All the Mathlands are local government projects supported by a municipality or regional authority. The Mathland employees’ job description includes requirements for both teaching and functioning as a consulting teacher. The Mathland projects in Espoo have also been supported by the National Board of Education and several foundations. The Mathland in Espoo has got numerous contacts both in Finland and abroad.
Mathland offers support and opportunities for professional development to mathematics teachers in Espoo. The target range of education levels spans from preschool to ninth grade. Mathland’s main goal is to be an open community which promotes and further develops education in the field of mathematics. Concrete learning tools and their use are promoted and new ideas are developed in Mathland.
Various methods and ideas are conveyed to teachers in order to provide the best possible education to all kinds of pupils. Some Mathland projects are specifically designed to provide support at the earliest possible level to pupils who have learning difficulties in mathematics. The rising numbers of pupils with learning difficulties as well as emphasis on integration and inclusion created a need for early intervention and pedagogical development projects.
Mathland organizes courses the length of which range from three hours to three school terms. There are about 100 schools in Espoo and between 400 to 500 teachers take part in these courses every year. In various projects, teachers meet at workshops to develop teaching of mathematics. After long-term training additional job training days and workshops where the acquired know-how and knowledge is further extended are arranged. Furthermore, new models and learning tools are created to be used in teaching mathematics. Concurrently, the latest research and other materials may be explored. In Mathland ideas and ways to improve teaching in regular every-day classroom situations are developed. The courses and other activities offered by Mathland have received excellent feedback.
Many comprehensive schools in Espoo have got either a long-term or short-term use of teaching materials from Mathland. The schools are provided with the materials or they can be borrowed. Thousands of pupils use these manipulatives, including games, in Espoo. Some new learning materials, including sets of materials for specific mathematical themes, have been created in Mathland in Espoo.
In 2004 Mathland lead the process of municipal curriculum development in mathematics in Espoo which in turn was based on the national curriculum. Furthermore, Mathland has provided some headmasters with consultation in regards to issues related to teaching mathematics.
Mathland has got six main projects that aim at developing teaching and learning in mathematics.
Along with the new curriculum the growing need for more resources and education in mathematics at preschool level became evident. Golden Cube is an award created by Mathland in Espoo which is given to preschools or preschool teachers who have developed their teaching and teaching materials to a certain level. At the moment, an assessment and follow-up model for child development and learning is under development. This assessment model will be part of the Golden Cube award criteria. The first Golden Cube awards were given in 2006.
Golden Cube houses material kits with themes such as numbers, measurements and games. The contents of these kits have been selected so that they work pedagogically, are inspiring to the children and are easy and cost-effective to prepare. The ideas contained in the kits are available to anyone. The instructions for the material can be found on the web pages. The material kits are in continuous use and have received a lot of positive feedback.
In Golden Cube, some preschool teachers are also trained to become peer trainers so that they can then convey the ideas of Golden Cube to other preschools in Espoo as well as other schools in Finland. The concept of Golden Cube award can be found on the Internet and used by preschools in Finland.
www.kultainenkuutio.fi (In Finnish)
A model for math therapy was created by Marja Dräger at the University of Göttingen in Germany
in the 1990s. Students with severe learning difficulties in mathematics
are first diagnosed individually and then rehabilitated in a math
therapy program that lasts for 1,5 years. Typical for this form of therapy is that pupils use small numbers (1-10) to add and subtract using fingers. This program is currently in progress in some schools in Espoo.
About 40 teachers in Espoo have taken part in long-term courses in math therapy. The aim is to give those teachers tools to diagnose and rehabilitate pupils with severe learning difficulties in mathematics. In the next two years about 40 additional special needs teachers take part in the 36-hour-long course. The objective for these shorter courses is to provide tools to help pupils with lesser learning difficulties. The grade levels of these pupils are 1st through 6th.
Pilot is a part of an ICT project that is financed by the National Board of Education. In 2004 the National Board of Education published AbacoMath learning items on its own web page. Anni Lampinen and Marja Dräger of Mathland created all the manuscripts for AbacoMath. These free learning items can be used in classrooms, in math therapy as well as when studying at home.
AbacoMath learning items (In Finnish) ...
The philosophy behind the Varga-Neményi method is “Math for all!” It is based on the work of prominent Hungarian pedagogues Varga Tamás, Neményi Eszter and their colleagues. Currently this method can be used in preschool and grades 1 through 4 in Finland. The method is systematic and based on pupils’ experiences.
Mathland in Espoo has a significant role in bringing forth the ideas of the Varga-Neményi method in Finland. A national Varga-Neményi association has been founded in Mathland, the purpose of which is to, for example, adjust the method so that it is more compatible with Finnish educational system and to provide appropriate materials. Furthermore, the association organizes educational opportunities and is creating a national network of teachers who use the method. Earlier, Mathland in Espoo offered courses for teachers on both local and national level for several years. Nowadays courses are funded by for example the National Board of Education and offered as further training all around Finland.
In Espoo some groups of pupils have been taught mathematics according to this method. The goal is to found at least one school in Espoo that uses this method. At the same time the school would function as a Finnish development center.
Parallel groups of learning
In parallel groups of learning pupils are divided into study groups according to their age, study skills and mathematical skills. The aim is to provide the best possible learning environment for all kinds of pupils. The groups are not permanently fixed but changes in the groups are only made if deemed to be in the best interest of the pupil. In a specific school, the subject content, advancement of the course (schedule-wise) and pupil evaluation do not vary much from group to group. The subject matters can be emphasized depending on different kind of learners. In some test items the pupil is offered choices that he or she can make according to his or her own level of competence.
As a new aspect to the project special education needs are pronouncedly taken into account. Mathematics
teachers work side by side with special education teachers in order to
exchange ideas and information. From Mathland the model of parallel
groups of learning has been introduced to new project schools in Espoo.
Headmasters and teachers involved in the project support each other and
share valuable practical knowledge. The parallel grouping is used in
schools in grades 7 through 9, 8 through 9 or in grade 9. The system of
parallel grouping is also used in some lower grades. Flexible grouping
is becoming more common in comprehensive school due to the ever growing
number of integrated pupils.
In 2007 Mathland organized a 12-hour course on teaching mathematics with hands-on materials for teachers in grades 7, 8 and 9. The aim was to strengthen co-operation and facilitate sharing of information among mathematics teachers and special education teachers as they had to sign up for the course together.
In order to transfer the course content and ideas into practice Mathland provided the schools with hands-on materials as well.
A new project called Everyday Mathematics originally from Chicago University has already been started. This project is supported by the National Board of Education.
Some employees at Mathland in Espoo have been granted a personal award by The Federation of Finnish Technology Industries. This award has been granted to mathematics teachers yearly since 2005.
2005 Anni Lampinen
2006 Marja Dräger