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 makes 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 the 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.