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The problems encountered by education in Nigeria is dated back to
1960 from its independence which include; inadequate instructional
material, high enrolment rate, few managerial skills, lack of technical
know-how in schools laboratory, increased school expenditure, mass
failure in public examinations, unqualified teachers, poor quality of school
leavers and lack of comprehensive curricula in schools.
Recently, it has been discovered that one of the ways by which the
Nigerian educational system can function effectively in this Information
Technology age is to equip and create better awareness for people and a
more principled and standard school mathematics.
The Principles and Standards for School Mathematics was
developed by the NCTM. The NCTM's stated intent was to improve
mathematics education. The contents were based on surveys of existing
curriculum materials, curricula and policies from many countries,
educational research publications, and government agencies. The original
draft was widely reviewed at the end of 1998 and revised in response to
hundreds of suggestions from teachers.
Mathematics as we know is considered as a pivot subject to any art
of useful living and societal development. Mathematics is a science of
quality and space, it is systematic in organization and exact because of its
numerical and computational operation in which its involved in. this skills
are what we are daily use in our trading activities.
According to Sanya(1985), in his research work, he mentioned that
mathematics is an hinge and the central core of our educational system.
Mathematics consists of some major branches which are arithmetic,

statistics, algebra, geometry and trigonometry to mention a few of them.

However in this research work, the scope of the study is limited to conic
Therefore this study investigates into the difficulties encountered by
students in solving conic sections in senior secondary schools.

The reason for this study is to state the nature of the problems
students encounter that reduce the quality of academic performance in
conic sections in mathematics. From observation, students have
performed shabbily in mathematics and these are attributed to some
factors like non-conducive environment, inadequate instructional
materials, indiscipline among students, and inadequate power supply in
senior secondary schools located in some Lagos suburbs. Furthermore,
some of the reasons attributed to the poor quality performance of
students in mathematics also include:


Phobia for mathematical concepts.

Students inability to interpret the mathematical word-problems.
Abstractive nature of the topic.

The purpose of this study is therefore to:
a. Explain the concept of conic sections.
b. List types of conic sections.
c. State the relationship between parabola, ellipses and
d. Identify the area of difficulties SSS2 students face while solving
conic sections.
e. Suggest possible solutions that can help to improve the
performance of the students in conic sections.



Conics sections has been alleged described as a difficult and aspect

of the senior secondary school curriculum. This study will help foster a
zealous attitude towards the topic and help create a less tense
atmosphere in a mathematics class.
The study will correct the wrong notion concerning conics and its
relevance to the students after the lapse of their schooling days,
especially the need to learn and know it.
The study will particularly bring to the consciousness the
significance of conics to the publishers of mathematics text and materials
towards the production of modern conic related texts.

This study will help channel more effort to rescue the students from
their poor performance in the field of conics in mathematical science as a
result of their difficulties in studying, interpreting, understanding solving
and manipulating their ways around some basic mathematical concepts.


The study sought to answer to the following research questions:

o What are the difficulties students encounter in relating conics.
o What is the relationship between conics.
o How does the conic sections apply to the students.
o What difficulties do the students have while identifying different
conic sections.



There will be no significant difference between the quality of
academic performance in mathematics of students from a
high-income earning family background and students from a
low-income earning family background.


There is a significant difference between the quality of
academic performance of students from a high-income
earning family background and students from a low-income
earning family background.


This study researches into the problems students encounter while
solving conic and its relevance in five (5) selected schools which are:

Fazl-I-Omar Senior High School, Iwaya-Yaba.

St Angus Senior College, Morrocco-Yaba
Wesley Senior Girls High School, Sabo-Yaba.
St Timothy College Onike-Yaba
Eletu-Edibo Senior High School, Akoka-Yaba.

This text used covers all key features in conic sections and stating of
the formulae for solving few conic section types.

Conic Section: Conic section is the intersection of a

right (or oblique) circular cone and a plane.

Conics: These are curves that have directrix, focus,
vertices and a lactus rectum. Example of conics are;
Parabola, hyperbola and ellipses.

Parabola: A parabola is a curve that at any point on it.

The distance from the fixed point (called focus) is equal to the
distance from a fixed point.
Ellipse: The ellipses is a curve such that the sum of the
distances from any point on the curve to two fixed points
(called foci) is constant.
Hyperbola: An hyperbola is the graph of all points such
that the magnitude of the differences of the distances from
two fixed points is a positive constant
Lactum rectum: This is a line that share the same
distance as the distance of the directrix to the midpoint.
Foci: . This is a point at which the line makes a tangent
with another point on the arc of the locus.
Eccentricity: This is the ratio, constant of any particular
conic section, of the distance of a point from the focus to its
distance from the directrix.
Directrix: This is a line used to define a curve or surface,
especially a line, the distance from which a point on a conic
has a constant ratio to that from the focus.
Origin: The point at which the axis of a co-ordinate
system intersects.
Vertices: A line used to define a curve or surface;
especially a line, the distance from which a point on a conic
has a constant ratio to that from the focus.
Axes: An axis is a fixed one dimensional figure, such as a
line or arc, with an origin or orientation and such that its
points are in one to one correspondence with a set of
numbers; an axis forms part of the basis of a space or it is
used to position and locate data in a graph.



In this Chapter the University of Lagos Library was consulted, and
other sources of information including the internet, journals, publications
and texts. This would continue until there is an evident change in the
learning processes of conics.
These are the following pointers that would be reviewed:

The importance of mathematics as a subject.


The nature of mathematics.


The concept and history of mathematics.


The relationship between parabola, ellipse and hyperbola.

It is said that Mathematics is the gate and key of the Science.
According to the famous Philosopher Kant, "A Science is exact only in so
far as it employs Mathematics". So, all scientific education which does not
commence with Mathematics is said to be defective at its foundation.
Neglect of mathematics works injury to all knowledge.
One who is ignorant of mathematics cannot know other things of
the World. Again, what is worse, who are thus ignorant are unable to
perceive their own ignorance and do not seek any remedy. So Kant says,
"A natural Science is a Science in so far as it is mathematical". And
Mathematics has played a very important role in building up modern
Civilization by perfecting all Science.
In this modern age of Science and Technology, emphasis is given on
Science such as Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Medicine and Engineering.
Mathematics, which is a Science by any criterion, also is an efficient and
necessary tool being employed by all these Sciences. As a matter of fact,
all these Sciences progress only with the aid of Mathematics. So it is aptly
remarked, "Mathematics is a Science of all Sciences and art of all arts."
Mathematics is a creation of human mind concerned chiefly with
ideas, processes and reasoning. It is much more than Arithmetic, more
than Algebra more than Geometry. Also it is much more than
Trigonometry, Statistics, and Calculus.
Mathematics includes all of them. Primarily mathematics is a way of
thinking, a way of organizing a logical proof. As a way reasoning, it gives
an insight into the power of human mind, so this forms a very valuable
discipline of teaching-learning programmes of school subjects everywhere
in the world of curious children. So the pedagogy of Mathematics should
very carefully be built in different levels of school education.
In the pedagogical study of mathematics we mainly concern
ourselves with two things; the manner in which the subject matter is
arranged or the method the way in which it is presented to the pupils or
the mode of presentation. Mathematics is intimately connected with
everyday life and necessary to successful conduct of affairs. It is an
instrument of education found to be in conformity with the needs of
human mind.
Teaching of mathematics has its aims and objectives to be
incorporated in the school curricula. If and when Mathematics is removed,
the back-bone of our material civilization would collapse. So is the
importance of Mathematics and its pedagogic.

Foundations of mathematics is the study of the basic mathematical

concepts (number, geometrical figure, set, function...) and how they form
hierarchies of more complex structures and concepts.
Mathematics is significant in our daily lives because we use a lot of
what we were taught in our daily activities. For instance tiling floors may
be done by figuring the size of the area. Being able to figure out
percentages can come in handy when faced with nutrition labels. Road
signs and recipe books feature fractions that tell us the distance to our
destination or how much of an ingredient to put in a dish. Calculating
monthly bills requires math. Placing pictures on a wall and making certain
they are hanging straight takes some knowledge of geometry.


Mathematics reveals hidden patterns that help us understand the
world around us. Now much more than arithmetic and geometry,
mathematics today is a diverse discipline that deals with data,
measurements, and observations from science; with inference, deduction,
and proof; and with mathematical models of natural phenomena, of
human behavior, and of social systems

The special role of mathematics in education is a consequence of its

universal applicability. The results of mathematics--theorems and
theories--are both significant and useful; the best results are also elegant
and deep. Through its theorems, mathematics offers science both a
foundation of truth and a standard of certainty.

In addition to theorems and theories, mathematics offers distinctive

modes of thought which are both versatile and powerful, including
modelling, abstraction, optimization, logical analysis, inference from data,
and use of symbols. Experience with mathematical modes of thought
builds mathematical power--a capacity of mind of increasing value in this
technological age that enables one to read critically, to identify fallacies,
to detect bias, to assess risk, and to suggest alternatives. Mathematics
empowers us to understand better the information-laden world in which
we live.
Applications of one part of mathematics to another--of geometry to
analysis, of probability to number theory--provide renewed evidence of the
fundamental unity of mathematics. Despite frequent connections among
problems in science and mathematics, the constant discovery of new
alliances retains a surprising degree of unpredictability and serendipity.
Whether planned or unplanned, the cross-fertilization between science
and mathematics in problems, theories, and concepts has rarely been
greater than it is now, in this last quarter of the twentieth century.


Conic sections are among the oldest curves, and is one of the oldest
math subject studied systematically and thoroughly. The conics seems to
have been discovered by Menaechmus (a Greek, c.375-325 BC), tutor to
Alexander the Great. They were conceived in an attempt to solve the three
famous construction problems of trisecting the angle, doubling the cube,
and squaring the circle. (These problems lingered until early 19th century
when it was shown that it's impossible to solve them with the help of only
a straightedge and a compass.) The conics were first defined as the
intersection of: a right circular cone of varying vertex angle; a plane
perpendicular to an element of the cone. Apollonius (c. 262-190 BC)
consolidated and extended previous results of conics into a monograph
Conic Sections, consisting of eight books with 487 propositions.
. This can be seen as the shadow of a ball placed on a table. The
shadow cast by a light source above the ball is an ellipse. If the light
source is in a plane parallel to the table that passes the top of the ball, a
parabola is formed. Lower the light source, then you get one branch of a
hyperbola. The point where the ball touches the table is the focus of the
conics. We can think of the light source as the vertex of a cone. The light
source projects through a circle on the ball to form a right circular cone.
The table is then the cutting plane. More generally, the projection of a
circle on any plane forms a conic section. Shadows in the shape of conics
are often seen on the wall of a nearby lamp with circular openings in its

Apollonius was the first to base the theory of all three conics on
sections of one circular cone, right or oblique. He is also the one to give
the name ellipse, parabola, and hyperbola.


A parabola is a curve that at any point on it. The distance from the
fixed point (called focus) is equal to the distance from a fixed point.

The line of symmetry, L passing through V and F is called The axis

of the parabola. The line of symmetry meets the parabola at a point V
which is called the vertex of the parabola. The distance |VF| is the length
of the focus and of course the point F is the Focus. The broken line MN
which is parallel to the directrix and is cut off by the parabola called lactus
rectum. The length of the lactus rectum is always 4c, where c is the
distance from the focus to the vertex.


The ellipses is a curve such that the sum of the distances from any

On the curve to two fixed points (called foci) is constant.

Points F1 and F2 are The foci. The point O is the centre. The line from
A1 to A2 is called The major axis and that from point B1 and B2 is called
The minor axis. The points A1 and A2 are The vertices.


A hyperbola is the graph of all points such that the magnitude of the
differences of the distances from two fixed points is a positive constant.
The two fixed points are called Foci.

The figure above is an example of a hyperbola with O as its centre,

points F1 and F 2 as its foci.


The conics have similar characteristics and attributes with make
them similar to each other in many ways, some of which are:

The formula
The origin
The directrix
The focus
The Vertices.
Their axes.
The Eccentricity.

The Formula:
These conics sections have a similar formula which differ a little
from each other. For example:

Y2 = 4ax.

x y
+ 2 =1
a b

y2 x2
2 =1
a b
The foci, origin axes eccentricity

which is e=

a where e > 1 are

the same, are the same while the directrix in ellipsis are two while
hyperbola has no directrix. The vertices in hyperbola and ellipses
are two while parabola has only one ellipse.


This chapter deals with the research methodology adopted to investigate
the difficulty encountered by the student in solving problems in Conic sections in
S.S.S 2 in Yaba local government area of Lagos state and the following describes
the research design and procedures adopted during the conduct of this study,
and these are:
3.2 Population
3.3 Sample
3.4 Sampling techniques.
3.5 Research Instrument.
3.6 Procedures for data analysis.

The population consist of senior secondary schools in Yaba Local
Government Area.

By target population, the sample consists of twenty(20) Senior Secondary
School Class two(2) selected at random in five senior secondary schools each,
irrespective of variables such as their age, gender, family background, colour,
height, or intelligence quotient. This schools are:

Fazl-I-Omar Senior High School, Iwaya-Yaba.

St Angus Senior College, Morrocco-Yaba
Wesley Senior Girls High School, Sabo-Yaba.
St Timothy College Onike-Yaba
Eletu-Edibo Senior High School, Akoka-Yaba.


In this study, a simple random probability sampling technique was used to
select students to be used as a case-study for the research work.


In this study, a closed/structured questionnaire and achievement test were
been used to investigate the difficulties encountered by the students in solving
problems on conic sections in mathematics in selected senior secondary schools
in Yaba Local Government Area of Lagos State.
The questionnaire is designed to show the respondent level of academic
performance some example of the question are;

Do you have an ample time to read at home?

(a) Yes
(b) No
Do you consult your parents for assistance in some mathematical
(a) Yes
(b) No

The achievement test questions were given to the student senior

secondary school two (S.S.S2) which was designed to find out the difficulties
encountered by the students in solving problems on conic sections. This test
consists of twenty objective questions and one theory in which an hour fifteen
minutes was allocated for the students.
Generally the questions were drawn from conic sections, the drawn
questions where simple problems the students could solve very well if they were


In the test analysis, the questions were used to detect the student area of
difficulties. Analysis of Variance was used in analysing the data.
In the analysis the questionnaire for both teachers and student involves
percentage frequency.

Butler H.C and Wren L.F (1960), The teaching of Secondary School Mathematics,
McGraw-Hill Book Company.
Osifodunrin A.S.A and Yamoah Olusegun (1996), An Introduction to Co-Ordinate
Geometry, JAS Publishers Akoka.
Donald F.D and Jerome E.K (1977), Elementary Mathematics, Published by John
Wiley and Sons Inc.
Wojciech Wisniowski (2009) Article on the low achievement in mathematics, the
teachers perspective.
Jolanta Galecka, (2011) Trends that changing Education.