Perception Of Students On The Causes And Effects Of Mathematics Anxiety Among Students Of Tertiary Institutions In Nigeria

Mathematics Education Project Material

Perception Of Students On The Causes And Effects Of Mathematics Anxiety Among Students Of Tertiary Institutions In Nigeria


The purpose of this study is to identify causes and effect of mathematics anxiety among students of tertiary institutions. The study also examines strategies that could be adopted to reduce fear and anxiety in Mathematics among students. Three research questions and a hypothesis tested at α = 0.05 level of significant were formulated to guide the study. A research questionnaire on causes and effect of mathematics anxiety among student of tertiary institutions was used in collecting data from 200 tertiary institutions student. They were selected by simple random sampling technique from the university.

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

Mathematics is one of the most important subjects in University admission criteria. Thus it is made compulsory for all students to offer at the JAMB examinations before they can be admitted into any higher institution of learning in Nigeria. This is because Nigeria as a nation solely depends upon mathematics as one of the most important subjects that could help the nation meet her objective for science and technological advancement (Jegede, 2002). It is a fact that students have a very low interest in mathematics. Students hate or dislike mathematics. Even at secondary schools level in Nigeria students do not attend mathematics lessons (Fatola, 2005). Those who attend the mathematics lessons do not pay attention to the teacher. Most of the students do not practice mathematics on their own neither do they solve mathematics problems on their own. Mathematics has been described by Along (1988) and Bloom (1971) as a dynamic and elegant field of human creation and a strong binding force among various branches of sciences, without which knowledge of science often remain superficial. It is a subject which deals with numbers and figures. Mathematics, which is a core subject in many secondary schools curriculum, is facing some challenges in Nigeria. Adebule (2004) concludes that mathematics education in Nigeria has persistently been experiencing one form of problem or the other, particularly in relation to the general poor performances of students. According to him, such academic problems include students’ unparalleled hatred, indifference, anxiety and poor attitude towards mathematics, teachers’ dissatisfaction, and poor environment, non-availability of appropriate textbooks and poor method of teaching. The National Mathematics Advisory Panel (2008) holds that; mathematics is used throughout our daily lives. The importance of mathematics in day-to-day activities is no longer news. However, what remains news is the fact that students performance in mathematics has not improved significantly despite its importance, not even with the introduction and use of technology in mathematics, as confirmed by Chang and colleagues (2006) when they stated that, nowadays, students make use of computer-assisted problemsolving systems to better learn and understand mathematics. Numerous factors were identified by some researchers for the inconsequential performance by students, some of which included: shortage of qualified mathematics teachers, poor facilities, equipment and instructional materials for effective teaching (Odogwu, 1994; Yemi&Adeshina, 2013), and large pupil-to-teacher ratios (Alele-Williams, 1988). Another major hindrance to better improvement of government spending is the continued use of traditional 2 chalk and talk methods which are yet to give way to the multimedia teaching methods presently in use in schools in developing nations. Mathematics is also a body of knowledge essential for the achievement of a scientific/technological nation. Ale and Lawal (2010) stated that the line of demarcation between the developed and the underdeveloped nations is based on their level of mathematical attainment and ingenuity. According to them, mathematics is an undisputed agent of national development and wealth creation. Confirming this statement, Nosa and Ohenhen (1998) stated that evidence abound to show that nations that embrace mathematics, science and technology enjoy better standard of living and are less dependent on others. Performance is the process of collecting, analyzing and reporting information regarding the performance of an individual, group, organization, system or component. According to Neely, performance is “the process of quantifying the efficiency and effectiveness of past action”. Good academic performance is very important not only to students and their parents, but also to institutions of learning and educationists. The quality of students’ academic performance is influenced by wide range of environmental factors rather simply teacher factors and psychological factors within the learners such as motivation and self, esteem. The test anxiety and Mathematics anxiety are increasingly being seen as factors underpinning levels of motivation for academic performance. Suinn, Taylor, and Edwards (1988), suggested that it affects many people and threatens both performance of participation. Anxiety as a global construct has been operationally defined in various ways by notable scholars. Adelodun (1988) looked at anxiety as a state of stress and tension, bordering on uneasiness and instability of the mind. Stone (1976) asserted that emotional difficulties caused by school generated anxiety are detrimental to pupils’ learning. Also Okebukola (1987) indicated that anxiety level in science classes is high and that this leads to depression in achievement. Adebule (2002) described anxiety simply as a summary description of a series of overt and covert action

According to Amazigo (2000), when the option is available, many students would prefer not to have anything to do with learning mathematics. This attitude has led them, among other things, to achieve poorly in mathematics examinations both internal and external. On the other hand, the recent paucity and anxiety of undergraduates in mathematics and mathematics education in Universities, Colleges of Education and Polytechnics suggests that mathematics is no longer popular among students particularly at the higher institution level. There is no doubt that the poor achievement in the subject enhances students’ hatred for the subject. This hatred is rooted in the fact that there is a general tendency for students to fear mathematics whenever it is mentioned (Amazigo, 2000). Anxiety refers to a feeling of distress or alarm caused by danger or pain that is about to happen (Tobias, 1993). In intensity it varies from a mild sense of apprehension to paralyzing terror. In anxiety there is always the desire to shrink, to get away or retreat from the exciting cause. The stimuli for anxiety are many and varied. In early infancy any sudden or intense stimuli like loud and sudden noise, unexpected jerk, and flash of bright light or loss of support may cause anxiety though there are large individual differences. Any sudden change in the environment, which the individual regards as threatening and for which he is unprepared, produces anxiety. When the threatening situation is removed or controlled, and the danger real or imaginary has passed, anxiety disappears. Also, as activities or experiences expand or interests and abilities grow, the number and kinds of anxiety increase. But as the power of adjustment through experience increases many of childish anxiety disappear. Some anxieties are as a result of conditioning effect. They will have to be reconditioned by attaching pleasant circumstances and experiences with situations and objects, which causes the anxiety. Praise or rewards attached to or associated with fearful tasks or situations will help to reduce anxiety. There are some anxiety where the best thing to do is to act as the anxiety suggests, that is, get away. This would be true in the case of a poisonous snake, and mad dog. However, with other anxieties we need to face it, we must have courage. Example of such is mathematics anxiety. The phenomenon of mathematics anxiety is variously referred to as Mathemaphobia or Mathematics pathological fear in mathematics (Stephen, 2007). Pathological mathematics anxiety therefore mean a behaviour disorder in which an individual becomes progressively unable to resist the impulse to fear mathematics. It is an abnormal and persistent dread of mathematics; sufferers usually experience undue anxiety even though they may rationally realize that mathematics does not pose a threat commensurate with their anxiety (Amazigo, 2000). Stephen (2007), describes mathematics anxiety as an academic disease whose virus has not yet been diagnosed for an effective treatment in the class, though the symptoms of this anxiety are always expressed on the faces of the learners in mathematics classes. This disease (otherwise known as pathological fear), is communicable as it is usually distributed to sciences that are mathematics related.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

It is widely known in Nigeria that larger number of students tends to choose non mathematics related courses while seeking admission to higher institutions. The number of students offering non mathematics related courses in higher institution is more than ten times the number offering mathematics related courses. This can be related to mathematics anxiety. Students perceives mathematics as a very difficult subject which is difficult to understand, hence they spent little time, interest and concentration on it. However, the researcher is examining the perception of students on the causes and effects of mathematics anxiety among students of tertiary institutions.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The following are the objectives of this study:

  1. To examine the perception of students on the causes of mathematics anxiety among students of tertiary institutions.
  2. To examine the perception of students on the effects of mathematics anxiety among students of tertiary institutions.
  3. To identify the solution to the problem of mathematics anxiety among students of tertiary institutions.

1.4 Research Questions

  1. What is the perception of students on the causes of mathematics anxiety among students of tertiary institutions?
  2. What is the perception of students on the effects of mathematics anxiety among students of tertiary institutions?
  3. What is the solution to the problem of mathematics anxiety among students of tertiary institutions?

1.5 Research Hypotheses

H0: perception of students is not the causes of mathematics anxiety among students of tertiary institutions

H1: perception of students on the causes of mathematics anxiety among students of tertiary institutions

H02: the perception of students does not have any effects on mathematics anxiety among students of tertiary institutions

H2: the perception of students does have effects on mathematics anxiety among students of tertiary institutions

1.6 Significance of the Study

The following are the significance of this study:

  1. The outcome of this study will educate the students of higher institutions and the general public on the perception of students on the causes and effects of mathematics anxiety among students of tertiary institutions.
  2. This research will be a contribution to the body of literature in the area of the effect of personality trait on student’s academic performance, thereby constituting the empirical literature for future research in the subject area.

1.7 Scope / Limitations of the Study

This study will cover the perception of students on the causes and effects of mathematics anxiety among students of tertiary institutions.

Limitation of Study
Financial constraint

Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).

Time constraint

The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.

1.8 Operational Definition of Terms


A mental health disorder characterized by feelings of worries, anxiety or fear that are strong enough to interfere with one’s daily activities


Numeracy pre-dated writing and numeral systems have been many and diverse, with the first known written numerals created by Egyptians in Middle Kingdom texts such as the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus

Tertiary institution

Tertiary education also referred to as third stage, third level, and postsecondary education, is the educational level following the completion of a school providing a secondary education.

1.9 Organization of the Study

This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows

  • Chapter one is concern with the introduction, which consist of the (overview, of the study), historical background, statement of problem, objectives of the study, research hypotheses, significance of the study, scope and limitation of the study, definition of terms and historical background of the study.
  • Chapter two highlights the theoretical framework on which the study is based, thus the review of related literature.
  • Chapter three deals on the research design and methodology adopted in the study.
  • Chapter four concentrate on the data collection and analysis and presentation of finding.
  • Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Introduction

It is important to ascertain that the objective of this study was to ascertain the perception of student on the causes and effect of mathematics anxiety among student of tertiary institutions in Nigeria.

In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, certain recommendations made which in the opinion of the researcher will be of benefits in addressing the challenges student anxiety in mathematics.

5.2 Summary

Ashcraft (2002) expressed that math anxiety interferes with math performance. Students with high levels of math anxiety took fewer math courses in higher institution of learning. As an individual in the educational profession, opening the doors of success for students in mathematics is important and imperative. Mathematics anxiety has never been a topic of discussion in schools. I hope this research will start discussions around the barriers of mathematics anxiety and help students achieve their hopes and dreams. The issue is real. Being a parent of a teenager who struggles with mathematics is a helpless feeling. Schools need to explore research around this topic and open their mind to the notion that teachers, parents, government, and classroom environments are partially responsible for developing mathematics anxiety in the student.

5.3 Conclusion

According to Mullis (1991) learners’ achievement in mathematics is a function of learners’ home environment, attitudes towards mathematics, mathematics curriculum, instructional contexts and practices and school variables that explain variations in learners’ achievements. Ewen (2002) remarks that the question of how to motivate learners in the classroom has become a leading concern for teachers of all disciplines including mathematics. According to Ewen (2002) school teachers need to be well grounded in learners’ motivation and learners’ management (Wong, 2003) because this is relevant to mathematics achievement. The review indicated that although Nigerian student from disadvantaged communities express positive attitudes towards mathematics, the failure rate in this subject is still high. The author of this study is of the opinion that there is a need to expand the knowledge based on factors that facilitate achievement in mathematics among UAM student, especially those from disadvantaged schools, beyond data that have been collected using survey methods.

5.4 Recommendations

The findings of this study suggest the following recommendations for future research:

  1. Results of this study could be used by researchers to plan further studies around mathematics anxiety and mathematics performance at different higher institution around Markurdi.
  2. A qualitative study such as interviews with teachers, principals, counselors, parents, and with participants may lead to better understanding of the relationship between mathematics anxiety and mathematics performance.
  3. A further study on current student data examining mathematics anxiety between female and male secondary school students.
  4. A study examining the culture and climate of math classrooms and how teachers are teaching mathematical concepts and their effects on mathematics anxiety of the students.
  5. Further investigations starting with elementary aged students need to be assessed to understand exactly when mathematics anxiety occurs.

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