Anxiety in mathematics is a common occurrence in pupils of all grades and levels. Mathematics anxiety has a wide range of consequences, from poor academic achievement to poor individual analytical and problem-solving skills. In this light, this study was done to objectively investigate and measure mathematics anxiety and performance among school children. This assessment was conducted entirely based on the students’ perceptions. A quantitative research approach was used, as well as a survey study design. Following approval from the different school authorities, 121 students were enrolled in the study. The survey findings were examined using frequency and percentage counts. The one-sample t-test statistics tool was used to test the null hypothesis. The study’s findings indicated that teachers’ teaching styles are one of the key sources of mathematics anxiety among pupils. Sample questions given to students during classwork, tests, and examinations are also causes of mathematics anxiety. Further research indicates that background knowledge from family and peers contributes to pupils’ maths fear. The hypothesis test result indicated that male and female students experience significantly different levels of anxiety. This research suggests that teachers examine their teaching styles and ensure that mathematical formulas and processes are broken down into simple stages for pupils to understand.
1.1 Background of the study
Mathematics has been considered as one of the essential courses which most disciplines rely on using mathematical thinking. It is a key component in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. Mathematical knowledge is a critical aspect for students’ future professional success; hence research (Claessens & Engel, 2013; Konvalina, Wileman, & Stephens, 1983) on teaching and learning mathematics has gotten a lot of attention over the years. According to Fritz, Haase, and Räsänen (2019), mathematics is commonly perceived as difficult, supporting the idea that rather than teaching the content and practices of mathematics, the primary focus should be on students’ experiences with the subject and providing mathematical sense-making opportunities (Li & Schoenfeld, 2019). More specifically, as students’ experiences with mathematics have not been very good, the function of mathematics in other fields of study has been a growing research topic in tertiary institutions.
According to Li & Schoenfeld (2019), students’ negative mathematical experiences have been linked to anxiety. In the context of mathematics education, little study has been done on the nexus between mathematics anxiety, mathematics self-efficacy, and learning methodologies among STEM and social science students. In general, anxiety is regarded as a mental health condition in children and adolescents that is important to address since it can have long-term consequences (Monroe & Harkness, 2005; McLaughlin, Conron, Koenen, & Gilman, 2010; Bandoli, Campbell-Sills, Kessler, Heeringa, Nock, et al, 2017). Young individuals are more vulnerable to their immediate environment than adults, and they have fewer resources and previous experiences to deal with stressful events (Stadler & Walitza, 2021). As a result of their emotions of insecurity, individuals are more influenced by stressful situations. Individual, familial, or parental-related risk and resilience factors influence the extent and ability of children and adolescents to cope (Stadler & Walitza, 2021).
Anxiety disorders afflict millions of children, according to the Child’s Mental Health Report (2018), and prevent them from attaining their full potential. “We still have a long way to go”, the report concludes. Anxiety is a gateway condition that can lead to despair, school failure, suicide, and substance abuse if left untreated. Because children are generally quite young when anxiety strikes, they learn to suffer in silence from an early age. Worry, trouble with uncertainty, an over reactive response to perceived threats (including freezing), and avoidance are the hallmarks of anxiety. Some young people avoid or become excessively scared of school subjects, events or objects that provoke their fears, while others react with rage and panic. This behaviour is frequently misinterpreted as rage or disagreement. Few teachers recognize the serious distress experienced by secondary school children with phobias or social anxiety disorder, and their troubles may be attributed to “shyness.” Many young individuals are unaware that their irrational emotions could be the result of a treatable condition rather than a personal flaw. In previous years, health care practitioners have become more aware of anxiety in young people, with one study finding a 17 percent increase in anxiety disorder diagnoses (Bitsko, Holbrook, Ghandour, Blumberg, Visser, Perou, & Walkup, 2018). Teens and their parents are becoming more aware of the seriousness of anxiety disorders, and they are beginning to push for treatment at a level that significantly exceeds that of a generation ago. LeViness, Bershad, & Gorman, (2017) observed that anxiety is the most common source of concern in schools. Despite increased awareness, the proportion of youth who receive treatment remains the lowest of all the major categories of mental health disorders, significantly below the population’s anxiety prevalence (Polanczyk, Salum, Sugaya, Caye, & Rohde, 2015). Thirty percent of children and adolescents will satisfy the criteria for an anxiety disorder at some point, yet eighty percent will never seek care.
Anxiety disorders affect almost 117 million young people worldwide. Although approximately 10% of kids ages 6–17 have an anxiety disorder, over 20% will have functional issues due to anxiety in at least one aspect of life by early adulthood (Copeland, Angold, Shanahan,& Costello, 2014). Anxiety can affect a child’s social and educational functioning, as well as other aspects of their lives. According to Twenge (2015) secondary school students today experience more anxiety symptoms and are twice as likely to see a mental health professional than teens in the 1980s. LeViness et al. (2017) observed and concurred that anxiety has superseded depression as the most common complaint among secondary school students seeking mental health services, he concurred with this assessment, noting that anxiety is the most common issue, followed by stress.
1.2 Statement of the problem
Mathematics anxiety is a psychological situation that is less talked about in schools and homes. It is an undeniable situation that exists among students of secondary schools and even the tertiary institutions. Anxiety in mathematics has the potential of resulting to poor performance in mathematics and general academic achievement of students. Research (Claessens & Engel, 2013; Konvalina, Wileman, & Stephens, 1983 )has shown that mathematics achievement in students is influenced by psychological factors such as mathematics anxiety. In the mathematical context, it appears that many students who are weak in mathematics worry while attempting to use maths skills to solve problems (Mohamed and Tarmizi, 2010; Arem, 2003; Rahim, 2002; Tobias, 1995). The findings of Marsh and Tapia (2002) indicate that students with low levels of maths anxiety feel more excited, more confident and highly motivated to learn mathematics when compared to students who have high anxiety levels. Puteh (2002) describes mathematics anxiety as a repetitive process that is based on information gathered by individuals from their surroundings. This information is accumulated and becomes the personal experience of individuals, which finally informs their beliefs toward mathematics. It is the focus of this study to critically examine from the impacts of mathematical anxiety towards learning mathematics in some selected schools in Oredo local government area, Edo state and based on this information make valuable suggestions.
1.3 Objectives of the study
The primary goal of this study is to examine the Mathematics anxiety and performance among school students in Oredo local government area, Edo state. Specifically, the objectives of this study are:
- To determine the causes of students anxiety towards mathematics.
- To examine the performance of students with regards to anxiety in mathematics.
- To examine whether there is a difference in anxiety between male and female students.
1.4 Research questions
The following research questions guided this study:
- What are the causes of students’ anxiety towards mathematics?
- What is the effect of students’ anxiety to their performance in mathematics?
- Are there significant differences in anxiety towards mathematics between male and female students?
1.5 Research Hypothesis
H0: There is no significant difference in mathematics anxiety between male and female secondary school students.
H1: There is a significant difference in mathematics anxiety between male and female secondary school students.
1.6 Significance of the study
Anxiety among students is not greatly discussed, thus, this research will serve as a discussion material that captures the causes of mathematics anxiety from the perspective of the students. Also, the study will provide insights to teachers on proactive ways to mitigate anxiety in students not just for mathematics but for other core subjects which students consider difficult. Finally, this study serves as an academic contribution to knowledge.
1.7 Scope of the study
This study is carried out to accommodate the views and perception of secondary school students in Oredo Local government Area. The respondents includes students from the ages of 14 to 18. The findings of this study can be applied to other students in the state, although its source is from one LGA. The researcher experienced some shortfalls like poor willingness of students to participate in the survey and the cost of eliciting information from different secondary schools.
1.8 Limitation Of The Study
In the course of carrying out this study, the researcher experienced some constraints, which included time constraints, financial constraints, language barriers, and the attitude of the respondents. However, the researcher were able to manage these just to ensure the success of this study.
1.9 Definition of Terms
Perception: the way and manner a situation, phenomenon, or condition is understood and interpreted.
Anxiety: A psychological feeling of fear and failure before undertaking a task or event.
Students: A group of individuals that attend a formal setting of learning.
1.10 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.
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