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Billions to stop Sweden's maths skills slide

TT/The Local/rm · 6 Sep 2011, 14:34

Published: 06 Sep 2011 14:34 GMT+02:00

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“Mathematics isn’t just any subject. It is a fundamental and basic skill that is completely decisive for Sweden as an industrial nation and for our country’s prosperity,” said minister for education, Jan Björklund, to news agency TT.

The reason behind the slipping standards in maths, Björklund believes, is partly due to non-qualified teachers and partly that the teaching methods are inadequate.

He also said that Sweden has the most hours of independent study in mathematics among EU and the OECD countries.

“Students learn mechanical counting but have no idea what they are doing,” Björklund said.

The government is therefore stepping in with a new drive and will also be influencing the method of teaching – didactics – in Swedish schools.

There will be more lecture-based teaching, where the teacher teaches and explains more.

“It is a new phenomenon that the state steps in and has a say in pedagogical methods but this is so much in the nation’s interest that we can’t just sit still and do nothing,” Björklund said.

The spokesperson for education for the Social Democrats, Mikael Damberg, welcomes the government’s initiative.

“I think that it is a good thing if the National Agency for Education (Skolverket) suggestion can be implemented, because we have been seeing sliding maths results in Swedish schools,” he told TT.

Damberg also pointed out that it isn’t just in one subject that Swedish results have fallen. He thinks that more investment into several subjects and more long-term campaigns to help Swedish teachers are needed.

However, Damberg thinks that Björklund ought to leave the teaching methods to be determined by the teachers.

Story continues below…

Chairperson for Sweden’s Teacher’s Union (Lärarförbundet) Eva-Lis Sirén, also welcomes the government’s initiative to raise maths results in Swedish schools.

However, she too questioned the minister’s wish to get involved in how teachers conduct and manage their work.

“It is remarkable that the minister is meddling in how teacher’s should work. This is just one example of the depreciation of teachers’ competence in Sweden,” she told TT.

TT/The Local/rm (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:42 September 6, 2011 by Abe L
Oh please, most curriculums already come with an overkill of math. A lot of student have a hard time with this and fail entire programs just because of the level of math.

The sad part is that once you find a job in the field where you had pass all that math for you end up applying it close to never.

As this is a recurring problem in just about any European country, Sweden is really no exception they would do well doing a review of what fields really need a high level of math and just scrap it for the other fields.
16:47 September 6, 2011 by Alohart

Math is a basic skill that is important in all areas of modern life. Very few of today's students will work for the remainder of their lives in the field that they studied for. Those with well-rounded educations, including math and science, will be able to deal well with the many changes ahead in their working lives. Those with narrow educations like you're recommending will have more difficulty making the adjustments that will be necessary. The challenge is to make learning math and science feel relevant and even exciting, something that good teachers can do.
17:03 September 6, 2011 by Svensksmith
Much depends on how the money will be spent.
17:09 September 6, 2011 by RobinHood
Two words sum this up: maths is hard.
18:00 September 6, 2011 by jacquelinee
@ Alohart

You are totally right. Math is not hard if you understand it.

It is a right or wrong subject with no possibility of interpretation. You simply have to grasp the formulas and then it is easy. I failed math SO miserably in high school and complained how hard it was too. If I had spent the time listening to the teacher "teaching" how to do it and less time staring out the window, passing notes, thinking about the guy sitting 2 rows over, and actually did my homework, I may not have failed. I went back to school after the hormones had settled, to continue my education and began listening and then it was easy. I was actually shocked at how easy.

I think it is a good thing to have a flat, set, base instruction format and not leave the way math is taught up to each individual teachers disgression. That way, a student experiencing a harder time to grasp the concepts has the same method in each class, making it easier. Also, not all teachers are created equally. If you get a good one and they have their own method it is great, but not if the opposite is true. A teacher can make a huge difference in a childs learning. A set format for all is very beneficial and the exceptional teachers will expand on it, yet the less dedicated teachers will still have to follow successful guidelines.
19:05 September 6, 2011 by old git
good one , or two , or three? robin
22:09 September 6, 2011 by Brucelee@stockholm.sweden
Swedish schools before university level is too easy, I mean, the targets set for students are too friendly, no pressure at all, just play play and play, but play can not turn everyone into a skilled person, an not everyone has initiatives by himself.

But the future is a competitive future, that is for sure.
07:07 September 7, 2011 by isenhand
Just my observation from what I see of students entering University. They do have very poor maths skills (to the pint of lecturers having to skip calculus because students don't know it). I see it as connected to the same problem I see with the Digital Room story earlier; colleges and schools have to compete for students so they offer fun and "sexy" courses to attract students. That means that anything that might tax their little brain cells, like maths, the colleges simplify.

I can understand that most people find maths hard; it involves a kind of thinking that people don't normally do so it can take some effort to learn to think in a way to do maths. Once people get it, they often find it easy and fun but it does take a serious effort to get over that first barrier and some will just never make it.
17:51 September 7, 2011 by markusd
"There will be more lecture-based teaching, where the teacher teaches and explains more. "

So what exactly are they doing now?
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