Right after the PISA-results were published the whole Finland turned upside down. The performance of Finnish adolescents in mathematics had dropped from the very high end to 12th place. It started a discussion on bringing back the importance of motivation and "fun" in learning mathematics. The problem among our adolescents is that they are not very motivated towards school in general, whereas many of them also have specific lack of motivation towards learning and comprehending mathematics. However, Finnish adolescents still have a good learning potential, it just has to be re-accelerated and nourished.
Luckily there is solid information from which it is good to search remediation from: Our MASA-study (Mathematical learning difficulties and Sociocultural factors among Finnish Adolescents) collected information from Finnish upper level schools during two school years (starting from the beginning of the 8th grade and ending at the end of ninth grade, respectively: that is the last year of compulsory school in Finland).
"Our results indeed have shown that the variation in adolescents skills in addition to earlier mathematics skills is strongly accounted for by literacy skills, beliefs in oneself as mathematics learner and mathematical task-orientation," say researchers Piia Björn and Minna Kyttälä.
The data consists of information on mathematical skills, cognitive skills, literacy skills, family interaction and task-orientation assessed by the adolescents themselves as well as teachers. The main point is that learning mathematics does not have to be "fun." Instead, learning has to be considered as meaningful and purposeful by the learner, so that the need to know more would be accelerated.
Adjunct professor in special education, university lecturer Piia M. Björn just finished as Vanderbilt University (Nashville, Tennessee, USA) as ASLA Fulbright Senior Scholar. PhD. Minna Kyttälä is a university lecturer in Special Education at University of Turku, Finland.
- Minna Kyttälä, Piia M. Björn. The role of literacy skills in adolescents' mathematics word problem performance: Controlling for visuo-spatial ability and mathematics anxiety. Learning and Individual Differences, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.lindif.2013.10.010
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