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Monday, June 04, 2018

Finnish method helps Norwegian first-graders who struggle with maths | Society & Culture - ScienceNordic

Problems with maths plague nearly 20 per cent of all school children. Offering children extra help right from the start can make a huge difference, according to Norwegian and Finnish research, as ScienceNordic reports. 

Many people of all ages struggle with numbers and maths. A study of Norwegian first-graders shows that offering struggling students extra help is effective, but that this effort has to be maintained for benefits to accrue over the long run.
Photo: Frank May / NTB scanpix)

Mathematics is a subject that is additive: each new learned skill prepares students for the next.
But if you are stuck at the first step in the process, you can’t go any further. Somewhere between 15 and 20 per cent of all children and young adults have some kind of difficulty with mathematics. At its extreme, this problem is called dyscalculia.

“The sooner we can help students who get lost in the learning process, the sooner we can get them on track again. It’s always our goal to identify students who are struggling as early as possible,” says Anita Lopez-Pedersen, a PhD candidate at the University of Oslo’s Department of Special Education.

As part of her doctorate, Lopez-Pedersen is working on a research project where she and colleagues have created and coordinated supplementary measures for first-graders who have problems with mathematics. Lopez-Pedersen says it’s critical to start as early as possible with children who need help with maths skills.

“A number of studies show that children with low maths skills continue to struggle and never catch up. We also know when it's most effective to help these kids: Students develop their math skills a lot during the early school years, which is something we also see in reading research," she says.

Although her results are not yet complete and have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, her preliminary findings suggest the approach has positive effect for the students who have participated, Lopez-Pedersen said.

Close work in small groups 
One hundred and twenty children from nine schools participated in the study, which was completed in the autumn of 2017. The researchers chose participants from a group of 400 students. Sixty of the students were given extra teaching in maths, while the other 60 continued with the routine teaching programme and thus served as a control group for the study...

Similar results in Finland 
Since the ThinkMath project was launched in Finland in 2011, it has had positive results, according to Pirjo Aunio, project manager for ThinkMath and Professor of Special Education at the University of Helsinki. She is also involved in the Norwegian study and is a professor at the University of Oslo.

Source: ScienceNordic