THE INFLUENCE OF STUDENTS’ KNOWLEDGE ON TERMINOLOGIES USED IN MATHEMATICS CURRICULUM ON THE ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF STUDENT IN MATHEMATICS OF JUNIOR SECONDARY SCHOOLS.

THE INFLUENCE  OF STUDENTS’ KNOWLEDGE ON TERMINOLOGIES USED IN MATHEMATICS CURRICULUM ON THE ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF STUDENT IN MATHEMATICS OF JUNIOR SECONDARY SCHOOLS.

 

Abstract

Vocabulary understanding is a major contributor to overall comprehension in many content areas, including mathematics. Effective methods for teaching vocabulary in all content areas are diverse and long standing. Teaching and learning the language of mathematics is vital for the development of mathematical proficiency. Students’ mathematical vocabulary learning is a very important part of their language development and ultimately mathematical proficiency. This article draws on current research-based evidence to (a) provide a rationale for teaching vocabulary, (b) offer a review of research that supports the importance of teaching mathematics vocabulary, and (c) describe specific strategies for teaching mathematics vocabulary. It also addresses implications and the need for future research.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background to the Study

Vocabulary knowledge is as essential to learning of mathematics as it is to learning how to read. In language arts, mathematical words conjure up graphic representations of the objects they label. But when it comes to abstract mathematical concepts, words describe activities or relationships that often lack a visual counterpart. Yet studies show that children grasp the idea of quantity, as well as other relational concepts, from a very early age (Dehaene, 2007).

Mathematics is one of the core subjects taught in contemporary human society. It is an indispensable discipline in various field such as science, Engineering, Technology, social sciences, Arts and others disciplines that are related. Many educators have considered it as an indispensable to the educated man or woman. As a result of its importance, it has been considered as a key subject in the school curriculum. Nevertheless, Mathematics is the language of science.

Mathematics by educational policy is made compulsory and it is among the core subjects that have to be passed before any certificate can be issued or awarded to anyone.

The relevance of Mathematics to the society cannot be over- emphasized. As mathematics is a tool in science, industry and commerce. It will enhance understanding of students who have interest in mathematics. It will help the student to correct certain ills of the society; one very important characteristic of child centered approaches is play away method or activities. Method which they emphasized in mathematics like other subject should be made practical where possible in the classroom.

Mathematical vocabulary refers to words that label mathematical concepts for example quotient, volume, vertex, dividend, and hexagon (Sanders, 2007). According to Miller (2003) students are likely to be handicapped in their effort to learn mathematics if they do not understand the vocabulary that is used in mathematics classrooms, textbooks and assessment tests. One of the obstacles that make mathematical vocabulary difficult to learn is lack of opportunity (Paul and Sinha, 2010). This is because much of the vocabulary used in mathematics classroom is rarely encountered in everyday life. In addition, mathematics teachers often neglect meaningful vocabulary instruction. Also, many terms have meanings in the realm of mathematics that differ from their meanings in everyday usage (Njoroge, 2003).

Without appropriate vocabulary instruction, students are likely to experience difficulties and interference in the learning of concepts for which they have background knowledge that appears unrelated to mathematics. Students need to know the meaning of mathematics vocabulary words-whether written or spoken-in order to understand and communicate mathematics ideas. According to Sanders (2007), terms, phrases, and symbols are essential in communicating mathematical ideas; and becoming fluent with them is vital for children’s mathematical learning.

Research reveals that the knowledge of mathematics vocabulary directly affects achievement in arithmetic, particularly problem-solving (Staley, 2005). Riordain and O’Donoghue (2009) indicated that vocabulary knowledge is strongly related to overall academic achievement in school. Although students may excel in computation, their ability to apply their mathematics skills will be hindered if they do not understand the vocabulary required to master content and able to apply in future situations. Thus teaching vocabulary in the mathematics content area is a critical element of effective instruction.

Although Mathematics is a visual language of symbols and numbers, it is expressed and explained through written and spoken words. Thus, for students to excel in Mathematics, they must recognize, comprehend and apply the requisite mathematical vocabulary. Teaching mathematical vocabulary words solely as definitions as is the practice in most Kenyan schools does not assist students in comprehending the word when found in Mathematics textbooks and examination items. Students must be actively engaged in building background knowledge using key content-specific vocabulary.

The meanings of mathematics

Mathematics is used to communicate information about a wide range of different subjects. Here are three broad categories:

  • Mathematics describes the real world: many areas of mathematics originated with attempts to describe and solve real world phenomena – from measuring farms (geometry) to falling apples (calculus) to gambling (probability). Mathematics is widely used in modern physics and engineering, and has been hugely successful in helping us to understand more about the universe around us from its largest scales (physical cosmology) to its smallest (quantum mechanics).
  • Mathematics describes abstract structures: on the other hand, there are areas of pure mathematics which deal with abstract structures, which have no known physical counterparts at all. However, it is difficult to give any categorical examples here, as even the most abstract structures can be co-opted as models in some branch of physics.
  • Mathematics describes mathematics: mathematics can be used reflexively to describe itself—this is an area of mathematics called meta-mathematics.

Mathematics can communicate a range of meanings that is as wide as (although different from) that of a natural language. (Staley, 2005).

Mathematics by educational policy is made compulsory and it is among the core subjects that have to be passed before any certificate can be issued or awarded to anyone.

The relevance of Mathematics to the society cannot be over- emphasized. As mathematics is a tool in science, industry and commerce. It will enhance understanding of students who have interest in mathematics. It will help the student to correct certain ills of the society; one very important characteristic of child centered approaches is play away method or activities. Method which they emphasized in mathematics like other subject should be made practical where possible in the classroom.

The problem of poor mathematical vocabulary has come into the spotlight again with the concern being at the state, national, and global levels. The language of mathematics is more difficult to read than any other subject area. The mathematics material is so difficult to read, “with more concepts per word, per sentence, and per paragraph than any other area”, it is particularly crucial to emphasize vocabulary instruction in this content area (Monroe, 2007, p.4).

Monroe’s study investigated the effectiveness of graphic organizers in teaching the vocabulary of mathematics. The results he found were that graphic organizers can help develop conceptual understanding. Vocabulary research has been done at all levels and social settings. Stahl’s and Fairbanks’ (2006) study looked at the concerns with the effect of vocabulary instruction on the learning of word meanings and on comprehension. They looked at the curriculum and teachers;

Stahl and Fairbanks found two setting factors that have an effect on vocabulary learning and comprehension. These factors are: a) whether instruction is largely individual or done at least partly in a group setting and b) the amount of time allocated to instruction.

As for the curriculum, Schwarz (2009) states that mathematics curriculum needs to focus more on content vocabulary and its usefulness to communicate mathematically through both written and oral means. Schwarz targeted students, who exhibited poor understanding of content vocabulary for mathematics. In her study, some of the strategies that helped her target group increase their mathematical vocabulary knowledge were: vocabulary journals, math journals, and word walls.

Student Knowledge/Attitude

According to Rubenstein (2007) students see mathematics as a foreign language because of the vocabulary that is used solely in that content area. Another person who did some research on this was Dresher (1934). He also found results that showed mathematics, like other school subjects, have a technical vocabulary. According to Dresher (1934), pupils cannot work problems if they cannot read and understand them; they cannot understand the explanation of a problem if they do not understand the terminology used. He made these claims almost seventy-five years ago, and just six years ago Blessman and Myszczak (2001) had basically the same finding. Students must understand the language of math in order to fully comprehend concepts being learned. Also, Schwarz (1999) states in her research that if students are unable to read and understand the directions to a mathematics problem, they will be unable to answer the problem.

Reading these articles shows that the research I am thinking about has been the focus of some researchers for a long time with the findings coming up the same. Students need to be aware that the mathematical vocabulary that their teacher is teaching is something that will be important throughout their lives. Schwarz came up with the conclusion that for students to better understand mathematical vocabulary they must learn to recognize symbols, recognize vocabulary words that name symbols, remember that symbols and words have the same meaning and are pronounced the same, and they need to understand concepts expressed by the symbols and words.

According to Kotsopoulos (2007), students must continually and actively negotiate among the mathematical meaning of a word, its everyday language meaning, and its new meaning as well as its alternative meaning within the mathematical register. Blessman and Myszczak (2001) along with Schwarz (1999) found results showing that students need to understand the vocabulary before they can do the work. Teachers and students alike need to realize that all students need to have a strong understanding of mathematical vocabulary in order to be successful math students.

Statement of the Problem

It has been observed that many secondary school students finds mathematics as a difficult subject to pass due to their inability to comprehend effectively the vocabularies of Mathematics used in the curriculum. The final year academic output in mathematics in West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) and other external examinations signify the poor knowledge of students about the vocabularies used in the teaching content. It is against this background that the researcher wishes to critically examine the students’ knowledge on vocabularies (Mathematical Language) used in curriculum of junior secondary school.

Delimitation of the Study

The study is specifically talking about the students’ knowledge on vocabularies (Mathematical Language) used in curriculum of junior secondary school. The study will concentrate on the mathematic vocabularies used in teaching students and their consequence effects on the academic performance of student in (5) Junior Secondary Schools in Ikere Local Government Area of Ekiti State.

Purpose of the Study

The broad objective of the research project is to examine the students’ knowledge of vocabularies used by their teachers in teaching mathematics and subsequent impact on their academic output in Mathematics in secondary schools in Ekiti State.

The specific objectives are;

  1. To examine what mathematical vocabularies means to the junior secondary students in Ekiti State.

2     To determine the relationship between mathematical language and academic achievement of Mathematics students in secondary schools in Ekiti State.

Significance of the Study

The study will help the school, ministry of education, government, teachers and curriculum planners to provide solution for effective way of helping the students to comprehend the vocabularies used in mathematics.

It will enable the government to employ adequate qualified teachers, to enhance effective learning and teaching process. The findings will enable the teachers to make their teaching more interesting by arousing and sustaining the interest of their students. The study would go a long way to improve students’ ability in solving problems with big vocabularies in Mathematics and also reduce teaching problems in a greater measure.

Research Questions

The following questions were of interest in my research and helped drive this focus:

  1. How did the integration of vocabulary strategies into the mathematics curriculum increase low socio-economic students’ proficiency in mathematics?
  2. Does the student’s prior knowledge of vocabularies have any significant effect on their academic performance?
  3. What were the attitudes and opinions of the adopted curriculum strategies among learners?
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