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Mathematics is an old broad and deep discipline. Mathematics as a formal area of teaching and learning was developed about five thousand years ago by the Sumerians. They did it at the same time as they developed reading and writing. However, the root of Mathematics goes back much more than 5,000 years. Mathematics is said to be queen of science, Adekoya Olusegun (2009) quoting Adekoya, reveals that mathematics is the cream of all disciplines, whether in the social or human mind, since it concerns honorably with idea, prove and reasoning.

Mathematics is used throughout the world as essential tools in many fields, including natural science, engineering, medicine and the social sciences. Mathematics is the science of size and number of which Arithmetic, Algorithm, Trigonometric and Geometric are branches. It is an age-long subject and forms the backbone of any school curriculum. The reason for teaching any subject is to have value and objective for which it is planned, that can afford to omit mathematics.

History of Mathematics

The study of Mathematics as a subject in the own right began in the 6th century BC with the Pythagoreans, who coined the term mathematics from the ancient Greek (“mathema”) meaning subject of instruction. Greek mathematics greatly refined the methods (especially through the introduction of deductive reasoning and mathematics proofs) and expanded the subject matter of mathematics. Chinese mathematics made early contributions including a place value system. The Hindu-Arabic numeral system and the rules for the use of its operation, in use throughout the world today; likely evolved over the course of the first millennium A.D in India and was transmitted to the west via Islamic Mathematics. Islamic mathematics was in turn developed and expanded the mathematics known to civilization. Many Greek and Arabic texts on mathematics were then translated into lactic which led to further development of mathematics in Medieval Europe.

From ancient times through the Middle Ages, burst of mathematics creativity were often followed by centuries of stagnation. Beginning in renaissance Italy in the 16th century, new mathematics developments, interacting with new scientific discoveries, were made at an increasing pace that continues through the present day (Selin Helaine D. Ainbriosio, Liberation 2009).

Mathematics is a way of describing relationship between number and other measurable qualities. Mathematics can express simple particles and the farthest object in the known universe. Mathematics allows scientist to communicate ideas using universe accepted terminology. It is truly the language of science.

Until the 17th century, arithmetic, algebra and geometric were the only mathematics disciplines, and mathematics was virtually indisguishable from science and philosophy. Development by the ancient Greek, these systems for investigating the world were preserved by Islamic scholar and passed on by Christian’s monks during the middle ages. Mathematics finally became a field in a own right with the development of calculus by English Mathematician Isaac Newton and German philosopher and mathematician Augustin Louis Cauch and his contemporaries. Until the late 19th century, however mathematics was used mainly by physicists, chemist and engineers (Encarta 2009).

Mathematics forms an important and unique part of knowledge as a whole; we might describe it as part of our cultural heritage dating from early times when there was often little practical use for what was studied and continuing to its present position on the basis on which our scientific and technical knowledge has been built.

Despite the uniqueness and important of the subject, many student still fail the subject. “The differential scholastic achievement of students in Nigeria has been and is still a source of concern and research interest to educators, government and parents. This is so because of the great importance that education has on the national development of the country” (Asikhia O.A, 2010). Parents, Teacher and the government are of the opinion that the huge investment on education is not yielding the desired result. Students perform poorly at both internal and external examinations.

Asikhia (2010) quoting Aremu define poor academic performance as a performance that is adjudged by the examinee/testee and some other significance as falling below an expected standard. Poor academic performance has been observed in school subjects especially Mathematics and English among secondary school students.

Students in Tertiary institution have different perceptions about why they perform poorly in mathematics. One of such reason is the lecture’s method of teaching. The means or strategies employed by the lecturer’s to impact knowledge to the students are very important. Many lecturers do not really care whether the students understand what is being taught or not. All they are interested in is getting through with the course outline on time. Since he is not interested on whether the students understand the concept, the student may end up not assimilating which will eventually lead to failure (Akinade E. T 2009).

The inability of student to thoroughly revise their notes and books after lessons has constituted to the glaring failure in mathematics at all levels of education. The conditions and situation on campuses make it difficult for many students to remember that the revision of specific lessons taught in the class is necessary for a better understanding of the content of instruction. No sincere student will deny the fact that various distractions on campuses are responsible for diversion of attention of many students toward the activities which do not lend help to improvement in discipline such as mathematics. The result is lack of preparation and its attendant tension towards attempting questions especially in examination halls. This lack of preparation is depicted in what Chukwu George (2008) in a project termed lack of readiness according to Uche Azikwe that, “Good reading (studying) calls for a strong interest in and a purpose for reading.”

Students are aware of the fact that they fail in examination due to late preparation. This scenario is very much applicable to first year students who are easily carried away by personal freedom offered in tertiary institutions and tend to forget that their primary purpose is to pay attention to their studies. Unnecessary visits, telephone browsing, pinging, live chats on internet and social gathering on special occasions are some of the numerous activities which keep students busy while they neglect their studies. Studying becomes tiresome at the end of such activities and when they eventually get to their hostels, they quickly doze off. As examination approaches, these sets of students realize that they have not studied their books and subsequently embark on studies when it is almost late. Consequence, they fail woefully due to late preparation. Kwaku Sakyi- Danso (2008) summed it up with the following words.

“But I would say modernization is also compounding this problem. Instead of reading, the youth want to be jamming out there”.

According to Babatunde Olaosebikan (2008), “Africa used to have good reading culture until the advent of home video which has taken over reading.” The advent of internet and its corresponding social networks have very much compounded the problem under study. Rufai (2005) stated “most students read when on the internet.” This sad situation has made it difficult for some students to read their textbooks instead of sitting in front of system surfing the net if invested in reading or studying of books could go a long way in determining the performance of students in mathematics.

Third world countries are rated backward, poor and under developed and it is obvious in Nigeria that the standard of living of many homes is low and pathetic. In a survey conducted by the BBC on Africa, Alagbo M (2005) argued that “parents struggle to pay their children school fees. Make provisions but in the area of materials they find it difficult if not totally impossible.” And if parents go through this stress, how much more the students themselves? Most students in tertiary institutions find it difficult to feed adequately, let alone have enough to provide for themselves with relevant books for a more intensive study of their area of discipline. It is true that a student should be able to do considerably well in his field of study but looking at the exorbitant cost of many mathematics textbooks, who would blame the students? The students in this situation cannot help encountering problems in term of academic performance in their relevant fields.

The scenario is best described in the words of Kapinga Ntumba (2008):

“Don’t we say an empty stomach has no ears? Is it really possible to concentrate on reading when my stomach is still requesting for something to fill it? In Africa we first have to overcome the problem of hunger before we can concentrate on other things. This has nothing to do with culture, but we do prioritize, and food comes first.”

Asikhia O. A (2010) noted that there is consistent failure of the subject at secondary school level. Many students have lost so much interest in the subject. They believe they can never perform well in the subject. Hence many students seemed not to be interested in the subject. How can you perform well in a subject you are interested in? Loss of interest in a subject will prevent the students from understanding what is being taught which will eventually leads to failure.

Adebanjo B. A. (2009) quoted Eggen and Kauchack that teacher positive characteristics are fundamentals to effective teaching. Teachers or lecturers should understand that cordial relationship with students influences their level of performance in the course of study. When the lecturers, and makes the lecturers approachable. Various scholars such as Thomas G in Teacher Effective Training (TET) model have written on ways by which the teacher can improve and establish positive relationship with students.

In conclusion, the perception of students on the causes of poor academic performance is all-embracing. It cuts across the attitude of stakeholders in education. In as much as various factors have been attributed to lecturers and the school environment, yet students who offer Mathematics Poor academic performance in elementary mathematics, as discussed above, is a combination of many factors such as teacher’s method of teaching, lack of revision, late preparation, inadequate facilities, advent of internet, low standard of living, loss of interest as a result of the level of difficulty and repeated failures.


1.         The inability of student to revise their notebooks after lecture hours goes a long way to affect their performance in elementary mathematics.

2.        Reading for examination purposes alone contributes to low performance of students in the field of Mathematics.

3.        Influence of internet as distraction is a major factor on low performance of students in elementary mathematics.

4.        Attitude and methodology of lecturers are key factors of poor performance in elementary mathematics.

5.        Poor and inadequate educational facilities are determining factors of performance in elementary mathematics.


The research work is based on investigating and discovering the factors responsible for the poor performance in elementary mathematics from the perception of students in Tertiary Institutions.


1.        Does the inability of students revise their notes after lecture hours affect their academic performance in elementary mathematics?

2.        Is reading for examination purposes alone a contributing factor to poor academic performance in elementary mathematics?

3.        Are the internet and social networks major factors of poor academic performance in elementary mathematics?

4.        Do teacher attitude and methodology exert an influence on the performance of students in elementary mathematics?

5.        Are students using the available educational facilities to the optimum?


1.        Is there any significant difference between the lecturer’s method of teaching and the student’s assimilation?

2.        Do the lecturer’s attitude and methodology affect the performance of the student’s in elementary mathematics?

3.        Does reading for examination purposes only have any significant effect on student’s performance in elementary mathematics?

4.        Is there any relationship between available educational facilities and academic performance of student in elementary mathematics?


The result of the findings will be beneficial to students as It will reveal the underlying causes of poor performance in elementary mathematics from the point of view of concerned students.

It will also be of great benefit to all lecturers and administrators of tertiary institutions as it will provide current opinions held by students on reasons for their poor performance in elementary mathematics. The information will guide in re-organizing and restricting the methods and behavioral positions in teaching elementary mathematics.

Government at all levels will be encouraged to make favorable educational policies in term of the provision of educational and academic facilities and adequate training of mathematics teacher.


This research project centers on students perception of the cause of poor academic performance in elementary mathematics taking TAI-SOLARIN UNIVERSITY OF EDUCAION (TASUED) as a major case study but opinion could be gathered from other tertiary institutions around Ogun state.


The case study of Tai-Solarin University of Education (TASUED) is centered on students’ perception of poor academic performance in elementary mathematics targeted at 200 students at all levels from major department of TASUED. The departments under consideration are: Computer science, Agricultural science, Information and Computer Technology, Mathematics, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Industrial Chemistry, Petrochemical sciences, Health Education, Hotel and Human Management, Secretariat Administration. Four questionnaire each for each level will be administered to each of the department, excluding Health Education, Hotel and Human management and Secretariat Administration which will be administered 8 questionnaires for each level. The major reason for the difference in the questionnaire is because many students do not perform well in elementary mathematics from the department of Health Education, Hotel and Human management and Secretariat studies.


Assessment: A system of giving a student a final mark/grade based on work done during a course of study rather than on one examination.

Attitude: The way that you think and fell about somebody or something.

Discipline: An area of knowledge, a subject that people study or are taught especially in a university.

Elementary: The first stage of a course of study.

Facilities: One of several things that cause or influence something.

Internet: An international computer network connecting other network and computer from companies, universities, etc

Perception: How well or badly you do something.

Positive: Completely sure that something is correct or true.

Student: A person studying at a university or college.

Tertiary: A higher school that provide education for people.


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