THE INFLUENCE OF STUDENTS’ KNOWLEDGE ON TERMINOLOGIES USED IN MATHEMATICS CURRICULUM ON THE ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF STUDENT IN MATHEMATICS OF JUNIOR SECONDARY SCHOOLS.

THE INFLUENCE  OF STUDENTS’ KNOWLEDGE ON TERMINOLOGIES USED
IN MATHEMATICS CURRICULUM ON THE ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF STUDENT IN MATHEMATICS
OF JUNIOR SECONDARY SCHOOLS.
Abstract
Vocabulary understanding is
a major contributor to overall comprehension in many content areas, including
mathematics. Effective methods for teaching vocabulary in all content areas are
diverse and long standing. Teaching and learning the language of mathematics is
vital for the development of mathematical proficiency. Students’ mathematical
vocabulary learning is a very important part of their language development and
ultimately mathematical proficiency. This article draws on current
research-based evidence to (a) provide a rationale for teaching vocabulary, (b)
offer a review of research that supports the importance of teaching mathematics
vocabulary, and (c) describe specific strategies for teaching mathematics
vocabulary. It also addresses implications and the need for future research.
CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
Background
to the Study
Vocabulary knowledge is
as essential to learning of mathematics as it is to learning how to read. In
language arts, mathematical words conjure up graphic representations of the
objects they label. But when it comes to abstract mathematical concepts, words
describe activities or relationships that often lack a visual counterpart. Yet
studies show that children grasp the idea of quantity, as well as other
relational concepts, from a very early age (Dehaene, 2007).
Mathematics is one of
the core subjects taught in contemporary human society. It is an indispensable
discipline in various field such as science, Engineering, Technology, social
sciences, Arts and others disciplines that are related. Many educators have
considered it as an indispensable to the educated man or woman. As a result of
its importance, it has been considered as a key subject in the school
curriculum. Nevertheless, Mathematics is the language of science.
Mathematics by
educational policy is made compulsory and it is among the core subjects that
have to be passed before any certificate can be issued or awarded to anyone.
The relevance of
Mathematics to the society cannot be over- emphasized. As mathematics is a tool
in science, industry and commerce. It will enhance understanding of students
who have interest in mathematics. It will help the student to correct certain
ills of the society; one very important characteristic of child centered
approaches is play away method or activities. Method which they emphasized in
mathematics like other subject should be made practical where possible in the
classroom.
Mathematical vocabulary
refers to words that label mathematical concepts for example quotient, volume,
vertex, dividend, and hexagon (Sanders, 2007). According to Miller (2003)
students are likely to be handicapped in their effort to learn mathematics if
they do not understand the vocabulary that is used in mathematics classrooms,
textbooks and assessment tests. One of the obstacles that make mathematical
vocabulary difficult to learn is lack of opportunity (Paul and Sinha, 2010).
This is because much of the vocabulary used in mathematics classroom is rarely
encountered in everyday life. In addition, mathematics teachers often neglect
meaningful vocabulary instruction. Also, many terms have meanings in the realm
of mathematics that differ from their meanings in everyday usage (Njoroge,
2003).
Without appropriate
vocabulary instruction, students are likely to experience difficulties and
interference in the learning of concepts for which they have background
knowledge that appears unrelated to mathematics. Students need to know the
meaning of mathematics vocabulary words-whether written or spoken-in order to
understand and communicate mathematics ideas. According to Sanders (2007), terms,
phrases, and symbols are essential in communicating mathematical ideas; and
becoming fluent with them is vital for children’s mathematical learning.
Research reveals that
the knowledge of mathematics vocabulary directly affects achievement in arithmetic,
particularly problem-solving (Staley, 2005). Riordain and O’Donoghue (2009)
indicated that vocabulary knowledge is strongly related to overall academic
achievement in school. Although students may excel in computation, their
ability to apply their mathematics skills will be hindered if they do not
understand the vocabulary required to master content and able to apply in
future situations. Thus teaching vocabulary in the mathematics content area is
a critical element of effective instruction.
Although Mathematics is
a visual language of symbols and numbers, it is expressed and explained through
written and spoken words. Thus, for students to excel in Mathematics, they must
recognize, comprehend and apply the requisite mathematical vocabulary. Teaching
mathematical vocabulary words solely as definitions as is the practice in most
Kenyan schools does not assist students in comprehending the word when found in
Mathematics textbooks and examination items. Students must be actively engaged
in building background knowledge using key content-specific vocabulary.
The
meanings of mathematics
Mathematics is used to
communicate information about a wide range of different subjects. Here are
three broad categories:
        Mathematics
describes the real world: many areas of mathematics originated with attempts to
describe and solve real world phenomena – from measuring farms (geometry) to
falling apples (calculus) to gambling (probability). Mathematics is widely used
in modern physics and engineering, and has been hugely successful in helping us
to understand more about the universe around us from its largest scales
(physical cosmology) to its smallest (quantum mechanics).
        Mathematics
describes abstract structures: on the other hand, there are areas of pure
mathematics which deal with abstract structures, which have no known physical
counterparts at all. However, it is difficult to give any categorical examples
here, as even the most abstract structures can be co-opted as models in some
branch of physics.
        Mathematics
describes mathematics: mathematics can be used reflexively to describe
itself—this is an area of mathematics called meta-mathematics.
Mathematics can
communicate a range of meanings that is as wide as (although different from)
that of a natural language. (Staley, 2005).
Mathematics
by educational policy is made compulsory and it is among the core subjects that
have to be passed before any certificate can be issued or awarded to anyone.
The
relevance of Mathematics to the society cannot be over- emphasized. As
mathematics is a tool in science, industry and commerce. It will enhance
understanding of students who have interest in mathematics. It will help the
student to correct certain ills of the society; one very important
characteristic of child centered approaches is play away method or activities.
Method which they emphasized in mathematics like other subject should be made
practical where possible in the classroom.
The
problem of poor mathematical vocabulary has come into the spotlight again with
the concern being at the state, national, and global levels. The language of
mathematics is more difficult to read than any other subject area. The
mathematics material is so difficult to read, “with more concepts per word, per
sentence, and per paragraph than any other area”, it is particularly crucial to
emphasize vocabulary instruction in this content area (Monroe, 2007, p.4).
Monroe’s
study investigated the effectiveness of graphic organizers in teaching the
vocabulary of mathematics. The results he found were that graphic organizers
can help develop conceptual understanding. Vocabulary research has been done at
all levels and social settings. Stahl’s and Fairbanks’ (2006) study looked at
the concerns with the effect of vocabulary instruction on the learning of word
meanings and on comprehension. They looked at the curriculum and teachers;
Stahl
and Fairbanks found two setting factors that have an effect on vocabulary
learning and comprehension. These factors are: a) whether instruction is
largely individual or done at least partly in a group setting and b) the amount
of time allocated to instruction.
As
for the curriculum, Schwarz (2009) states that mathematics curriculum needs to
focus more on content vocabulary and its usefulness to communicate
mathematically through both written and oral means. Schwarz targeted students,
who exhibited poor understanding of content vocabulary for mathematics. In her
study, some of the strategies that helped her target group increase their
mathematical vocabulary knowledge were: vocabulary journals, math journals, and
word walls.
Student
Knowledge/Attitude
According
to Rubenstein (2007) students see mathematics as a foreign language because of
the vocabulary that is used solely in that content area. Another person who did
some research on this was Dresher (1934). He also found results that showed
mathematics, like other school subjects, have a technical vocabulary. According
to Dresher (1934), pupils cannot work problems if they cannot read and
understand them; they cannot understand the explanation of a problem if they do
not understand the terminology used. He made these claims almost seventy-five
years ago, and just six years ago Blessman and
Myszczak (2001) had basically the same finding.
Students must understand the language of math in order to fully comprehend
concepts being learned. Also, Schwarz (1999) states in her research that if
students are unable to read and understand the directions to a mathematics
problem, they will be unable to answer the problem.
Reading
these articles shows that the research I am thinking about has been the focus
of some researchers for a long time with the findings coming up the same.
Students need to be aware that the mathematical vocabulary that their teacher
is teaching is something that will be important throughout their lives. Schwarz
came up with the conclusion that for students to better understand mathematical
vocabulary they must learn to recognize symbols, recognize vocabulary words
that name symbols, remember that symbols and words have the same meaning and
are pronounced the same, and they need to understand concepts expressed by the
symbols and words.
According
to Kotsopoulos (2007), students must continually and actively negotiate among
the mathematical meaning of a word, its everyday language meaning, and its new
meaning as well as its alternative meaning within the mathematical register. Blessman
and Myszczak (2001) along with Schwarz (1999) found results showing that
students need to understand the vocabulary before they can do the work.
Teachers and students alike need
to realize that all students need to have a strong
understanding of mathematical vocabulary in order to be successful math
students.
Statement
of the Problem
It has been observed
that many secondary school students finds mathematics as a difficult subject to
pass due to their inability to comprehend effectively the vocabularies of
Mathematics used in the curriculum. The final year academic output in
mathematics in West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) and other external examinations
signify the poor knowledge of students about the vocabularies used in the
teaching content. It is against this background that the researcher wishes to
critically examine the students’ knowledge on vocabularies (Mathematical
Language) used in curriculum of junior secondary school.
Delimitation
of the Study
      
The study is specifically talking about the students’ knowledge on
vocabularies (Mathematical Language) used in curriculum of junior secondary
school. The study will concentrate on the mathematic vocabularies used in
teaching students and their consequence effects on the academic performance of
student in (5) Junior Secondary Schools in Ikere Local Government Area of Ekiti
State.
Purpose of the Study
The broad objective of the research project is to examine the
students’ knowledge of vocabularies used by their teachers in teaching
mathematics and subsequent impact on their academic output in Mathematics in
secondary schools in Ekiti State.
       The specific
objectives are;
1.    To examine what mathematical vocabularies
means to the junior secondary students in Ekiti State.
2     To determine the relationship between mathematical
language and academic achievement of Mathematics students in secondary schools
in Ekiti State.
Significance of the Study
The study will help the
school, ministry of education, government, teachers and curriculum planners to
provide solution for effective way of helping the students to comprehend the
vocabularies used in mathematics.
It will enable the
government to employ adequate qualified teachers, to enhance effective learning
and teaching process. The findings will enable the teachers to make their
teaching more interesting by arousing and sustaining the interest of their
students. The study would go a long way to improve students’ ability in solving
problems with big vocabularies in Mathematics and also reduce teaching problems
in a greater measure.
Research
Questions
The following questions were of
interest in my research and helped drive this focus:
1.    
How did the integration of vocabulary strategies into the
mathematics curriculum increase low socio-economic students’ proficiency in
mathematics?
2.    
Does the student’s prior knowledge of vocabularies have any
significant effect on their academic performance?
3.    
What were the attitudes and opinions of the adopted
curriculum strategies among learners? 

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