Background of the study
Mathematics is a very useful subject because it is applied in all fields of human endeavour. It is one of the most important subjects in education; hence it is a core subject in primary and secondary school levels in Nigeria (Usman, 2002). To many secondary school students, mathematics is a thorn on the flesh. But unfortunately for them, the opportunity of avoiding mathematics completely is not possible at both the primary and secondary school levels. This is because it is one of the compulsory subjects in school curriculum. Therefore, the relevance of mathematics cannot be over emphasized. According to Ronnie and Tim (1996):
The study of mathematics can satisfy a wide range of interests and abilities. It trains in clear and logical thought. It is a challenge, with varieties of difficult ideas and unsolved problems, because it deals with the questions arising from complicated structures. Yet it also has a continuing drive to simplification, to finding the right concepts and methods to make difficult things easy, to explaining why a situation must be as it is. In so doing, it develops a range of language and insights, which may then be applied to make a crucial contribution to our understanding and appreciation of the world, and our ability to find and make our way in it (p.1).
The fact that mathematics is an important subject is not cajoled. Even an ordinary man on the street will agree to this fact. Indeed, mathematics is an important and necessary subject for progress anywhere in the world. It is a subject that cannot be divorced from the world of technologists which is a key to progress and development. However, any laudable achievement in technological development will be hampered if the potential Scientist, Engineers and technologists are not equipped with sound knowledge of mathematics (National Open University of Nigeria, 2006). Therefore, the growing importance of mathematics to Nigeria as a developing country cannot be overemphasized. This could account why one of the objectives of secondary education under the National Policy on Education (2004) is to equip the students with the skills to live effectively in a modern age of science and technology. The nation has therefore placed great emphasis on the study of mathematics and technology (Kolawole and Ilugbusi, 2007). Despite the considerable relevance of mathematics to human existence and despite the enviable position it occupies in the community of disciplines, students achievement in the subject at public examination have continued to worsen year after year (Kolawole and Ilugbusi, 2007).
Poor achievement in mathematics in Nigerian secondary schools has assumed alarming proportions and caused a lot of concern for many years (Aburime, 2009). Over the years, mathematics educators have identified various causes of difficulties in learning mathematics. According to Kurummeh and Achor (2008), the difficulties of students in learning mathematics could be attributed to the approach to which the contents are being presented to the students, the abstractness of mathematical concepts, and poor foundation, among others. Korau (2006) opines several variables ranging from the teaching methods, learners themselves, the teachers, textbooks, the curricula, school environment to be responsible for students’ poor achievement in mathematics. Kolawole and Ilugbusi (2007), observed that the alarming rate of students’ underachievement in mathematics at all examinations and at all levels may be due to a number of factors such as; lack of enough qualified and experienced mathematics teachers, location of school, sex of teacher, type and nature of public examination items and the difficulties with teachers experienced in teaching most of the mathematics topics. However, the poor performance in mathematics according to Betiku (2002) is due to the methods of teaching, attitude of the teachers that teach the subject and students lack of interest in the subject.
Interest is an important variable in learning because when one is interested in an activity, one is likely to perform positively. Interest can be expressed through simple statement made by individual about their likes and dislikes. Obodo (2002), described interest as the attraction, which forces or compels a child to respond to a particular stimulus. By implication, a child develops interest if a particular stimulus is attractive and arousing or stimulating to him/her. In other words, the child is bound to pay attention as a lesson goes on if interest is shown. This shows that interest comes as a result of eagerness to learn not by force (Harbor-Peters, 2002).
Similarly, Adeleke (2007), observed that the rate of students’ poor achievement is alarming and equally disturbing and it is most likely that most students have some mathematical knowledge but they may have almost no understanding of the basic structure of mathematics, thereby making them to resort to memorization of mathematical facts and concepts. Adeleke further stressed that one particular area which students’ problems have been documented is algebra. Perhaps, this is so because historically, algebra has represented students’ first sustained exposure to the abstraction and symbolism that makes mathematics powerful (Kieran, 1992). It then becomes the duty of the teacher to teach mathematics in a way to encourage the understanding of the required basic structure of mathematics. One way of achieving this is through a careful and thoughtful selection of appropriate teaching strategy that will help students in understanding mathematical concepts, especially in algebra rather than passive reception of ideas.
However, research studies attributed the poor performance of students in examinations mostly to the teaching approach adopted by mathematics teachers in presenting instructions (Obodo, 1990; and Odogwu, 1995). Many teachers adopt the conventional approach to teaching. This is an approach where older methods or ideas are followed rather than modern or different ones. In this approach curricular activities rely heavily on textbooks and workbooks.
Furthermore, in conventional setting, many students struggle to understand concepts in isolation, to learn parts without seeing wholes, to make connections where they see disparity to accept as reality what their perceptions question. To some students, success in school has very little to do with true understanding and much to do with coverage of the curriculum. In many schools, the curriculum is held as absolute and teachers are reticent about it even when students do not understand important concepts. Rather than adapting the curriculum to students’ need, the predominant instructional response in a conventional setting is to view those who have difficulty in understanding the unaltered curriculum as slow learners (Ogbonna, 2003).
As technology advances, there are suggestions that technology could be used as a tool to minimize difficulties that students incur in mathematics classrooms. The National Council for Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) (2003) advocated that:
Every school mathematics program should provide students and teachers with access to tools of instructional technology, including appropriate calculators, computers with mathematical software, internet connectivity, handheld data collection devices, and sensing probes … They [technology tools] also enhance computational power and provide convenient, accurate, and dynamic drawing, graphing, and computational tools … With such devices, students can extend the range and quality of their mathematical investigations and encounter mathematical ideas in more realistic settings (p.2).
The NCTM’s call for the use of technology in the classroom is based on the assumption that technology will help improve the learning of mathematical skills without compromising computational skills that students need to acquire. Other organizations also have joined the call for the inclusion of technology in mathematics classrooms, and this call is vibrant in the corridors of institutions that provide training for mathematics instructors. A technical committee for the Association for Mathematics Teachers Education (AMTE) recommended that teacher training programs need to focus on preparing pre-service teachers to incorporate technology in their classrooms to facilitate students’ learning (AMTE, 2005).
Appropriate technology actually refers to using technological tools, which can add depth, quality and reinforcement to the learning process that is not as readily obtainable by other means (Iji and Udom, 2007). The technological tools here, involves the use of computers, television, video, internet services among others. In this study however, the segment of technology in focus is in the use of computers as a teaching tool since it supports high order thinking (HOT). However, not much seems to have changed since 1991, especially with respect to the training of teachers on the use of computers. If computers are known to have positive influence on education and especially the pedagogical aspect of education, teachers ought to be familiar with how to effectively utilize them for instructional purposes, and this they ought to acquire during training (Agwagah & Usman, 2002).
It has been declared by Tokpah (2008) that computers could be used in the classrooms to improve students’ acquisition of basic skills in specific subject areas, reduce the drudgery of learning by blending text with multimedia, broaden curriculum objective through the use of stimulations to aid in problem-based and collaborative learning, enable teachers to strengthen their mode of content delivery, and prepare technology literate citizens for the workplace (Abdullah, 2005; Pierce & Stacey, 2004; Adym, 2005; Heid & Edwards, 2001; Kutzler, 2000; Norton, McRobbie & Cooper, 2000; Heid, 1997; Phillips, 1995).
It has been identified by Usman (2002) that computers can be used in three ways; as a tool, a tutor and a tutee. Taylor (1980) in Twing (2002) also affirms that there are three ways computers are used in educational setting: as a tutor, a tutee and a tool. When used as a tutor, the computer adapts to the student by selecting appropriate instructional resources and maintaining record of academic progress. As a tutee, the computer receives and executes instructions (in the form of programming language) from the student. As a tool, the computer is used to aid in calculations and graphical displays.
Research has shown that traditional instruction does little to change students’ “commonsense” beliefs (Tambade and Wagh, 2008). However, it has been demonstrated that if this situation is taken into account, it is often possible to provide activities that induces most of the students to develop a good functional understanding of many of the basic concepts through interactive engagement methods.
Among the several factors pointed out by Kurummeh et al, as causes of students’ poor achievement in mathematics, they seemed to anchor on the teaching method as a major factor hindering mathematics achievement. However, many instructional strategies have been proposed, such as learning by doing, guided inquiry, problem solving and so on. In Nigeria emphasis is placed on the use of guided discovery instructional strategy (FME, 1995). This instructional strategy is activity oriented and involves practical demonstration. Students are guided by materials and leading questions from the teacher to discover mathematical concepts. Yet over the years, the result of this instructional strategy planned towards improving the quality of instruction in mathematics has been disappointing and seems ineffective. Current studies on how students learn science and science related subjects (mathematics) have proved effective. One of such innovative instructional strategies is the computer simulation approach (Akpan, 2002; Lunce, 2006; Tambade & Wagh, 2008).
Computer simulation (or “sim”) according to Wikipedia (2009), is an attempt to model a real-life or hypothetical situation on a computer so that it can be studied to see how the system works. By changing variables, predictions may be made about bahaviour of the system. It could also be seen as a computer programme that attempts to simulate an abstract model of the particular system. Computer simulation as described by Thomas and Hooper (1991) is a computer program containing a manipulable model of a real or theoretical system. The program enables the students to change the model from a given state to a specified goal state by directing it through a number of intermediate states. Thus, the simulation program accepts commands from the user, alters the state of the model, and when appropriate displays the new state.
According to Ton and Wouter (2007), common characteristics of educational computer simulations are:
- Model Based: Simulations are based on a model. This means that the calculations and rules operating the simulation are programmed. These calculations and rules are collectively called “the model”, and it determines the behavior of the simulation depending on user actions.
- Interactive: Learners work interactively with a simulation’s model to input information and then observe how the variables in the simulation change, based on this output.
- Interface driven: The value changes to the influenced variables and the observed value changes in the output are found in the simulation’s interface.
- Scaffolded: Simulations designed for education should have supports or scaffolds to assist students in making the learning experience effective. Step by step directions, or small assignments which break the task down to help students, while they work with a simulation, are examples.
There are three (3) ways to use computer for simulation activities as stated by Robert (1999)
- Run a simulation programme on the computer – which is the major focus of this study.
- Use simulation on the World Wide Web.
- Enhance simulation with computer i.e. one can display images and pictures on the computer screen to add reality to many simulations. (Robert, 1999).
According to Lunce (2006) the purpose of simulation is to motivate the learner to engage in problem solving. Lunce also stress that simulation is based on an internal model of a real-world system or phenomena in which some elements have been simplified or omitted in order to facilitate learning. Computer simulations can be used in the classroom to help students to gain additional insight into the phenomena. Computer simulations are also useful for providing more extended practice in thinking about a wide variety of examples (Tambade and Wagh, 2008).
Simulations have a number of advantages over other instructional methodologies. Students often find active participation in simulations to be more interesting, intrinsically motivating and closer to real world experiences than other learning modalities (Alessi & Trollip, 2001). Simulations have been shown to provide transfer of learning with the result that what is learned facilitates improved performance in real-world settings (Leemkuil, et. al., 2003). Further, there is evidence to suggest that simulations may be more efficient modalities for learning in some content areas (Alessi & Trollip, 2001). Simulations can be very flexible in that both student and instructor can have a high degree of control over simulation variables (Duffy & Cunningham, 1996; Hung & Chen, 2002). Simulations can accommodate a wide range of instructional strategies, including microworlds, scientific discovery learning, virtual reality, laboratory simulations, role playing, case-based scenarios, and simulation gaming (Alessi & Trollip, 2001). Through simulations the learner is given the opportunity to practice on his or her own with a variety of situations which resemble “real-life” problems which they might face in the future. And it is this type of practice, which they indicate enhances the learner’s problem solving skills (Akpan, 2001). Simulations are creative; students are organized into small groups, goals are set for individuals, as well as for the groups with which they work. The goal setting in conjunction with the competition with the other groups keep the students very involved in the learning (ITC, 2007).
Computer simulations do have distinct disadvantages compared with other modalities. First, because computer simulations are often used with “problem-based learning” methods, they stimulate learners to immerse themselves in a problematic situation and experiment with different approaches (Heinich, et. al., 1999). This type of learning may require significantly more time than other methods of instruction. Second, research has shown that, without coaching, the learner gains little from “discovery learning” from computer simulations (Min, 2001; Heinich, et. al., 1999). Third, constructivists argue that computer simulations “oversimplify the complexities of real-life situations”, giving the learner a “false understanding” of a real life problem or system (Heinich, et. al., 1999). Finally, development of computer simulations may involve extensive planning and require significant investment of labor and financial resources.
Despite the significant results recorded in other subjects and the advantages derived from computer simulation as outlined above, evidence shows that not much has been done in the use of computer simulation as a teaching strategy in mathematics education and specifically in algebra.
Modern psychological studies have shown that gender as a variable relates to performance (Ezeugo and Agwagah, 2000). For instance, Olaguaju, (2001) observed that boys choose science courses in high schools than girls especially mathematics, chemistry and physics. This is due to the long held view that women are weaker vessels who cannot stand the stress and strain involved in problem solving. To this end, Ugwu (1998) argued that at present, females are struggling to fight the oppression, suppression and domination by their male counter parts. This was supported by Azuka (2000), who stated that significant difference in the performance of male and females on geometric proofs does not exist. Agwagah (1993) found out that female students performed significantly higher than their male counterparts in mathematics readings. Thus, there is also the need for further investigation on whether male and female students would respond differently on Algebra when computer simulation is used.
Statement of the problem
Over the years, the performances of students in mathematics in Nigeria schools have been very poor. The concern about performance of students in mathematics has led to several suggestions for improvement. Unfortunately, these suggestions revolve around the inappropriate teaching methods as the major cause of students’ poor performance in mathematics. Hence, mathematics researchers are in search of innovative teaching methods and strategies that will enhance achievement in mathematics.
Although some researchers such as Akpan (2002) and Lunce, (2006) have advocated the use of innovative strategies such as the computer simulation approach which incorporates inquiry and cooperative learning in teaching science and science related subjects (mathematics), no studies to the best of the researcher’s knowledge have investigated the effect of computer simulation in teaching junior secondary school class mathematics content (Algebra). Based on the foregoing, the major issue of academic concern for this study posed as a question is; what is the effect of computer simulation technique on students’ academic achievement and interest in algebra?
Purpose of study
The major purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of computer simulation on the achievement of JSS II students in selected algebraic concepts. Specifically the study seek to
- Determine the effect of computer simulation on students’ achievement scores in algebra.
- Determine the effect of computer simulation on the mean achievement scores of male and female students
- Determine the effect of computer simulation on students’ interest scores in algebra.
- Determine the effect of computer simulation on the mean interest scores of male and female students.
Significance of the study
Research evidence has shown that there is poor achievement among secondary school students in mathematics. It has also been revealed that poor teaching method, students’ lack of interest, home background, among others are some of the factors which influence students’ achievement in mathematics. However, the computer simulation approach introduced by Tambade & Wagh in physics teaching has been found to be a viable educational medium which can help teachers become more effective, it can serve as a tool for curriculum development and promote meaningful learning. Therefore, the result of this study will provide information on how Nigeria students will perform when taught using computer simulation.
The result of this study therefore can be of great benefit to the following:
- Teachers of mathematics
- Educational administrators
- Higher institutions
The result of this study will be of immense benefit to students as it would make them see algebra as a simplified subject. It will also be a means of fostering creativity and cooperativeness between students and teachers.
The result of this study will also be of immense benefit to the teachers of mathematics because it will supply information that would enable him to make the right choice of teaching method when teaching algebra. It will also provide the teacher with information on a good evaluation technique for mathematics instruction.
Again, to the educational administrators, the findings of this study can provide information with which they can organize conferences, workshops and training programmes for teachers so as to communicate to teachers the alternative models to the teaching of mathematics for maximum comprehension. It can also guide them in the provision of necessary materials for effective learning and in restructuring the curriculum to include new innovations.
Finally, the result from this study can also provide more information for teacher training and tertiary institutions such as colleges of education and faculties of education of Nigeria universities.
Scope of the study
This study was carried out with JSS II students in Isoko North Educational Zone of Delta State. The content scope includes topics on Solving Equations (Simple Linear Equation) such as Equations by the balance method, Equations with brackets and Equations with fraction. The computer simulation approach and the conventional method were used to investigate whether they have any effect on students’ achievement and interest in Algebra.
The following research question guided this study
- What is the mean achievement scores of students taught with computer simulation and those taught with conventional approach in the Algebra Achievement Test (AAT)?
- What are the mean achievement scores of male and female students taught using computer simulation in the Algebra Achievement Test (AAT)?
- What is the mean interest scores of students taught with computer simulation and those taught with conventional approach in the Algebra Interest Inventory (AII)?
What are the mean interest scores of male and female students taught using the computer simulation in the Algebra Interest Inventory (AII