The Nigerian government lays emphasis on a 60:40 admission ratio in favour of the sciences (including Mathematics) and categorically makes Mathematics one of the compulsory subjects that must be passed at credit level by students before getting admission into any tertiary institution in Nigeria. In spite of these efforts to keep students on their toes in Mathematics, there has been a consistent record of poor performance by students who sit for national examinations such as the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination, Junior Secondary School Examinations, etc. The best record performance so far in Mathematics at WASSCE was in 2017 with only a 59% credit passes but that soon decreased to 50% credit passes in 2018. The poor performance of students in Mathematics can readily explain the reason for Nigeria's backwardness in science and technology. Here are 7 basic reasons for this poor performance.
- Poor teaching methodology/Strategies
- Replacement of knowledge based Mathematics teachers by certificate based Mathematics teachers
- Watered - Down Mathematics curriculum and low standard textbooks
- Poor school attendance record
- Poor school Management
- Poor attitude towards Mathematics and Mathematics teachers
- Poor motivation of Mathematics teachers
Poor Teaching Methodology/Strategy Used by Mathematics Teachers
The famous saying that you cannot give what you don't have holds true in this case. Most Nigerian teachers have not been adequately equipped with knowledge of the right teaching methods for Mathematics.
Many countries such as the United States of America and Canada are fast adopting Singapore's teaching methods which focuses on mastery and not memorization. Unfortunately, Nigeria is yet to tow this line. As a result of poor teaching strategy and methodology, students ability to translate word problems into mathematical equations has been weakened. Most Nigerian students are left with little or no option than memorize a couple of math formulars rather than understand mathematical concepts.
- Replacement of Knowledge-Qualified Mathematics Teachers By Certificate-Qualified Mathematics Teachers.
The employment culture of most sectors in Nigeria including the educational sector is "paper qualification" based and so the process of ensuring that teachers' knowledge of Mathematics is effectively tested before employment has been weakened by ignorance, if at all this process still exists. The result is a wide number of schools with incompetent Mathematics teachers and students who only memorize mathematical concepts instead of master basic concepts of the subject. Most times, young teachers from fields like engineering, physics, etc are usually far better than graduates from the have a paper qualification in education.
- Watered-Down Mathematics Curriculum and Low Standard Textbooks
Unfortunately, most private schools in Nigeria still import and recommend Maths curriculum from countries like the US , Canada, etc when these countries are fast adopting the Singapore Maths curriculum. Most teachers work with the curriculum they are given by their schools and students have no option than to humbly receive the knowledge dished out to them from this watered-down curriculum. Also, most Mathematics textbooks are written in line with the current Mathematics curriculum and so the student who would be good in the subject must be wiling to go the extra mile in shopping for only the best Mathematics textbooks if he or she cannot lay hands on good foreign Maths textbooks. The use of low standard Maths textbooks only complicates the mathematical challenges of the student rather than help him or her overcome them. Some teachers do not help matters in this regards as they come to school with their self-published math textbooks which they forcefully sell to students and with a threat to award them with poor scores if they fail to buy the books. Some of these poorly written textbooks are not usually reviewed by education experts and students have little or no option than buy these textbooks because they do not want their grades tampered with by these self-styled authors and teachers.
- Student Poor School Attendance Record
There's very little or no chance of mastering the subject if there's no significant difference between student's attendance in school and power supply in Nigeria. This is true because most new mathematical concepts are built on old ones taught in previous class. A student who often misses classes or goes late to school for one reason is sure to bring home poor grades in Mathematics.
- Poor School Management
A school that keeps dropping Mathematics teachers like hot pottatoes is not likely to produce good Mathematics students. It boils down to the issue of consistency. The challenge of getting good math brains as well as the financial responsibility of paying for their tutoring service is a huge factor in maintaining good maths teachers in schools.
6. Poor Attitude of Student Towards Mathematics and Mathematics Teachers
Some students tend to unconsciously transfer their dislike for the subject to their teachers. Most times this plays out as disrespect for their Mathematics teachers. This negative attitude may also have been passed on from parents of the student or unprofessional disposition of the Mathematics teacher. Mutual respect between a Mathematics teacher and their students helps to create an academically healthy atmosphere suitable for learning the subject.
- Poor Motivation of Mathematics Teachers
Nothing demotivates a Mathematics teacher like lack of the right notion, teaching aids and a socially unfriendly environment. While the Mathematics teacher may have a good understanding of the subject, he or she may not be willing to passionately dispense the knowledge in an environment where there is no adequate ventilation, consistent electricity supply, materials, e.t.c. The biggest of these passion killers for most good Mathematics is the impression given to them by most parents. Most parents give teachers the notion that they are willing and able to pay for special examination centers where their children can be fraudulently assisted in writing Mathematics exams. The teacher with this notion may see no need putting in much efforts in teaching the student the subject since the child would always pass the subject by hook or crook. This notion also produces a lackadaisical attitude in the student towards the subject and Mathematics teachers.