematics a high place of prominence in the nation’s educational policy. It is one of the core subjects to be studied at the primary, junior and senior secondary school levels as stated in the policy.

In spite of its importance, mathematics sometimes involves rigorous processes and elaborate computations. So, students consider it to be highly abstract and tend to develop a phobia for it. There is therefore the need to employ various techniques for motivating students to learn mathematics.

Biehler and Snowman (1986) in Tella (2007) are of the opinion that motivation is an essential ingredient in achieving success in any human learning endeavor. Ogumoyero and Omasheye (2012) referring to Penick (2006) and Rogers (1969) on the other hand, assert that human beings are characterized by tendencies towards learning. Thus, human beings are naturally teachable and curious. In spite of this, there is usually the need to motivate people for achieving success in learning. However, motivation arises as a result of drive towards a goal. The drive decreases once the goal has been achieved (Taiwo, 2011; Whitehead, 1996).

According to Glynn and Koballa (2006), motivation is an internal state which involves the arousal, direction and sustenance of students’ behavior. This explains why students work hard to achieve high academic performance in science subjects. It also explains the depth and length of time involved in such endeavor and the feelings and emotions applied in achieving success in such subjects. Glynn and Koballa (2006) referring to Brophy (1988), explain that ‘motivation to learn’ encompasses students’ resolve to attach meaning and value to an academic activity with a view to obtaining the benefits accruing from such activity.

Hall (1989) in Tella (2007) states categorically that pupils need to be motivated in arousing and sustaining their interests in learning mathematics. This is necessary in view of the abstractions and complexities involved in mathematical operations.

The major dimensions of motivational constructs involved in the study of motivation to learn science (and by extension mathematics), comprises of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, goal orientation, self-determination, self-efficacy and assessment anxiety (Glynn & Koballa, 2006).

Intrinsic motivation usually occurs as a result of a student’s internal drive for superior academic performance while extrinsic motivation occurs as a response to given external stimuli e.g. award, peer recognition and acceptance, teachers’ praises and other positive reinforcements (Glynn & Koballa, 2006; Mazlo et al, 2002; Pintrich & Schunk, 2002; Alfred Posamentier 2013). Intrinsic motivation involves a student’s pursuit of personal interests and the ‘exercise of capabilities’ and this engenders deep internal satisfaction and joy (Glynn & Koballa, 2006; Ryan & Deci, 2000; Singh, Granville & Dika, 2002).

Goal orientation comprises principally of learning goals and performance goals. Learning goals involves learning for the sake of having a full understanding of a subject. Students with learning goals will therefore seek to surmount the challenges and problems they are having with a subject and would go all out to seek help in order to enhance their performance in the subject. Performance goal on the other hand involves the pursuit of the self-esteem by the learner. A student with performance goal wants to gain the accolade of his peers and teachers with a view to enhancing his social status (Cavallo et al, 2003; Glynn & Koballa, 2006).

Self-determination encompasses the ability to make a choice out of the various options available and effectively have control over the option chosen and the methodology involved in actualizing the option so chosen. Students generally want to be involved in contributing to their teaching-learning procedure and learning outcomes, and would not want to lose control over such. Self-determination is directly related to, and effectively enhances intrinsic motivation (Glynn & Koballa, 2005; Glynn & Koballa, 2006; Reeve, Hamm & Nix, 2003; Garcia & Pintrich, 1996).

Self-efficacy refers to the students’ self-confidence about their ability to achieve high performance in a subject. It is the best predictor of the grades attainable in any subject. Self-efficacy is also subject-specific i.e. a learner may achieve high self-efficacy in mathematics and low self-efficacy in chemistry (Glynn & Koballa, 2006; Zusho & Pintrich, 2003; Dermitzaki, Stavroussi, Vavougios & Kotsis, 2012).

Every student experiences some level of trepidation (i.e. anxiety) in relation to their performance in mathematics and, in fact, all subjects. A moderate dose of anxiety is desirable in order to enhance motivation to learn any subject. It will become excessive, however, when students are not well prepared for a subject upon which they are to be examined. The level of anxiety also differs from students to student based on personal differences. Thus, the level of anxiety may be higher in introverts (even if they are well prepared) than in extrovert (Glynn & Koballa, 2006; Cassady & Johnson, 2002; Seymour, 1992).

Another area of contention is the issue of gender difference in academic performance in mathematics. Udousoro (2011) expresses gender as a cultural construct which explains the roles and behavior together with the mental and emotional characteristics of males and females as ascribed by the society. This concept does not necessarily suggest the dominance of males over the females in academic performance and other human endeavor. However, there has always been the belief that boys tend to perform better than girls in mathematics. This stereotype is reinforced by the findings of Isaacson (1992) working with certain female students who believed that ‘girls are considered weird when they love mathematics’. Recent researches have however revealed various mixes of performances in mathematics by both sexes at the primary and secondary school levels in different nations of the world (Awofala & Anyikwa, 2014; Lukenbill, 1995; Hyde & Mertz, 2009; Mubeen, Saheed & Arif, 2013).

Researches on the influence of gender differences in performance in mathematics in the United States of America and United Kingdom reveal that there is an insignificant difference in performance in mathematics due to gender at the elementary school level. However, studies revealed that the difference in performance in mathematics, in the two nations, widens at the high school level weighing in favour of male students (Awofala & Anyikwa, 2014; Lukenbill, 1995; Hyde & Mertz, 2009).

Ekeh (2003) in Udousoro (2011) revealed that Male secondary school students in Nigeria achieve higher academic performance in mathematics and science than their female counterparts; due primarily to ‘sex role stereotyping and differential valuation of male and female roles’ as ascribed by the society. This position was corroborated by the findings of The National Assessment of Educational Progress (1992), as explained by Udousoro (2011), which revealed that male students within the age brackets of 9, 13 and 17 obtained higher scores in mathematics than the girls in the same age brackets.

Some studies have revealed that the gender difference in academic performance in science and mathematics is attributable to the interplay of two associated cognitive styles; namely empathizing and systemizing cognitive styles – rather than to the mere biological configuration of males and females (Billington, Baron-Cohen & Wheelwright, 2007; Zeyer, 2014; Zeyer, Cetin-Dinder, Zain, Jurisevic, Devetak & Odermatt, 2011). Empathizing could be defined as the drive and ability to recognize another person’s mental/emotional state and to effectively respond with appropriate emotion. It enhances interactions in the social world. Thus, an empathizer is able to appreciate the feelings of others. An empathizer would function well in careers that foster social interaction like nursing, teaching and other social works. Females are generally very active in empathizing (Zeyer et al, 2011) and tend to prefer nurturing fields like nursing and teaching to quantitative fields as prevalent in the physical/natural sciences (Kane & Mertz, 2012).

Systemizing on the other hand encompasses the ability and the drive for carrying out the analysis of the rules inherent in a system with a view to predicting how it functions (Billington et al, 2007; Zeyer, 2014; Zeyer, 2010). A system is any construct which comprises of input process output relationship (Billington et al 2007, Zeyer 2014). According to Billington et al (2007), it could be technical (e.g. machines and tools), natural (e.g. a weather system), abstract (e.g. mathematics), social (e.g. a political system), spatial (e.g. map reading) and organisable (e.g. taxonomy). The difference in motivation to learn science and mathematics is not due to gender configuration but driven by tendencies towards empathizing or systemizing (Billington et al, 2007; Zeyer et al, 2011). Systemizers are generally more interested in natural sciences and are therefore more motivated to study sciences than empathizers. However, girls by nature easily gravitate towards empathizing while boys are amenable to systemizing. This partly explains why male students tend to attain higher academic achievement in sciences and mathematics than girls.

The major thrust of this research therefore is to assess senior secondary school students’ motivation to learn mathematics as related to gender and performance in mathematics.

1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

Academic achievement in mathematics has always suffered setbacks at the senior secondary school level as exhibited in the poor performance in major external and internal examinations of the schools over the years. The mass failure in mathematics is a major problem for educators, teachers and school administrations, and parents because it slows down the academic/intellectual development of students. It also prevents them from going further in their academic pursuits in the tertiary institutions of learning, as there are very few courses that can be embarked upon without a pass at credit level in mathematics.

The major cause of failure in mathematics at the senior secondary school level is attributable to lack of adequate motivation and interest to learn the subject bearing in mind the rigorous and abstract nature of mathematical operations.

It has also been observed that male students tend to be more motivated to learn mathematics and therefore obtain higher academic achievement in mathematics than their female counterparts. This research work, therefore, sets out to effect an assessment of senior secondary school students’ motivation to learn mathematics as related to gender and performance in mathematics.

1.3 PURPOSE OF THE STUDY

The purpose of this research work is to carry out an investigation on:

ü Senior secondary schools students’ motivation to learn Mathematics,

ü the difference in motivation to learn Mathematics between male and female students, and

ü the relationship between motivation to learn mathematics and performance in mathematics.

1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS

In this research work the following questions were addressed:

§ What is the level of motivation to learn mathematics among senior secondary school students in Nigeria?

§ Is gender a factor in performance in Mathematics and motivation to learn Mathematics among senior secondary schools’ students in Nigeria?

§ What are the composite and relative contributions of dimensions of motivation (intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation, goal orientation, self-determination, self-efficacy, and assessment anxiety) and gender to the explanation of the variance in senior secondary schools students’ performance in mathematics?

1.5 HYPOTHESIS STATEMENT

According to Killing (1973) in Nwadinigwe (2012), hypotheses form the launch pad for the entire research process. It determines the direction and the magnitude of the work to be done in carrying out the research work.

The hypothesis below was therefore tested in this research work:

ü Gender is not a significant factor in performance in Mathematics and motivation to learn Mathematics among senior secondary schools’ students in Nigeria

1.6 SIGNIFICNCE OF THE STUDY

This research work is being carried out for the benefit of students, parents, school teachers and administrators, educational authorities and curriculum developers. Students will be able to acquire techniques and skills for self motivation in order to attain high academic performance in mathematics and foster their personal development. Parents would be able to derive knowledge and skills for taking care of gender issues and stereotypes, thereby properly motivating their children and wards for superior academic achievement in mathematics. Teachers, school administrators, educational authorities, curriculum developers would be able to determine where to direct efforts and action in properly empowering the students – irrespective of their gender – for superlative academic achievement in mathematics.

1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY

The scope of this research work involves the assessment of senior secondary school students’ motivation to learn mathematics as related to gender and performance in mathematics. A total sample comprising of three hundred and fifteen senior secondary school students was drawn from two accredited senior secondary schools in the Education District 4 of Lagos State covering Apapa, Mainland and Surulere local government areas i.e. Zones 1, 2 and 3 respectively.