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Many Swedish students failing maths: report

Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 12 Aug 2009, 17:05

Published: 12 Aug 2009 17:05 GMT+02:00

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Mathematics has once again proved to be the major stumbling block, with In 8.5 percent of pupils unable able to achieve a passing grade in the subject, although a higher proportion of those that did pass achieved distinctions.

The new statistics show minor changes on the corresponding figures for 2008 with 88.8 percent of school pupils achieving the passing grades required for high school (gymnasium) entry in the core subjects of Maths, Swedish and English.

"The figure, over 11 percent, would appear high but has largely remained the same for the past decade," Helena Svensson at the board told The Local on Wednesday.

"Over the longer term there has been some decline. Before it was little under ten percent, now it is a little over."

In English 7.1 percent of pupils did not make the grade while in Swedish the figure was 4.1 percent. In Swedish as a second language the figure was 27.5 percent.

The new report is based on preliminary statistics compiled from estimates produced by Statistics Sweden (SCB). Final grades will be published in November.

The board writes that the national statistics hide significant variations between and among school and local municipalities.

Story continues below…

"Schools and municipalities are supposed to ensure that pupils are given the support that they need. They get this support, but may be it is not always the right kind of support," Helena Svensson explained.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

17:25 August 12, 2009 by La Figaro
I think swedes are good in lots of areas like software, IT, etc but currently, they are finding mathematics hard. This isn't new as the trend has been going on for a while now. The question is what can be done to improve their performance and what is the root cause? Are the powerful calculators and formula books used, to blame?
18:14 August 12, 2009 by zorgzorg2
Regarding maths, indeed Sweden has a problem. As a university teacher, I can see the student lack one major thing in mathematical thinking : problem solving. It looks like students know what 2+2 is, but, for the most of them, they fail miserably when we ask "I have 2 candies. John gives me two more. How many do I have now ?".

This is a problem with how maths is taught in Sweden. It's like they learn things by heart (not understanding the what or the how), instead of using their head, which is the basis in mathematics.

I talked with the students and they agree on these facts. Maybe it's time to look back on how maths is taught to find the reasons of the problems of the pupils presented here.
20:03 August 12, 2009 by skatty
Here is a simple calculation; for what reason should somebody invest time, money and energy on math when it's possible to earn money from some other simple ways? I mean I know people who have studied math whole their life to university level and can't even afford to pay their rent now, here in Sweden!!
20:20 August 12, 2009 by Mr G
The level of difficulty reached in England is higher than in Sweden, but in my opinion, it's because teachers (of which I am one), teach better understanding in Sweden.

Better understanding is far better than learning harder topics and not fully understanding.

Learning how to solve maths problems doesn't necessarily mean the students understand what they are doing, or realise if they go wrong, for example with division.

The answer I believe is constant reference to real life situations, and if students don't understand, teachers need to spend the time necessary before carrying on.
21:19 August 12, 2009 by rami.se
I tought Maths and Physics in Sweden in a Gymnasiet.... found the only problem is all teachers are not qualified , not at all

some of them are students in university, some are scientists, some are irrelevant study holders.....

What shall we expect from the kids when no proper mentor?
21:50 August 12, 2009 by EtoileBrilliant
Compare Sweden to FInland where Maths is among the best in the World. Class sizes, teacher training and respectibility of the role of the teacher in society are three good reasons.

Most Swedish parents I know now believe discipline is too lax in Swedish schools and that teaching is now focussed on class control rather than education.
22:12 August 12, 2009 by Petalpusher
I love how TL never links to any of its sources or reports.

I think my own English comprehension has failed me:

"In English 7.1 percent of pupils did not make the grade while in Sweden the figure was 4.1 percent."

Not a correct parallel comparison.
23:19 August 12, 2009 by Dr. Dillner
"Skatty" makes a very good point. Why should someone work hard at Maths when one can succeed in IT without it? Answer: dump Maths and focus on IT programming skills.

Another possibility is classroom discipline. Remove authority from teachers and the atmosphere in the classroom degrades to a point where no learning can occur.

Finally, making the Maths reliant to a child's life is very important; learning for the sake of leaning is good provided you have an autonomous learner (www.LearnerAutonomy.com); learning needs immediate relevance for the marginal learner.
00:16 August 13, 2009 by DavidtheNorseman
So this means that roughly 9 out of 10 students *are* successfully passing Math...

04:17 August 13, 2009 by Hedley

I do not know what is happening in Sweden, besides the info in the article! Mathematics really fun. In my country, Panama, I learnt algebra (not just 2+2, or whether john blah blah blah, that is arithmetics) in high school.

I have studied it for 2 years in junior high school. Whenever I took "advanced" math and physics courses in senior high (sciences specialty) I notice that it is the same stuff I have learnt in junior high! That is the real trick!

However, last statics reveal that reading and arithmetics are a real mess compared to other Latin American countries. Cuba is the best place to study in elementary or high school in Latin America.
04:50 August 13, 2009 by Greg in Canada
"Cuba is the best place to study in elementary or high school in Latin America. "

Cuba has a surprinsingly very good education and health care system for a 3rd world country with a 45 yr American boycott. Great scuba diving also.
11:46 August 13, 2009 by Frobobbles
Notice that pupils with Swedish as a second language had a failure rate of 27.5 percent. This group - which consists almost solely of first or second generation immigrants - thus have the language of their origin as first language. Of course this very same group of immigrants contribute largely to the overall failure rates in english and mathematics.
14:28 August 13, 2009 by Texrusso
The Study of Maths begining at an early age is a good orientation for the left side of the brain which is used for logical thinking and calculations in later life. Mathematics prepares pupils/students for all other education in later life even if you might not even need it in your work life or professional studies later on. Even in IT/Software Engineering, Economics, Business, Social Science, etc.. a mathematically oriented brain is very essential to excel in most disciplines.
22:17 August 13, 2009 by refugee
yes this is everywehre .. student's competitiveness in mathimatics is declining ....may be the technology such as the rady made softwares of calculations r makeing student much more lazy..
01:39 August 15, 2009 by Uncle
Skatty - math is not learned for the sake of math. It is the weights in the brain gym. It employs the brain like no other activity in the world. People who learn math for their entire life become like bodybuilders - a lot of ability with zero use in the real world.

However a bit of math can develop the brains greatly and highly developed logic is one of the side effects. Now show me one successful person without sense of logic and ability to understand where he/she should invest their efforts.

And Dr. Dillner - math is the basis for IT. It is massive contributor to the understanding of software algorithms, to which is impossible to get without all this "school bull". It is like saying - you are going to be an engineer, so dump math and do "engineering" stuff, where a lot depends on Calculus.
21:11 August 25, 2009 by Beynch
This is no doubt a result of the Social Democrats' lowering of standards, all the interest of their perception of "equality". It is yet another example of how Sweden now suffers after years of forced Social Democratic marxism. Sweden would be well advised to vote against Social Democratic rule in 2010.
08:41 September 18, 2009 by suckfist
Take out the immigrants and I bet Sweden's numbers overall would jump-up.
17:14 September 18, 2009 by jag2009
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