Mathematics in the Nordic countries * Trends and

Mathematics in the Nordic countries – Trends
and challenges in students’ achievement in
Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark
Peter Nyström
National Centre for Mathematics education
Gothenburg university
Overall comment
• Interesting chapter
• The study illustrates both the affordances of
Nordic cross-country studies in the context of
TIMSS, but also the necessity of
contextualisation from a deep insight into
each countries’ educational system
Three research questions
• Why has mathematics achievement improved
in Norway, but declined in Finland and
• What characterises school mathematics in the
Nordic countries?
• What characterises opportunity to learn in
mathematics for students in the Nordic
Three explaining factors: SEAS, math
characteristics, and OTL
School emphasis on academic success
Characteristics of mathematics education
Students’ opportunity to learn
Why emphasis on these factors?
Complex problem, important to look at some
factors but also important to see how they
work together with other factors
• SEAS is a powerful factor in explaining the positive
trend in mathematics achievement in Norway
• The role of curriculum change in changing SEAS?
• ”Thus, it is reasonable to assume that the LK06 reform
itself contributed significantly to the increase in SEAS
observed in Norway for Grade 8 from 2007 to 2011.”
• This was not the case in Sweden from 1995 and
• How can SEAS become higher?
What caracterises mathematics
performance in the Nordic countries?
• Low performance in algebra, little emphasis
on pure mathematics
• Real-world mathematics as a driving force
• Has this changed?
• Possibly harder and harder to defend the
learning of algebra because of its indirect
usefulness to most people
Students’ opportunity to learn
Allocated time to learn
Content covered
Also: Focus on competences
The idea of OTL has been present in Swedish
national curricula since 1995
• What are in fact students given the opportunity
to learn, and how can this be improved?
Opportunity to learn
• Relatively low emphasis on Statistics in grade 8
but relatively good results
• With that exception, students seem to learn what
they are given the opportunity to learn
• Lower emphasis on algebra seems to result in
lower achievement in algebra
• Should TIMSS and PISA decide what students are
given the opportunity to learn?
The Swede in Europe:
”In Sweden we have a
So, what can we do…
• Improve emphasis on academic success, which
requires more than new curricula
• Be challenged by TIMSS and PISA to reflect on
expectations and opportunity to learn
• Learn from others, within the Nordic countries
and beyond
• Claim and develop teaching in mathematics
• Comprehensive in-service program currently
being implemented in Sweden

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