How Manipulatives Affect the Mathematics Achievement of Students in Nigerian Schools

Article excerpt

Mathematics is a very important subject in Nigeria. Yet, for more than twenty years, mathematics education in Nigeria has been in a sorry state. Mathematics achievement has been very low and frustrating. So far, every effort made to save Nigerian education from the devastating effect of persistent poor mathematics achievement has failed. An experiment to address the problem of poor achievement in mathematics in Nigerian high schools was carried out in Edo State of Nigeria. Eighteen simple improvised geometric manipulatives were made from ordinary cardboard paper. The manipulatives were used in teaching students in experimental group. There was a control group of students which did not study with manipulatives. Scores were collected from mathematics test taken by students in both experimental and control groups. Statistical analysis showed that students in the experimental group (who were taught with manipulatives) were clearly better than students in the control group who were not instructed with manipulatives.

Introduction

Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004) National Policy on Education made mathematics compulsory in all classes in grade schools and high schools. In fact, in grade school and high school, every child must study mathematics everyday the child goes to school in Nigeria The National Policy on Education also made it compulsory for students to pass mathematics at the end of junior high and the senior high school levels of education in order to continue their educational career. It is therefore necessary that mathematics be taught effectively in Nigerian schools. Another reason for desiring effective mathematics teaching in Nigerian schools is that mathematics is very much needed for undergraduate admission into universities in Nigeria (see table 1 below).

Table 1 shows that 69% (more than two-thirds) of the university courses available need mathematics as entry requirement. In the courses concerned, a candidate must pass mathematics at credit or distinction level, and also offer mathematics at the Universities Matriculation Examination (UME) before being considered for admission. Out of nine faculties, four faculties (Faculty of Agriculture, Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Medical Sciences, and Faculty of Science) require credit or distinction level pass in mathematics for all courses before candidates can qualify for further screening for admission. In spite of this great need for high achievement in mathematics methemetics achievement has remained verv low for manv veais Lassa (1981) pointed out the sorry state of mathematics education in Nigeria. Lassa's warning did not stop the continuous hish failure in mathematic and its resulting frustration of students and embarrassment of teachers. Ale (1989) declared that the Mathematical Association of Nigeria was launching a War Against Poor Achievement in Mathematics (WAPAM); but WAPAM has not succeeded in solving the problem of poor achievement in mathematics in Nigerian high schools. Ale (2003), in his capacity as Director of the National Mathematical Center, Abuja, Nigeria, launched a Mathematics Improvement Program. Yet, the sad situation persists. To show how serious the situation is, Amoo (2001) brought out the following table (table2).

In 1995, only 16.5% of high school students passed mathematics at the credit or distinction needed as a precondition for admitting students into majority of university courses. In 1996, the percentage fell further to 10.0%, only to fall again to 7.7% in 1997. Outright failure (Fail 9) in high school final year mathematics examination rose from 43.3% in 1995 through 52.9% in 1996 to 66.2% in 1997. This shows that nearly two-thirds of final year students in Nigerian high schools failed mathematics in 1997! These results are obviously not encouraging. They frustrate not only the students affected, but also other students. Mathematics teachers in Nigerian high schools as well as parents, guardians, and government are not happy about this persistent poor performance in mathematics. …