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Background to the Study

Odili (2006), defined mathematics as the science of quantity and space “It is a systematic, organized and exact branch of science”. It is a creation of human mind concerned primarily with ideas, processes and reasoning. Therefore, mathematics can be seen variously as a body of knowledge, a collection of techniques and methods, the product of human activities and activity itself, namely, the solving of problem.

Olagunju (2001), stated that mathematics is a subject that teaches various concepts like: relationship of quantities, sets, properties, measurement, use of numbers and symbols. It also studies such concepts as structure, space and change. It is regarded as the science of numbers, as a science of numbers, mathematics is an indispensable foundation to all physical sciences and technology.

Odili (2006), also stated that mathematics is the study of the measurement, properties, relationship of quantities and set, using numbers and symbols. However, mathematics is a set of concept, fact and operation that every lay man as well as scientist should know how to use it. The basic objective for mathematics is number. It is also seen as a branch of science that searches for patterns and relationship among entities with developing generalization and expressing generalization in mathematics symbols. It is obvious, that people see the concept, mathematics as a misconception. It is a erroneous impression that people see it as the most difficult subject since it is purely calculation at all levels of education. It is observed that there is a growing dislike of the subject in schools especially among senior secondary school students.

To this effect, mathematics among senior secondary school students has been a great concern to mathematics teachers in particular and society in general.

However, phobia according to Noting (2006), is anxiety or stress, tension and strain brought into ones body and mind, which involves loss of concentration, having negative self-talk, feelings of doubt or mind wander from test.

Ernest (2002), stated that mathemaphobia is popularly refers as the causes of behaviour, whenever individual incite action.

Bamidele (2005), in his study of mathematics as a difficult subject stated that in Nigerian schools, students’ general impression is that mathematics is a difficulty subject. But ironically, this subject is the basis for scientific and technological advancement of any country. This was corroborated by Prof Samuel Ale that the subject was rather an interesting one, hence the establish of the national mathematics centre (NMC) in Abuja Nigeria. The main objectives of the NMC was to improve on the teaching and learning of mathematics and develop interest in the mathematics  sciences, to enable researchers in the mathematics  science to come together, for more advance work by organizing  workshop not only for Nigeria but also for west Africa and world at large.

However, the factors that contributed to mathemaphobia are nature of mathematics. The nature of mathematics is such that is abstract  and complex in nature, i.e mathematics demand a lot of critical thinking and reasoning  in order to provide solution to its  problem. The students needs to make uses of their manipulative skill and  thinking acumen. The nature of mathematics is such that one can’t just pick answer to a problem by guess work, you need to do some mathematical prove. In regard to its  nature, algebra is one of the most  abstract strands in mathematics.

Algebra is now common in middle  school mathematics (ministry of education 2005). Greens and Rubenstein (2008), stated that the study of algebra was   reserved for college-bound students, because of its nature after a widerspread push by NCTM and teachers national wide.

Generally, people belief that mathematics is a difficult subject and as a result, children grow up with this notion as they go to school without trying to verify if what they already think is the truth. The students perception on mathematics goes along way to affect their performance in the subject, many students supposed  have done-well in mathematics but due to their perceived phobia in mathematics, resulted to loss of interest and concentration in the course  when over is been taught. Most of student normally went out or jump out of window whenever the subject teacher comes in. While others have already concluded that they can’t do it in higher institution.

Competence of teachers, Rowland and Barbar (2002), suggested that, there are linkage between teachers lack of mathematical knowledge and the  ability to effectively plan teaching material. Findings suggest that mathematics teachers that do not have a sufficient background in mathematics do struggle with the development of comprehensive mathematics lesson plan for their students. Also, competent teachers teaches with qualification.

Laturner’s research (2002), showed  that teachers with qualification in mathematics are more likely passionate and committed to the teaching of the subject than those without qualification however, those without qualification vary in their commitment depending on their course work preparation. Let us take   a look at when a student that finished SSCE or a dropout student of NCE or even a corper that read another discipline say Biology was taken to handle mathematics, all abstract content of the course will be skipped leading to half- beak students. So, teachers’ competence has a lot to do with the way he present the teaching to students to prevent phobia in student and they are more committed and consecrated to their duty.

The students’ mathematical background has a lot to do with their performance in the subject. If a student  is well prepared with the basic foundation in math in nursery/ primary school, when they comes to secondary school, he/she  will not develop fear for mathematical most students has no maths textbooks and mentor right from on set to senior secondary school level, how do you expect that person not to fear mathematics?. A students that has a good foundation in mathematics related subject can not develop phobia in Maths.

The methodology of teaching mathematics has much impact in students achievement  in the course, however, mathematics is such a subject  that what  is to be learnt in senior class depend on previous knowledge one have in junior  class i.e. teaching from known to unknown. It requires teaching it along with given of examples and solving it on board to students and ask them to do the same. Mathematics must be taught with improvisation, they must be mathematical laboratory for its practical demonstration.

Furthermore, there are a lot of theories floating around from many experts on causes of mathemaphobia. Some experts say that some parents are the number one culprit. Because many parent lacks the knowledge of the subject and therefore cannot encourage their kids to go into it. While others, is that students are afraid of getting wrong answers, while solving maths problems, because they are afraid of been considered stupid in front of teachers and their peers; so they begin to avoid the subject at all cost.

Thus, method of teaching mathematics among senior secondary school students contributes seriously to the low number of mathematics students at higher level of education and as well as low numbers of science students. There has been quite sometimes a very lively debate at the national level about the teaching and learning of  mathematics in senior secondary schools, opinion have been advanced for and  against the structure and contents and indeed the whole philosophy and polices on mathematics teaching and learning regarding the influence of the  mathemaphobia inherent in it, especially in its branch of mathematics called algebra. Morris (2009), stated that algebra is one of the major branches of pure mathematics concerns itself with the study of the rules of operation, relations, constructions and the concepts  arising from them, including terms: poly nomials, equation and algebraic structures (Morris, 2009).


Amoo (2001), demonstrated his research finding that failure in mathematics in WAEC (West Africa Examination  Council) rose from 43.3% in 200 through 52.9% to 66.16% in 2006. The poor performance of students in mathematics in secondary schools was also expressed in WAEC by the chief examiner’s report (2009), NECO (National Examination Council) result for 2001/2002 session showed that students recorded the  highest number of failure in mathematics more than in any other subjects, with over 57.8% of the candidates failing in the subject, meanwhile, according to WASSCE (West Africa Senior  Secondary Certificate  Examination) chief examiner’s report (2009), showed that algebra was the area that many of the students found it very difficult to handle.

Corroborating this, Brian (2010), maintained that the problem  is that algebra is an abstract area with so many variables and involves a lot of  concepts and calculation. However, algebra is the branch of mathematics in which symbol usually letters of the alphabets represent numbers or members of a specified set and are used to represent quantities and to express general relationship that hold for all members of the set.

From the foregoing, the study tried to ascertain the influence of mathemaphobia in senior secondary school students’ achievement in algebra.

Statement of the Problem

Mathematics is a very important subject to man in national development. However,  poor  performance  of students in internal and external examinations  such as SSCE (Senior School Certificate Examination) or West Africa School Certificate  Examination (WASCE), Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB), up to advanced level seen to indicate phobia for mathematics. Many Senior  Secondary School  Students  seem to avoid mathematics lesson and even appear to find it difficult to study mathematics on their own not because of the reason that, they do not have the natural acumen to study the subject but because of students perceived phobia for the subject.

During mathematics lecture, many students find it extremely difficult to ask question either in class or out side the class due to the phobia or misconception that mathematics is a very hard subject. The result of the above situation affect students’ performance in senior secondary school mathematics achievement. The outcome in the subject has been below expectation. The problem when put in equation form is what are the factors responsible for this ugly development, where mathematics is been taught every school days of the week.

Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study is to find out the influence of mathemaphobia in senior secondary school students achievement in algebra. Specifically, this study seeks to find:

(1) The extent to which nature of mathematics causes mathemaphobia in senior secondary school students’ achievement in algebra.

(2) The extent to which students’ mathematical background causes mathemaphobia in senior secondary school students’ achievement in algebra.

(3) The extent teachers’ competence causes mathemaphobia in senior secondary school students’ achievement in algebra. (4) The extent to which teachers’ methodology causes mathemaphobia in senior secondary school students’ achievement in algebra.

Significance of the Study

The result of the findings will be beneficial to students, teachers, curriculum planners, curriculum implementer, school administrators and policy makers.

To the students, the study will help them understand things that constitute their performance in algebra and as well will improve students’ performance in examination both in the school and in public examination.

To the teachers, the result will would enable them to know how to allay the fear of mathematics in students, in order to teach more effectively. Thus would contribute to a better performance of the students.

To the curriculum planners, the result will influence them to view seriously in area of weakness and difficulties in mathematics curriculum with a view to bring about innovation, such innovation would remove phobia perceived by students in mathematics especially in algebra.

The study also will serve as a source of literature to researchers and other users of information.

Scope of the Study

This study was meant to examine the influence of mathemaphobia in senior secondary school students’ achievement in algebra in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. This study covered SS II students in the selected secondary school. The study tried to look at how students’ mathematical background, teachers’ competence and methodology could possibly bring about mathemaphobia in senior secondary school students’ achievement in algebra in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.



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