Effects Of Heuristic Method Of Teaching And Academic Performance Of Mathematics Students In Senior Secondary School In Mkpat Enin Local Government Area

Mathematics Education Project Material

Effects Of Heuristic Method Of Teaching And Academic Performance Of Mathematics Students In Senior Secondary School In Mkpat Enin Local Government Area


The problem of poor achievement of students in Mathematics in external examinations has been a matter of concern to the nation. As part of the contribution to arrest the situation, this study was designed to determine the effects of heuristic teaching methods on students‘ achievement and interest in Mathematics. To carryout the study, four research questions and five null hypotheses were formulated. Design for the study is a quasi-experimental nonequivalent control groups pre-test and post-test design. The study was carried out in two purposely selected co-education secondary schools in Mkpat Enin Education zone of Akwa Ibom state. Sample for the study consisted of 100 (SSI) students from two randomly selected intact classes in the sampled schools. Data for the study were collected through two researcher developed instruments: Mathematics Achievement Test (MAT) and Mathematics Interest Inventory Scale (BIIS). The two intact classes of 50 students each were assigned to experimental group I and II respectively. The experimental groups I and II were exposed to heuristic methods of teaching respectively. Data for the study were analyzed using mean, standard deviation and ANCOVA statistics. The null hypotheses were tested at 0.05 level of probability. Findings of the study revealed that heuristic enhanced students‘ achievement in Mathematics more than traditional. However, both heuristic methods had equal effects on students‘ interest (there was no significant different between the effects of heuristic) on students‘ interest in Mathematics. Findings of the study also revealed that there was no significant difference in the achievement and interest of male and female students in Mathematics. Recommendation and suggestion for further study were made based on the findings of the study.

Table of Content

Chapter One:


  • 1.1 Background of the Study
  • 1.2 Statement of the Problem
  • 1.3 Purpose of the Study
  • 1.4 Objectives of the Study
  • 1.5 Research Questions
  • 1.6 Hypotheses
  • 1.7 Significance of the Study
  • 1.8 Scope of the Study
  • 1.9 Definition of Terms
  • 1.10 Study Limitation
  • 1.11 Organization of the Study

Chapter Two:

Review of Related Literature

  • 2.1 Conceptual Review
  • 2.2 Theoretical Review
  • 2.3 Empirical Review
  • 2.4 Summary

Chapter Three:

Research Methodology

  • 3.1 Design of the Study
  • 3.2 Area of Study
  • 3.3 Population of the Study
  • 3.4 Sample and Sampling Technique
  • 3.5 Treatment Procedure
  • 3.6 Instrument for Data Collection
  • 3.7 The Mathematics Achievement Test
  • 3.8 Mathematics Interest Inventory Scale
  • 3.9 Validation of the Instrument
  • 3.10 Reliability of the Instrument
  • 3.11 Method of Data Collection
  • 3.12 Method of Data Analysis
  • 3.12 Ethical Consideration

Chapter Four:

Data Analysis and Result Presentation

  • 4.1 Data Presentation
  • 4.2 Answering Research Questions and Test of Hypothesis
  • 4.3 Discussion

Chapter Five:

Discussion, Conclusion, Recommendation and Summary

  • 5.1 Discussion of the Findings of the Study
  • 5.2 Educational Implications
  • 5.3 Recommendations
  • 5.4 Suggestions for Further Research

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

Mathematics is a branch of natural science that deals with the study of living organisms, including their structures, functioning, evolution, distribution and interrelationships. (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English language, 2009). Mathematics occupies a unique position in the secondary school education curriculum because of its importance as science of life. In Nigeria the secondary school Mathematics curriculum is designed to continue students‘ investigation into natural phenomena, to deepen students‘ understanding and interest in biological sciences, and also to encourage students‘ ability to apply scientific knowledge to every day life in matters of personal, community, health and agriculture among others (Federal Ministry of Education, 2009).

Mathematics is a very important science subject and stands as the bedrock upon which are based many other science courses like Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing, Biochemistry, Genetic, Agriculture etc., that are of great economic importance to a nation. Besides, the importance of Mathematics to mankind as science of life, it is one of the science subject mostly preferred by many students in the secondary schools because it has less mathematical calculations unlike Physics and Chemistry and deals with non-abstract things. Because of these reasons, Mathematics has a very high enrolment of students in the external examination (Senior School Certificate Examination) more than Physics and Chemistry. Regardless of the high number of students‘ enrolment in Mathematics in the senior school examinations conducted by West African Examination Council (WAEC) and National Examination Council (NECO), reports from scholars and educators (Nwagbo, 1999; Mathematics Chief
Examiner‘s Report, 2007; Ige, 2009 and Opara, 2011) indicated that students‘ achievement in Mathematics in the external examinations is poor.

The poor achievement of students in Mathematics in external examination is linked to the use of traditional method (lecture/expository method) in teaching secondary school Mathematics (Isiugo-Abanihe; LongJohn and Ibiene 2010).The traditional/conventional teaching methods often used by teachers in teaching Mathematics include the lecture/expository method, demonstration and direct instruction etc. These traditional methods of teaching stress more on the transmission of knowledge in a manner that emphasizes memorization hence they have been characterized by some educators (Ibe and Nwosu, 2003; Sawa, 2011 and Kirshner, Sweller and Clark, 2006) as a poor method of teaching Mathematics and other science subjects. The conventional//traditional teaching methods involve unidirectional flow of information/knowledge from teacher to the students and do not encourage process skill acquisition needed for proper understanding of biological principles, concepts and facts. Guisti (2008) referred to these traditional teaching methods as teacher-centered approaches to learning in the sense that the teacher and those up in the educational hierarchy are considered as the possessor of knowledge to be transferred to the students, and as such decides how the knowledge transfer takes place. The unidirectional flow of information in the traditional teaching method makes students passive and unable to construct meaningful knowledge in the teaching and learning of Mathematics.

The shortcomings of these traditional teaching methods resulted to the persistent search for an effective method of teaching and learning Mathematics which culminated to the discovery and suggestions by some researchers (Mandor, 2002; Ibe and Nwosu, 2003; Nwagbo, 2006 and Akpan 2010), for the use of innovative teaching methods such as inquiry method, concept mappings, simulations and games, constructivùsm, problem based learning etc.

The innovative methods are considered as effective teaching methods that can improve on students‘ achievement and interest in Mathematics. The innovative teaching methods are activity-based and characterized by students sharing some degree of responsibility for making decision in the learning process. In the innovative teaching methods the teacher is often described as a partner and a facilitator in the teaching and learning process and not the possessor of knowledge hence the innovative teaching methods are referred to as student-centered approach to learning (Campbell, 2006).

Mathematics is a subject that is found useful in most fields of life. Hence it is made compulsory to both primary and secondary school students in Nigeria today. According to Salman (2003), it is a subject that enables a learner to have adequate understanding and interpretation of concepts in science and technology. It is referred to as the bedrock of science, which brings about technology (Azuka, 2003).

The importance of mathematics cannot be over emphasised, unfortunately available evidence has shown that Nigerian students’ achievement in this subject is not encouraging. For instance, Sanni and Ochepa (2002) made this report and this was confirmed by Uloko and Usman (2007). Efforts to find solution to these problems made some researchers to examine some factors, which were considered to influence mathematics achievement. These include poor method of teaching and gender difference (Harbour, 2001 and Ozofor, 2001).

According to Harbour (2001), this low achievement is caused by teachers’ non utilization of appropriate teaching methods. This assertion had been ascertained by Obodo (1997), who opined that the method of teaching mathematics in Nigeria is teacher centred, students are not fully involved in teaching -learning process. This method did not yield expected results. In the quest to search for a method which makes students more participatory in the teaching and learning process, the introduction of heuristic teaching approach becomes imperative as stressed by previous researchers (Tiong, Hedberg , and Lioe (2005))

The term heuristic was coined from a Greek word, which means ‘I find’. Here the student is put in the place of a discoverer. The method involves finding out by the student, instead of merely explaining everything to the students by the teacher. Heuristic method of teaching is aimed at removing the shortcomings attributed to lecture method or other conventional methods used by the teachers. It is a method by which students learn to reason for themselves.

This method has been found very useful in the teaching of mathematics (Břehovský, et al (2013) ). Staunch supporters of this method are of the opinion that every student should be made a discoverer and inventor. The mathematics teacher’s job is not to solve the problems for the students, but to enable the student to solve problems by themselves after listening to teacher’s leading questions or hints that will give a clue to solving the problems in the class.

As a practical example of the use of heuristic method, if we take the problem of the students’ discovery of the characteristics of a parallelogram. The mathematics teacher only give the students many parallelogram already drawn on sheets of paper and ask them to find out the qualities of the different elements of a parallelogram. Naturally the students will start judging and measuring the elements of different parallelograms, their findings about equality of its opposite sides and equality of the sum of its adjacent angles, will perfectly agree. Thus their respective observations will enable them to generalise about some of the characteristics of a parallelogram.

Furthermore, students can be encouraged to draw the diagonals of the parallelograms and find out after actual measurements that diagonals bisect each other in every parallelogram. Hence, students can convincingly list all the properties of parallelogram without cramming them.

Heuristics method has a lot of advantages, for instance, students becomes an active participants in the teaching and learning process, they also take pride in their achievement after discovering basic facts in mathematics by their efforts. This in turn give them happiness and mental satisfaction, thus encouraging them towards further achievement.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Despite the recommendation for use of heuristic method for teaching and learning science including Mathematics by the Federal Ministry of Education‘s 6-3-3-4 curriculum reform, and suggestions by many Science Educators, reports from educators and researchers indicated that students‘ achievement in Mathematics is still poor. The poor achievement of students in Mathematics has been associated with the use of poor methods of teaching, lack of interest and sometimes influence of gender. In view of these, researchers in science education have continually sought for better teaching methods that will enhance students‘ achievement, promote their interest and bridge the gender gap in male and female students‘ achievement and interest in Mathematics. Despite the efforts of Nigerian government towards improving the teaching and learning of mathematics in secondary schools, students interest in the subject remain poor, though other teaching methods have been applied by teachers for the purpose of improving students interest and retention in mathematics, yet little or no reasonable improvements have been recorded. Heuristics approach is alien to some mathematics teachers, thus students have not been able to develop necessary skills that could have helped them to tackle mathematics problems with or without teachers supervision.

This has given rise to the problem of low achievement in mathematics among students. Female students dread mathematics more than the male students during internal and public examinations. This study seek to determine whether the use Heuristic Teaching Approach might bring some improvement in students interest and achievement in mathematics more than other teaching approaches being used by mathematics

1.3 Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of heuristic method of teaching and academic performance of mathematics students in senior secondary school

1.4 Objectives of the Study

  1. Determine the effect of Heuristic Teaching Approach on students’ achievement in mathematics;
  2. Determine the effect of Heuristic Teaching Approach on the pre-test and post –test achievements of the experimental group based on gender
  3. Examine the effect of Heuristic Teaching Approach on the post-test achievements of the experimental and control groups based on gender.

1.5 Research Questions

  1. What is the effect of Heuristic Teaching Approach on students’ achievement scores in mathematics?
  2. What is the effect of Heuristic Teaching Approach on the pre-test and post-test achievements scores of the experimental group based on gender?
  3. What is the effect of Heuristic Teaching Approach on the post-test achievement of the experimental and control group based on gender?

1.6 Hypotheses

The following hypotheses were formulated and tested at 0.05 level of significance:

HOR1R: There is no significant difference between the mean achievement scores of students taught mathematics using Heuristic teaching approach and those taught with conventional teaching approach.

HOR2R: There is no significant difference between the mean scores of the experimental group in the Mathematics Achievement Test based on gender

HOR3R: There is no significant difference between the mean scores of the post-test Achievements of experimental and control groups in Mathematics Achievement Test based on gender

1.7 Significance of the Study

The Nigerian curriculum: 6-3-3-4 recommends a student-centered pedagogical method that can assist in achieving the national educational goals; which include among others; the acquisition of appropriate skills, mental, physical and social abilities and competence that will equip an individual to live in, and contribute to the development of the society (Isiugi-Abanihe et al., 2010). The identification of a more effective approach of the inquiry method will be of immense benefit to the nation, students, teachers, science, educators, other researchers and curriculum developers.

To the nation, identification of a better method of inquiry will improve students‘ achievement and interest in Mathematics and increase the number of students who will go into the study of important science courses like Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing and Agriculture. These courses of study will promote the national economic development and also increase the number of scientifically skilled and literate citizens.

To the students, identification of a more effective inquiry method (guided or unguided) will help the students to achieve high in Mathematics and have increased interest for Mathematics which will make them to opt for science courses in higher institution and also appreciate the world of things around them.

To the teachers and science educators the identification of better inquiry methods will make teaching and learning process more interesting because students‘ achievement will be improved upon and their interest sustained, thus enabling the realization of the stated instructional objectives which is the goal of any academic enterprise.

To other researchers; the findings and suggestions by this study will create an insight for researches into other methods ofinquiry, it will also be a base-line data as well as a reference material for future studies and finally to the curriculum developers, the result from this study will provide bases for developing and implementing the use of the inquiry method (guided or unguided) that has a greater effect in improving students‘ achievement and interest in Mathematics.

1.8 Scope of the Study

The study was carried out in Akwa Ibom state, using senior secondary school one (SSI) students. The scope of the study is limited to all SSI students in Mkpat Enin education zone.

The choice of Mkpat Enin Local Government Areas in because available record indicates that students‘ achievement in Mathematics is poor despite the urban location of most schools in the area with appreciable number of qualified Mathematics teachers among others. The Senior Secondary One (SSI) students were chosen for the study because they are at the beginning stage of studying Mathematics. The content scope for the study is Animal Nutrition which includes: Food substances, Mammalian Teeth and Digestive Enzymes. This topic was selected due to the unifying role it plays in fostering students‘ interest and understanding in Mathematics.

1.9 Definition of Terms


Enabling someone to discover or learn something for themselves.

The Heuristic Method of Teaching

The heuristic method of teaching is an economic and fast strategy. In the Heuristic method, the student must be an independent discoverer. So there is no teacher help or guidance in this method. In this method, the teacher poses a problem to the students, then stands aside while they discover the answer.

Academic Performance

Academic performance is the measurement of student achievement across various academic subjects. Teachers and education officials typically measure achievement using classroom performance, graduation rates and results from standardized tests

1.10 Study Limitation

The limitations of this study include:

  1. The nature of the research design which is quasi-experiment, only two schools out of twenty four co-education schools in Mkpat Enin education zone were used. The study may have more generalized effect if more schools in the education zone were used.
  2. The topic used for the study (animal nutrition) was only one topic out of numerous topics in SSI Mathematics scheme of work.
  3. The major variables were only achievement and interest out of other academic variables such as retention and location of schools for study.
  4. Non randomization of sample due to school administration and few periods allocated to Mathematics in the school time table constituted some limitations.
  5. Lack of experience of some Mathematics teachers in the use of heuristic teaching methods.

1.11 Organization of the Study

This study is divided into five chapters.

  • Chapter one is introduction which consists of the background to the study, statement of problem, research questions, research hypotheses, objectives of the study, the significance of the study, the scope and limitations of the study and finally the organization of the study.
  • Chapter two deals with the literature review which consists of the conceptual literature, theoretical literature, empirical literature, theoretical framework.
  • Chapter three gives the research methodology including research design, population of study, sample size, sampling technique, method of data collection, instrument of data analysis, method of data analysis, validity/reliability of instrument.
  • Chapter four is presentation and analysis of data, discussion of findings.
  • Chapter five gives the summary, conclusion

Chapter Five

Discussion, Conclusion, Recommendation and Summary

5.1 Discussion of the Findings of the Study

The result in Table 1 show that students taught with Heuristic teaching approach had a higher mean achievement score of 81.12 than their counterparts taught with conventional approach (with 58.72 mean achievement score). This was further confirmed by the results in Table 2 which revealed that Heuristic teaching approach is a significant factor in the achievement of students in the mathematics achievement.

The reason for the higher achievement by the Heuristics Teaching Approach group could be that the students acquires a real understanding and clear notion of the subject, this gives them a complete mastery of what they have learnt. Heuristic Teaching Approach is certainly a psychologically sound method, as it aims at utilising the active, original, creative and constructive tendencies of the learner. Furthermore, the students thinks by themselves and do not merely listen for information. This therefore agreed with the view of Mayer (2003) and Novotnal et al (2013).

The higher achievement of experimental group in this study also shows that Heuristics teaching approach is very effective for use in teaching. This concurred with Harbour (2001) who opined that the low achievement of secondary school students in mathematics could be attributed to nonutilisation of appropriate teaching approach by mathematics teachers.

Furthermore, the experimental group was taught with an approach that involve students’ active participation and require a student to learn by doing. This corroborated the report of Obodo (1997) and WAEC (1998) which stated that mathematics teaching method should be students’ centred and concepts to be taught should not be taught dogmatically.

Table 3 and Table 4 show that the Heuristic teaching approach benefited boys in the experimental groups as they achieved significantly better than girls in the experimental group and the control group in their mathematics achievement test. This confirms the report of Odili (2006) that boys outperform girls in mathematical tasks. It also confirms Adeleke (2007) who found out that boys achieve significantly better than girls in mathematics when placed in the same group to learn mathematics using conceptual and procedural learning strategies.

Tables 5 and 6 revealed that the difference in the achievements of male and female is significant. This is in line with the findings of Ezeugo and Agwagah (2000) that males achieved higher than females in mathematics. Furthermore, the findings of this study is consonance with Kolawole (2007) who discovered that boys are better than girls in their academic performance in mathematics. This means that the issue of gender differences in mathematics achievement and overall performance still exists.

5.2 Educational Implications

The findings of this study have some educational implications for students, Mathematics teachers and curriculum planners.

Findings from this study indicate that the use of heuristic methods in teaching of secondary school Mathematics will enhance students‘ achievement and interest in Mathematics. The use of both heuristic methods will help to bridge the gender gap in students‘ achievement and interest in Mathematics since the two inquiry methods enhanced and promoted all students‘ achievement and interest in Mathematics.

The findings of this study encourages Mathematics teachers to adopt the use of inquiry methods both heuristic in their teaching since both methods enhance students‘ achievement, promotes their interest and reduces gender gap in students achievement and interest in Mathematics.

From the findings of this study, the use of inquiry methods in teaching and learning of Mathematics will help to achieve the national curriculum objectives which is designed to promote students inquiry spirit and construction of a life-long knowledge needed for national development.

5.3 Recommendations

  1. Heuristic teaching approach should be adopted by mathematics teachers and should be emphasized more strongly by inspectors from the Ministry of Education.
  2. Nigerian mathematics text book authors should be encouraged by the government to review their books in line with Heuristic Teaching Approach, so that the books will be students’ friendly.
  3. Workshops should be organised for teachers on the effective use of heuristic approach of teaching mathematics in secondary schools.
  4. Mathematics teachers should be given refresher courses in the implementation and use of Heuristics teaching approach in all secondary schools.

5.4 Suggestions for Further Research:

Based on the findings of the study, the following suggestions are made for further research.

  1. Replication of the same study can be done in other education zones within or outside the state,
  2. Further study could be carried out to determine the effects of heuristic on students‘ achievement and retention of biological
  3. Similar study could be carried out using another topic in Mathematics.
  4. Researchers should be encouraged to carry out similar study with students at other academic levels in the educational zone.

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