Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Arithmetic's Days Are Numbered in Estonia: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Arithmetic's Days Are Numbered in Estonia: News

Article excerpt

High-performing nation is first to trial computer-based maths.

Teenagers in one of the top 20 high-performing countries in mathematics will be the first in the world to try out a new form of maths lesson - one without arithmetic.

Estonia has agreed to be the first country to trial computer-based maths, which aims to reduce the amount of time students spend doing calculations, allowing them to concentrate on using maths to solve real-world problems.

Conrad Wolfram, founder of computerbasedmath.org, has been campaigning for schools to adopt the approach, which he argues is more relevant and useful in today's world than learning how to solve quadratic equations.

Now the Estonian government has asked Mr Wolfram's organisation to draw up a curriculum and classroom resources for a course in statistics and probability. The trial in 30 schools will be coordinated and analysed by the University of Tartu.

Estonia is a small country with a population of fewer than 1.5 million, but it is also where Skype was developed and it is increasingly interested in how to make the most of technology. Trials are currently taking place of after-school groups that will teach children robotics and how to program computers and create apps. A separate project is trialling teaching programming to children as young as 7.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), which assesses how 15-year-olds perform around the world, ranks Estonia 17th in maths, while the UK is 28th and the US is 31st. Estonia is also ranked above England in reading, coming in at 13th compared with England's 25th.

Jaak Aaviksoo, Estonian minister of education and research, said: "In the last century, we led the world in connecting classrooms to the internet. Now we want to lead the world in rethinking education in the technology- driven world."

The computer-based maths curriculum will be used to teach courses in probability and statistics to two age groups: 13-14 and 16-17. …

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