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          SANI SAIDU


      Literatures have shown that calculators and computers have
been integrated into the mathematics curriculum of many
countries in the world, but in Nigeria the story is different. The
aim of this paper was to find the students views on the usage of
scientific calculators in public examination such as UTME,
NECO SSCE. Sixty candidates were randomly sample in four
different examination centers during 2010 Unified Tertiary
Matriculation     Examination.   Data    was    collected    using
questionnaires. Both descriptive and inferential statistics were
used to analyze the result. The findings of the study include the
following: The candidates’ posses’ scientific calculators; they
can also use scientific calculators well. However the findings
showed that candidates always device other means of checking
how reasonable the answer given by calculators is, before they
use it. Finally some recommendations were given.


     The invention of Logarith m tables, slide rule, calculators

and computers is meant to make computations easier. However,

the introduction of calculators in teaching and learning of

mathematics in many countries generated a lot of debates and

controversies. Despite these debates and controversies there are

evidences which show that calculators and computers are used in

teaching and learning as well as examinations in many education

systems in the world, Kiano& Salani (2004). In addition to this,

Waits & and Bert (1994) reported that the use of hand held

calculators has forever changed the way students are taught and

forever changed the way students learn mathematics. Computing

quickly and accurately is very essential in solving mathetimatical

problems. The method may be mental mathematics, paper and

pencil, calculator or computer but this is just one part of problem

solving process. Students must also know what kind of operation

to perform and be able to identify the appropriate numb er to use.

In other words Hembree and Dessart (1986) assert “real

mathematics means knowing a variety of strate gies for problem

solving and having the ability to apply them appropriately .

Professional Mandates for Using Calculators

      (NCTM, 2000) declared that calculators should be used in

school at all levels. NCTM expected that the tool would aid

algorithmic instruction, support concept development, reduce

demand for memorization, enlarge the scop e of problem solving,

provide motivation and encourage d iscovery, exploration and

creativity. Similarly, the Australian Association of Mathematical

Teachers has a policy on students’ use of calculators. It suggests

that scientific calculators should be used in the early secondary

schooling both as instructional aids and as a learning tool. (R eys,

& Senuma, 1996) reported that current course of study in Japan

permits the use of calculators after grade 3. That is from Grade 4


     The situation is different in Nigeria where the use of

scientific calculators is no t allowed in most public examinations.

In examination such IJMBE, NECO SSCE, WASSCE and UTME

students are not allowed to use scientific calculators. Why is our

policy different from that of the developed countries? This paper

is aimed at finding the students reaction to this development in

Nigeria and consequently to find out their general attitude

towards the use of calculators in public examinations.

Research Questions

        The following questions were asked in o rder to tackle the

problem at hand.

What are the students views on:-

  i.      The accessibility of     scientific calculators    by th e


  ii.     The usage of scientific calculators by the students

  iii.    The level of dependence on calculators by the student s


        The following hypotheses were formulated based on the

above research questions:

  (i)        Students do not have access to scientific calculators

  (ii)       Students do not enjoy the use of scientific calculators

             in examinations.

  (iii)      Students do not depend completely on the answers

             produce by scientific calculators during examinations .

Literature Review

     Due to the debates on the use of calculato rs in schools,

there exist a lot of literatures on the topic. One of the most

famous researches is that of Hembree and Dessarts (1986) who

conducted   a   Meta-analysis      of   the   effects   of   pre-college

calculators’ use. They analyzed the results of seventy-nine

research reports on student’s achievement and attitude towards

mathematics. Each study involved on group of students using

calculators and another group having no access to calculators.

Hambree and Dessart (1986) concluded that the calculator “did

not delay student acquisition of conceptual skill and that it

significantly improved their attitude and self concept. Also Mc

Cauliff (1994) quoted Hembree and Dessart (1986) saying that in

general, research found that students using calculators possessed

a better attitude towards mathematics than the students who are

not using calculators. Similarly

     Mccauliff (2002), cited Smith (1997) who analyzed twenty

four research studies conducted from 1984 to 1995, asking

questions about attitude and achievement                due to use of

calculators, Smith compared       students using calculators       with

students not using        calculators. Smith study showed that

calculators    had   positive   effects   on   increasing    conceptual

knowledge and positive attitude toward mathe matics.

     In an article on        choosing the proper calculator for

classroom, Denama and Osborne (1988) argue that classrooms

should use scientific calculator which will perform operation in

the correct order, rather than commercial calculator, which will

perform operations as they are entered. For example, a scientific

calculator will correctly evaluate 3x4+5x2 as 2 2, while most

commercial calculators will display 34. More so, Bert & Denama

(1998) stated that the use of calculators provide an unparalleled

opportunity to deliver better mathematics education than we have

ever thought possible. And it can be delivered to all students

because   of   the   rapid   expansion    of   inexpensive    powerful

calculator and computer technology all over the world. Infact

with less than N 200 a student can purchase a scientific



        The target of the study was the candidates of Unified

Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME 2010 ). The study

was carried out in four examination centers at Federal College of

Education, Zaria. Data was collected using a questionnaire. The

questionnaire was validated by a chief lecturer in the above

named college. The data was analyzed using the statistical

package for social science (SPSS). The questionnaire consisted

of 4-point Likert scale. I.e. Strongly Agreed (S.A), Agreed (A)

Disagree (D) strongly Disagree (S.A) .

The Quantitative variables in the study are as follows:

Accessibility to scientific calculator

  (i)       I can afford to buy a scientific calculator

  (ii)      I have a scientific calculator

Usage of Scientific Calculator

  (iii)     I can use scientific calculator well

  (iv)      I enjoy using calculators in learning and during


  (v)       I use only calculators in the classroom

  (vi)     I use both four figure table & calculators in the


Dependence on Calculators

  (vii)    Anything that calculator can be use for; I can do it

           using four figure tables.

  (viii)   I feel handicapped in examination without a calculator

  (ix)     I accept any answer that appears on the screen of my

           calculator without checking

  (x)      I always find other means of checking how reasonable

           an answer given by a calculator is, before I use it.


     As presented earlier, the variable s in the questionnaires are

  grouped as follows; V 1 and V 2 are tie together under

  accessibility; while calculator usage comprised of V 3 , V 4 , V 5

  and V 6 , lastly V 7 , V 8 , V 9 and V 1 0 are put together under

  dependence on calculators. The result were summarize in the

  table below.

  Summary of‘t’ test students attitude towards the usage of


Source             N              df              t-value         Decision

Accessibility 60                  59              12.236          Rejected
Usage       of 60                 59              4.649           Rejected


Dependence         60             59              2.579           Retained

on calculator

  Accessibility to calculator: Results from the descriptive

  statistics on V 1 and V 2 shows that the means are 3.77 and 3.27

  respectively. Which implies th at majority of the candidates

  can afford to buy scientific calculators and they also posses’

  scientific calculator. Furthermore, the hypothesis which says

  students do not have access to calculators is rejected as it ca n

  be seen above.

  Usage       of   calculators:        The   results   obtained    from      the

  descriptive statistics on V 3 , V 4 , V 5 , and V 6 are as follows:

  First, majority of the students indicated that they can use

  scientific calculators very well, with mean 3.33; they also said

that they enjoy using scientific calcul ators with mean 3.03.

However, the candidates answered that they don’t use only

calculators in the classroom and also during examination

with mean of 2.47, which means they can use both

calculators and four figures tables with mean of 3.10. The

t-test result for the hypothesis which says students do not

enjoy the use scientific calculators in examination is also


Dependence     on   calculators:    Results   from   descriptive

statistics on V 7 showed that candidates can use other means

such as four figures tables in the absence of calculators yet

the out come of V 8 indicated that majority feel handicap in

examination in the absence of scientific calculators. V 8 and V 9

results showed that students do not solely depend on answers

produce by their scientific calculators they always find other

means of verifying the answer.          Finally the hypothesis

which says students do not solely depend on calculators is



  Problem solving in mathematics is not only performing

calculations rather calculations are only part of problem

solving. Since scientific calculators are cheap and affordable

by student; and they are use in teaching and learning in

different countries. There is need for our policy makers to

reexamine the policies on the usage of scientific calculators in

senior secondary schools and public examinations.


(1)   Government should redesign the senior se condary school

      curriculum    to   incorporate   the   use   of   scientific


(2)   Examination bodies such as JAMB , NECO and WAEC

      should allow students to use scientific calculators in



  Bert, K.W, & Demana F. (1998). The Role of Hand -Held
          computer symbolic Algebra in Mathematics
          Education in the Twenty-First century: A call for

  Danama, R.& Obsborne, F (1986). The Role of Hand - Held
        Calculators in Mathematics Education: A meta -
        Analysis. Journal for Research in Mathematics

  Hembree, R. & Dessarts, D. (1986). Effects of Hand held
        calculators in Pre-college mathematic education: A
        meta Analysis. Journal for Research in Mathematics
        Education. 17 (2), 83-89.

  McCauliff, R. (2002). The Calculator in the Elementary
        Classroom. Making a Useful tool out of ineffective
        crutch Retrieved from http/

  National Council of Teachers Mathematics, NCTM (2000):
         Principles and standard for school mathematics,
         April 2000

Kiano L.M and Salani E.B. (2004), Gender a ttitude in the use
         of calculators in junior secondary in Botswana.
         Proceeding of the 28 t h Conference of the
         International Group for the Psychology in
         Mathematic Education.

Reys,B & Senuma,F (1996).The Development of Computation
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         Journal,98 -24