THE TEACHING AND LEARNING OF ALGEBRA IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The role of mathematics in every endeavor is all-inclusive and diverse in terms of mental processes and logical reasoning. (Oshin, 2022). Its usefulness and applications to other subject disciplines in the education system are undeniably plausible; as most of the algorithms, systematization, organization, interpretation, and analysis in presentation of facts, points, generalizations, and argument has helped to order the sequence of synthesized knowledge to produce comprehensive volumes of materials to be taught and learned in these disciplines; some of which are sciences, commerce, economics, medicine, and marital arts. (Olayinka & Omoegun 2022).
According to Olayinka & Omoegun (2006) and Usman & Umeano (2022), mathematics is an indispensable tool for national development because it helps to develop the computational, manipulative, deductive, and inductive thinking as well as problem-solving skills of prospective individuals so that they can function effectively in an ever-changing world by means of self-discovery, self-improvement, and self-actualization. Mathematics is unique in diversities. It contributes to the scientific, industrial, technical, social, and professional development of any society (Asikhia, 2022).
At secondary schools, topics comprising the branches of mathematics, such as measurement, geometry, inequalities, statistics, functions, and algebra, among others, have been structurally arranged and discussed in sequence, content, teaching activities and aids with respect to sub concepts, concept hierarchy, simplicity, difficulty, technicality, and applications (Macre, Kalejaiye, Chima, Garba, Ademosu, chairman, Smith, & Head, 2022) so that the mathematics concept could be taught.
As a subfield of mathematics, algebra has been regarded as an essential mathematical notion. It is an extended kind of mathematics that employs both known and unknown quantities. (Osta & Laban, 2022). In addition, they describe algebra as the area of mathematics in which real-world situations are represented by equations of the first degree in which the unknown appears on both sides of the equal sign. In a similar vein, Mashooque (2022) reported that algebra employs symbols, characters, and signs that have variable meanings and interpretations depending on the context. Its usage and applications to the effective acquisition of knowledge, skills, and understanding the tidbits of other concepts in mathematics (measurement, geometry, inequalities, indices, statistics, etc.), sciences, social sciences, maritime, medicine, defence, and vocations, among others: (Mashooque, 2022) attest to the importance of this multidimensional branch of mathematics in problem-solving.
The authors Diophantus and Al-Khawarzmi Mohammed Ibn Musa, the inventor and consolidator of algebra, was cited by Oshin (2022) as saying that algebra is one of the oldest mathematical creations that branched out from arithmetic when equations and techniques for reducing them were developed. Algebra was presented as the science of transposition and cancellation. It is the field of mathematics concerned with solving equations using means such as transposition and cancellation. In a similar vein, Oshin (2022) revealed that as time passed, Al-name Khawarizmi's was distorted into "algorism" meaning "the art of calculating," which is now known as Arithmetic. This has helped revolutionize mathematical manipulation, making long division easier for children, and served as a model for later writings that applied arithmetic and algebra to the distribution of inheritance and astronomical inventions.
Deductively, algebra is vast in idea, forms, structure, and applications, since it is practically studied at all educational levels (NCTM, 1989 referenced in Cooley, Martins, Vidakovic, & Loch, 2022). It is commonly referred to as Arithmetic in elementary schools, where students learn the basics of counting and simple equations including sum, difference, product, divisions, and word problems. Algebra retains its nomenclature in secondary and tertiary education despite differences in idea order, classifications, sophistication, and application. For instance, in senior secondary schools, algebra was separated into equations (basic simultaneous and quadratic), set theory, inequality, and variation, each of which required unique problem-solving strategies (Macrae, Kalejaiye, Chima, Garba, Ademosu, & Channon 2022). All of these principles are taught and learned in senior secondary schools so that students may apply the skills they've learned to address difficulties in other disciplines.
Despite the utility of algebra to the material world in developing skills in computation, manipulation, balancing and analyzing equations, logical reasoning, deductive thinking, and problem solving in individuals to adapting and functioning effectively in a technologically dynamic world, students in secondary schools, particularly in senior secondary Two (ss2), have not explored the resourcefulness of algebraic concepts, as evidenced by their poor performance (Kucheman, 1981 cited in Mashooque, 2022). This trend might be attributed to the difficulties associated with teaching and mastering algebraic topics in senior high schools.
Teaching and learning are instruments for carrying out educational plans and programs. They serve as the foundation for identifying and cultivating an individual's intrinsic abilities, so enhancing his or her utility to oneself and society. Teaching is the process of encouraging someone to pay attention, observe, reason, and think. (Akande, 2022) and learning; a somewhat lasting modification of behavior resulting from experience (Nwadinigwe, 2022) Effectiveness-wise, they are two sides of the same coin, since one complements the other. The teaching and learning of mathematics concepts, including algebra, is plagued by numerous issues, the majority of which have negatively impacted the performance of students in mathematics examinations despite numerous viable efforts by stakeholders to improve the appreciation, achievement, and application of mathematics concepts (Okereke, 2022). This, according to Chimere (2022), poses a major threat to national growth.
Algebraic idea instruction is now dynamic, multifaceted, and divergent (Catherine, 2022). With the advent of technological discoveries and mathematical inventions in algebraic simplification, expression, manipulation, and problem solving, the concepts in this all-encompassing branch of mathematics absorb complexities in forms, structures, and algorithms that have a direct impact on students' proficiency in mathematics as a whole and in other subjects, many of which have advanced the course of effective teaching. To this end, Catherine (2022) observed that these complexities have implications for the content and pedagogical knowledge of teachers in effectively communicating algebraic concepts to students' understanding and appreciation, and argued that the adequacy or lack thereof of content and pedagogical knowledge of teachers affects the achievement level of students in algebra classes.
In the majority of teaching and learning situations, however, it is evident that teachers perform the larger labor by providing algebraic tidbits, algorithms, and structures to pupils. Thus leaving him or her with little opportunity for self-discovery, attitudes of admiration inhibit interest for further study. This impacts the core of personal growth (Catherine & Vistro, 2022). Moreso, Udeinya, & Okobiah (2022) identified inadequate teaching techniques, untrained mathematics instructors, bad working conditions for teachers, and public indifference towards mathematics as some of the threats to the growth and development of mathematics. Okereke (2022) observed that it is common knowledge that many mathematics instructors, mathematicians, and the general public are concerned about the status of general mathematics education in the country, despite mathematics' central position in the school curriculum.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
In spite of the usefulness of algebra in enabling students to comprehend and apply fundamental concepts such as equations, inequalities, set theories, variation, and problem-solving techniques to interpret, analyze, and solve problems in other branches of mathematics as well as in other school subjects such as physics, chemistry, economics, etc. for better functionality and adaptation of their rudiments and structural patterns for enhanced performance, students have not been taught algebra in a way that facilitates this (Okereke 2022). The students' persistently low examination performance poses a threat to their educational and teachers' professional development.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The primary objective of this study is to examine the teaching and learning of algebra in secondary schools. Other objectives of this study are:
i. To determine the extent algebra is taught in secondary schools.
ii. To examine the challenges of teaching algebra in secondary schools.
iii. To examine the challenges of learning algebra in secondary schools.
iv. To examine ways algebra can be made easier to be learned by students.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The following research questions will be answered in this study:
i. What is the extent algebra is taught in secondary schools?
ii. What are the challenges of teaching algebra in secondary schools?
iii. What are the challenges of learning algebra in secondary schools.
iv. What are the ways algebra can be made easier to be learned by students in secondary schools?
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The findings of this study will be beneficial to the teachers and students of algebra as it will reveal the importance of algebra, challenges faced by both teachers and students of algebra and ways algebra can be made easier.
This study will also be beneficial to scholars as this material will serve as an existing material for further studies and future reference.
1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This study is focused on examining the teaching and learning of algebra in secondary schools. Specifically, this study is focused on determining the extent algebra is taught in secondary schools, examining the challenges of teaching algebra in secondary schools, examining the challenges of learning algebra in secondary schools and examining ways algebra can be made easier to be learned by students.
Teachers and students of selected secondary schools in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State will serve as the enrolled participants for this study.
1.7 LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
As with any human endeavor, the researcher experienced small impediments while performing the study. Due to the scarcity of literature on the subject as a result of the discourse's nature, the researcher incurred additional financial expenses and spent additional time sourcing for relevant materials, literature, or information, as well as during the data collection process, which is why the researcher chose a small sample size. Additionally, the researcher conducted this inquiry in conjunction with other scholarly pursuits. Additionally, because only a small number of respondents were chosen to complete the research instrument, the results cannot be applied to other secondary schools outside the state. Regardless of the limits faced throughout the investigation, all aspects were reduced to ensure the best outcomes and the most productive research.
1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Algebra: The part of mathematics in which letters and other general symbols are used to represent numbers and quantities in formulae and equations.
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