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STRATEGIES FOR IMPROVING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF MATHEMATICS TEACHERS AT SECONDARY SCHOOLS

BY

K.M. FASASI and A.S. YAHYA Department of Science Education, Federal University of Technology, Yola Adamawa state.

Abstract Poor achievement in mathematics is consistently being recorded at the WAEC/NECO examinations. Evidence from research reports has indicated that mathematics teachers have a significant influence on the student’s mathematics achievement. This paper highlights some strategies that can be used to improve the effectiveness of mathematics teachers in secondary schools. The strategies include incentive, provision of teaching aids, involvement in WAEC/NECO marking, adequate supervision by the Ministry of Education and use of different methods of teaching recommended in this paper.

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Introduction Teachers in any educational system are facilitators of teaching and learning. They are the ones entrusted with the task of breaking down the desired needs of the society as specified in each subject syllabus into teachable and learnable topics in the classroom. Teachers are thus, the backbone of any educational system and could be referred to as nation builders. As a result of the important role teachers play in educational enterprises and the influence they have on teaching and learning, it is usually stated that ‘no educational system can grow above its teachers’. However, everybody has a complaint against the teaching of mathematics by teachers in secondary schools. It is dull, boring, difficult and useless from the point of views of the learner. The teachers complain of excessive workload and lack of facilities in the form of aids and equipment. Principals and management complain, ‘it is the fault of the teachers who do not make the students put in adequate labor’. These complaints have led consequently to paucity of mathematics teachers in schools thereby militating against effective teaching and learning of mathematics in schools. Furthermore, the alarming rate at which teachers in public schools resign and retire as a result of frustration permeating the teaching fabric coupled with the misplaced priority of successive administration in Nigeria concerning teaching, prompted this article on strategies for improving the effectiveness of mathematics teachers of secondary schools.

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The paper suggests some strategies that can make mathematics teachers more effective in the teaching and learning mathematics.

1. Motivation Of The Teacher The adage, ‘he who pays the piper dictates the tune’ holds water in motivation of teachers. Their employers, and their head teachers should effectively motivate mathematics teachers. Teachers should be paid promptly and adequately; both government and head teachers should employ extrinsic motivation techniques to motivate mathematics teachers. (Wilson,1993) Mathematics teachers should be sent for workshops, retraining, conferences and seminars in order to improve their teaching techniques. Scholarships and in-service training with pay should be granted to mathematics teachers. On the other hand, the mathematics teacher should not depend on external motivation to do his job effectively. He should note that if man fails to reward him effectively, that God must reward him for effective teaching despite all external odds facing him from outside. The golden rule is another factor that can enhance the mathematics teachers’ intrinsic motivation to teach effectively.

2. The Use Of Teaching Aids The effective uses of instructional materials by mathematics teachers go a long way to stimulate and sustain students’ interest in mathematics. Their effective use helps in reducing the level of obstruction in teaching a topic i.e. 3


they concretize the abstract nature of mathematics. They also stimulate students’ imagination and help them retain the concepts learnt. Teaching aids should be provided for mathematics teachers. The teachers, in turn, should utilize these aids, involving the students in their use. The teacher should also improvise some of the teaching aids that he can by using local resources.

3. Teachers Involvement In WASCE And NECO Marking. Mathematics teachers should be involved in WASCE and NECO items writing and marking exercises. This is to assist the teachers to know the technicalities involved in testing and marking WASCE and NECO papers in mathematics. This can be achieved through well-coordinated workshops and seminars organized by these examination bodies. Being an examiner would enable the teachers to be more focused in teaching topics in mathematics and it will enable them to educate the students on how to answer questions.

4. Retraining Of Mathematics Teachers Specifically On Pedagogy Of Teaching One of the factors, which causes poor performances of students in mathematics in secondary schools and discourages students from studying mathematics, is poor teaching (Amoo,2000). Some of the teachers without teaching qualification are trying their best, but their output would improve drastically well if they are retrained on the methodologies of teaching. The 4


National Mathematical Center, Abuja, has initiated actions towards the retraining of mathematics teachers at secondary schools using mathematicsteaching modules. Principals and management of various schools should liaise with this center to purchase these modules. Mathematics teachers are encouraged to use discovery method of teaching in the classroom. This has proved to be one of the most effective methods. It allows learners to actively participate in the learning process. This is supported by the popular Chinese proverbs: What I hear I forget What I see I remember What I do I understand 5. Government Should Formulate a Deliberate Policy to Attract and Retain Teachers of Mathematics. The problems of the teaching of mathematics in secondary schools stem from the problems of teachers, which in turn has its root from the poor remuneration and allowances of teachers. The problem of poor remuneration results to other problems such as low number of mathematics teachers, low commitment, high workload and poor quality of teaching. Therefore, one frank way of addressing the problems of teaching of mathematics is to first of all address the problems of teachers who are described as “the hub of any educational system�. This would ensure an uninterrupted supply and retention of mathematics teachers in the school. 5


6. Ministry of Education Should Stop Indiscriminate Transfer of Mathematics Teachers. The various ministries of education should avoid the indiscriminate transfer of teachers most especially those handling core subjects like English Language and Mathematics, which are very important for Art and Science subjects. Teachers of mathematics in particular should be allowed to spend at least five years in a particular school before being transferred. This would allow for continuity of the teaching and learning process in our schools. 7. Mathematics Teachers Should be Encouraged to Use Relevant Set Induction Technique before Starting Their Lessons. Obodo (1990) indicated that set induction is the way and manner in which a mathematics teacher starts or introduces his lessons. He further said that set induction is a potential determinant of the level of student’s interest in a mathematics lesson. Thus, the teacher should set induce his students for two reasons. The first is to ascertain the level of their interest and knowledge. Secondly, he has to use it to generate and sustain students’ interest in the lesson in particular and in mathematics in general. The mathematics teacher should use it to awaken the interest of the learners. This requires skillful instructional preparation and management. He can achieve a good set induction through relevant jokes and riddles, asking questions on previous lessons and displaying mathematical equipments. The students always accept a mathematics teacher who uses relevant set induction techniques in the classroom 6


8. Relating Mathematics to Other Subjects While Teaching. One way of creating and maintaining interest of students in mathematics by mathematics teachers is to relate the uses and applications of mathematics in various subjects such as carpentry, medicine, pharmacy, nursing, geology, geography, physics, engineering, building, biology etc. Explaining the use of and application of every topic in mathematics to one or more disciplines, will go long way in generating and sustaining the students’ interest in mathematics. For instance, the use of patterns in tailoring and dressmaking is an example of symmetry. The work involved in basket weaving, tile making, beadwork, hairstyles are all forms of geometry. The concept of limit of functions will be more interesting if the students understand the limit as tends to infinity as the state of an idea after a very long time. Thus he will discover that it is really useful as a topic since, he will always have to consider the long time effect of a decision or plan before embarking on it. Linking mathematics topics to real life would boost the teachers teaching methodology and enhance understanding by students (Ngannu, 2001). Mathematics teachers are encouraged to match practical with theoretical contents to ease students’ comprehension and assimilation of topics taught in mathematics.

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9. The Mathematics Teacher Should Encourage Students’ Participation in Mathematics Lesson.

To encourage, generate and maintain students’ interest in mathematics, the teachers should involve students in relevant mathematical activities inside and outside the classroom. The student should be made to carry out the activities themselves. Absence of students’ participation makes the lesson boring and unexciting. According to Adeyemi (2003), the cause of the widespread low-level performance in mathematics of secondary school students could be largely ascribed to mechanical and uninteresting teaching due to noninvolvements of learning in the teaching processes. Research evidence (Halai, 1997;and Obodo, 1990) has also suggested that mathematics teaching today still follows the traditional pattern. The traditional pattern, as described by Halai (1997), is the pattern in which answers to the previous day’s homework are first given, then teacher- directed explanations are used to present materials for the new lesson. This traditional pattern of teaching mathematics has been identified as being ineffective and as one major factor responsible for poor performance of students in materials. Student’s participation in mathematics lesson is henceforth recommended aimed at improving teacher’s performance in the classroom.

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10.Reduction of Large Classes. Mathematics teachers are unable to pay attention to individual student because of students’ enrolments in a class. It becomes difficult for the teacher to establish close contacts with the students. Mathematics teachers are unable to judge the capacities of the individuals in the class. This defect can be removed only by limiting the

number of students in each class up to a maximum of

twenty-five. The issue of large classes is responsible for teacher’s burden. The teacher is over-burdened on all sides and to follow the way of least resistance, he emphasizes cram work. He cannot adopt, and prepare for effective methods, as he has no spare time/. His burden does not allow him time to remove individual difficulties. This burden should be lightened to enable mathematics teacher to show originality and initiative.

11. The Social Standing of Mathematics Teachers Should be Improved. By social standing, we mean the personality, novelty, creativity, originality, performance, credibility e.g. of the mathematics teacher. If these are of high standard they can be a source of generating and maintaining interest in students. Students will no longer regard mathematics teachers as ‘mad’ people. According to Ebeh (2000) an efficient teacher should be paid a decent salary and given a good condition of service just like his counterpart with identical or smaller qualifications and experience in the service of his state. This good 9


condition of service is necessary in order to attract young persons of high integrity and professional qualification and competence to the job.

12.Assessment of Teachers on The Job. Abba(2000) opined that there is the need for a continuous assessment of mathematics teachers on the job on the effectiveness of their work to challenge pupils to learn more and better. This calls for more and better supervisory systems to ensure the professional competence and growth of the mathematics teachers. They should also be encouraged with promotional prospects within the levels of their training to reduce the teacher turn over rate.

Conclusion Mathematics is the very basis of all sciences and technology, and therefore, of all human progress. Therefore, if we must develop technologically and in our economy, we must put functional and technology policies in place. We must place mathematics in its proper perspective. This can only be achieved by ensuring

that mathematics teachers are efficient and effective. We have to

redirect our priorities and resources towards the implementation of the strategies highlighted in this paper since secondary school mathematics forms the gateway to the study of mathematics in our tertiary institutions, we must develop it now.

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References

Abba, I. (2000). An attitude survey towards science teaching. A comparative case study of pre-service teachers. The Nigeria Teacher Today 8(1), 23 Adeyemi,T.O.(2003).Variables associated with students’ performance in secondary school certificate examination in Ondo state, Nigeria. Benin Journal of Education Studies 17(3), 184-192 Amoo,S.A.(2000).Secondary school mathematics teachers’ characteristics and their teaching effectiveness. Journal of Primary Science, 2(1), 29-35 Ebeh,C.O.(2000).Strategies for increasing female enrolment in mathematics for technological development in the next millennium. Journal of Mathematical Association of Nigeria.25(1),84-91 Halai,I.(1997).Secondary school mathematics teaching. Should it be chalk and talk? The Association Of Teachers Of Mathematics, Mathematics Teaching 16(1),18-19 Garuba, A.and Abba M(1990). Nigeria Teachers and the issue of Commitment to Teaching profession. Education Forum, 2(1), 12-15 Ngannu, M. (2001). Major elements of science and technology education for Africa: Views from Botswana. International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa Newsletter.

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Obodo, G.C (1990). The differential effects of Three teaching models on performance of junior secondary school students in some algebraic concepts. Unpublished Ph.D Thesis. University of Nigeria ,Nssuka. Udoh,M.U.(2003).Influence of Gender on Secondary School Administration in Akwa Ibom State,Nigeria. International Journal of Gender and Health Studies 1(1), 214-217

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Strategies for improving the effectiveness of mathematics teachers at seconadry schools