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This chapter is organized under the following sub-headings; background of study, Research questions, Hypotheses, Significance of the study, delimitation of the study, limitation of the study and definition of terms.


  • Background of the Study

Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of explanations and predictions about the universe (Valenti Rull, 214). It is the systematic observation of natural events and conditions in order to discover facts about them and to formulate laws and principles based on the facts.

According to Dr. Sheldon Gottlieb (2011), Science is an intellectual activities carried on by humans that is designed to discover information about the natural world in which the information can be organize into meaningful patterns. Science is valued by society because the application of scientific knowledge helps to satisfy many basic human needs and improve living standards. Science is very important in our daily lives; some of its usefulness is seen in the increment of our fundamental knowledge, creating new technology, procuring cures for ailment, giving us a better world view, among other numerous benefits.

According to Jahal (2018), no nation can make progress and prosperity without scientific knowledge and skilled man power. For this reason, measures should be taken to illuminate the minds of the youth with modern science. Science teaching remains the pre-eminent means by which this knowledge is infused into people by any contemporary civilization (Duschl & Shouse, 2012). Mathematics is the foundation of science and technology and business enterprises escape its application.

Mathematics is the science that deals with the logic of shape, quantity and arrangement. Mathematics is all around us, in everything we do. It is the building block of everything  in our daily lives including mobile device architecture, art, money, engineering and even sport (Eliane J. Home, 2013).

According to Guwhati (2015), mathematics is the study of topics such as quality, space and change. These topics produce the major subdivision of mathematics into Arithmetic, Geometry, Analysis and Algebra. This major discipline aroused out of mathematics because of the need to do calculation in commerce, among others. The subject mathematics contributes more in the improvement of reasoning and logical thinking which are important for intellectual development. The study of mathematics is considered as important and compulsory in every country.

Students are required to learn mathematics which is considered as basic education. Since the skills and abilities acquired from mathematics is very much essential in every walk of life. Hence, the teaching and learning of mathematics attains utmost importance in any school curriculum (Jyothi & Renuka, 2017).

Algebra is the branch of mathematics that deals with symbols and the rules for manipulating them. It is a system for computation, using letters or other symbols. Algebra is a unifying thread of almost all of mathematics. An algebraic equation represents a scale where what is done one side of the scale is also done to the other side.

Alechenu (2012), assert that algebra is about finding the unknown or putting real life variables into equation and then solving them. Managing budgets, paying bills, determining health care costs and planning for future investments will require basic understanding of algebra. Alongwith developing critical thinking specifically logical patterns, problem solving, deductive and inductive reasoning, understanding the core concepts of algebra can help individual’s better handle complex problems and that of finding missing factors.

Despite the relative importance of mathematics, it is very disappointing to note that student’s achievement has remained consistently poor. Mass failure of students in this subject at public examination which was shown in West African Examination Council Annual chief examiners report (2017). The report shows that, students achievement in mathematics at the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) for the past six years has been on the decline. This is substantiated in the West African Examination Council (WAEC) Summary of result from 20111-2017, which stated that: the percentage of students without mathematics are as follows:58.88%, 53.15%, 66.91%, 74.01%, 60.43%, 69.30% and 61.19%.

Peters (2013) identified several factors as responsible for the poor performance of students in mathematics. According to her, some of the factors emanate from sources which are psychological, physiological and environmental. Kurumeh (2010) on his part opined that the reason for the poor performance and fear of mathematics is mainly due to poor algebraic concepts.

According to chief examiners’ report, students areas of deficiency in secondary school certificate examinations shows that students least understand algebraic expressions as shown by their achievement (WAEC, 2017). Research reports indicated that many reasons account for students poor achievement in algebraic, among others, is poor teaching approach (Olunloye, 2010), lack of confidence in the subjects. Instructional approach employed by teachers is one of the most important areas that researchers have put their search light. This assertion has been ascertained by Obodo, 2010, who opined that the method of teaching mathematics in Nigeria is teacher centered, students are not fully involved in teaching-learning process.

Educational researchers have been continuously exploring ways of ensuring that mathematics is properly taught and learned in schools. The implication here is that effective teaching of mathematics should emphasis active learning. According to Olunloye (2010), teachers of mathematics should improve their teaching methods in order to enhance better understanding and application of algebra among the students so that their interest could be aroused. With all the efforts from researchers, the poor achievement of students seems to be on the increase. Thus, there is need to explore better approaches that will improve students achievement, hence this study.

Heuristic means to ‘find’ or to ‘discover’. It is an experienced-based techniques that help in problem-solving, learning and discovering. Heuristic teaching makes use of one or more problem-solving techniques (stones, 2015) and aims to lead learners through well- chosen questions to discover facts, information, relationships and principles for themselves the aim of heuristics is to understand the processes of solving problems especially the mental operation typically useful in the creative thinking involved in problem-solving. Polya (1945) proposed a numbers of strategies, such as to understand the problems by identifying the ‘givens’ and goals, workout a plan by drawing pictures and walking backwards, carryout the plan by actual solving and then look back at the problem. Polya’s four-step model has impacted enormously on the teaching of problem-solving in schools be seen as a proposal for teaching learners how to solve algebraic expressions.

Exposing students to Polya heuristics is highly beneficiary for a good number of reasons; introduces students to use their cognitive abilities and cultivate life-long problem-solving skills, improves comprehension and creativity, keeps them actively involved in the teaching-learning process and as students achieve greater levels of success in the classroom, they will be better equipped to apply their knowledge and skills to other areas of life.

Gender refers to the socially/culturally constructed characteristics and roles which are described to male and females in any society (Okeke, 2017). An issue of contention in Nigeria today is the issue of gender in our society including the educational system. In recent times, educators have expressed diverse views about gender and achievement especially in mathematics and science. While some are of the view that males do better than females, others disagree with this view, arguing that achievement is a factor dependent on several factors such as socio-economic background teaching method, among others.

In the view of the issues on the use of polya heuristics and lecture method on students achievement mathematics in senior secondary schools. The researcher wishes to investigate the above teaching strategy on students achievement and gender.


1.2       Statement of the Problem

Evidence of poor achievement shown by researcher (Okereke, 2011; WAEC, 2011-2017, NECO, 2017) points to the fact that the current method of teaching mathematics may not be exciting to students. This may lead to students lack of understanding of the concept, functioning and application of mathematical ideas. It is observed that students often dodge questions on algebra and when attempt they show lack of understanding in the concept, reports by WAEC chief examiners (2011), (2015) and (2017).

It is also observed that students fail mathematics because they lack the skills to respond to test items (WACE, 2010). This skills can only be imparted through effective teaching. Can the use of Polyahenristics enhance students’ academic achievement in Algebra?


1.3       Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of polya heuristic on the achievement of senior secondary students in mathematics.

Specifically, the study is designed to:

  1. Compare the achievement of the students taught mathematics using polya heuristics and when taught using lecture method.
  2. Compare the difference between the mean achievement score of male and female students taught mathematics using polya heuristics.


1.4       Research Questions

In line with the purpose of the study, the following research questions were posed:

  1. What is the mean achievement score of students taught algebraic expressions in mathematics using polya heuristics and those taught using lecture method?
  2. What is the difference between the mean achievement scores of male and female mathematics students taught algebraic expression using polya heuristics strategy?

1.5       Hypotheses

Based on the research questions, the following null hypotheses were formulated to guide the study.

  1. There is no significance difference between the mean achievement score of students taught algebra using polya heuristics and those taught using lecture method.
  2. There is no significance difference between the mean achievement score of male and female students taught algebra using polya heuristics.


1.6       Significance of the Study

This study will be significant to students, mathematics teachers, educational administrations/government curriculum designers and future researchers as well.

The findings of this study will stimulate students interest to acknowledge the essence of problem solving and develop in them the ability to use polya heuristic in solving problems in algebra.

The finding of this study will help in synthesizing mathematics teachers on the need for polya heuristics, thereby revealing to teachers that students can be involved in the teaching and learning process by the use of polya heuristics. The findings of this study will assist administrators of schools and the government to improve classroom instruction by encouraging them to send their teachers for in-service training on how to make teaching and learning effective through the use of polya heuristics.

The findings will enable curriculum designers to take into consideration the inclusion of polya heuristics as a better technique for the teaching of mathematics.

Finally, the findings of the study will serve as a source of information for future researchers as well asdocument for in-service.


1.7       Delimitation of the Study

This study is delimited to the use of polya heuristics in teaching the concept of algebraic expressions. The study is also delimited to Senior Secondary One (SS1)in Eket Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.


1.8       Definition of Terms

Polya Heuristics: These are strategies or steps as propounded by George Polya to help in problem solving.

Students’ Academic Achievement: This is defined as the test scores in mathematics achievement test on Algebra.

Algebra: This refers to the branch of mathematics that uses letters or symbols to represent numbers, with rules for manipulating these symbols.




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