If you’re wondering which countries are producing high-achieving students, here is an interesting look at what one study found in 2011. The United States proved its competitive spirit by winning more medals—gold, silver, and bronze—at the Winter Olympic Games than any other country, although the German member of our research team insists on pointing out that Canada and Germany both won more gold medals than the United
States. But if there is some dispute about which Olympic medals to count, there is no question about American math performance: the United States does not deserve even a paper medal.
However, maintaining our productivity as a nation depends on research into many experimental and experiential nature of learning math and science.
Some research shows that “[t]he gender gap in math and science achievement in Finland is rather equal between boys and girls. Finns give a strong focus to math and science in elementary grades supported by well-trained primary school teachers with masters degrees who emphasize both the experimental and experiential nature of learning math and science,” states Pasi Sahlberg, author of Finnish Lessons: What can the World learn from Educational Change in Finland?
According to PISA and Sahlberg’s book, fewer pupils think math is difficult in Finland. Interestingly, math textbooks, which are written by teachers, are only a fraction of the size of similar textbooks in the U.S. In the 1990s, Finland launched a campaign to clean all gender-biased items from textbooks. Illustrations and the approach to math and science treat boys and girls equally. The Finns stress homework much less than in the U.S. schools. “I think meaningless math homework keeps girls in particular away from learning to love math. We have tried to develop a variety of teaching methods, including cooperative learning, problem-solving, concept attainment, role playing, and project-based learning,” says Sahlberg.
Paths to Math, a new math teaching, and learning tool, which Sahlberg believes “fits very well in the educational environment where various methods of teaching are employed,” combines advanced pedagogical methods with the mobile learning environment. I caught up with the authors of the program, Maarit Rossi, Finnish math teacher and principal, and Cecilia Villabona, American math teacher, and assistant principal, to find out more.