Every year with each passing Mathematics exam, our students and the entire education community of our country await its results. The Mathematics exam results that are in constant decline in Lithuania make one look for new tools to make mathematics more interesting to the students of today. However, according to the education experts, the new updated national educational programme offers hope. However, positive change is still in the wings for many years to come. Also, the problems lie not only in the educational programme but the tools as well.
Learning deficits are determined by many factors
According to the Mathematics teacher-expert Rasa Karapetian, the poor mathematics knowledge is usually caused by gaps that occur during the learning process. According to R. Karapetian, gaps in understanding should be given more attention in institutions of learning.
According to the teacher, students’ gaps in knowledge of Mathematics can occur because of poor attendance or too small a number of Mathematics lessons, as well as a lack of consistency in the learning process.
“Mathematics is a complicated science which requires a lot of consistency during the learning process. The basic foundations of this science are laid down in primary grades, and that is why, if gaps occur during the primary years, they become more and more problematic with time. In my opinion, a mathematics teacher should be assigned to students, instead of the primary grade’s teacher. This way, the acquisition of knowledge would be more effective and students would have broader possibilities to deepen their understanding of the basics of Mathematics with the help of a specialist’s consultations.” – says Klaipėda Lyceum teacher.
Quarantine generation effect
According to teacher-expert Jūratė Gedminienė, a Mathematics exam senior examiner and the co-author of the new 9th grade Mathematics school book and Klaipėda Lyceum teacher of Mathematics, much of today’s knowledge of maths was influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the teacher, the remote learning which lasted for a significantly long time has left a deep mark on the education process, and, in her opinion, students’ knowledge of Mathematics suffered most for it.
“Mathematics is a science which must be taught with the teacher present in class. In this discipline it is especially vital that the teacher has the opportunity to explain, perceive the student’s learning and problem solutions. The overseeing and control of the student’s understanding of the class material is highly necessary, because, as a hap in understanding occurs, it usually will become an obstacle in furthering a student’s future learning potential. Unfortunately, these opportunities of oversight were not possible during the quarantine, and, therefore, students have large gaps in their understanding of mathematics.” – says J. Gedminienė.
Student motivation to learn mathematics keep decreasing each year
Another colleague, Klaipėda lyceum Mathematics teacher methodical group founder, Dovilija Jančiauskienė, agrees with her previous colleagues.
According to the teacher-expert, Lyceum has long had the wide system of consultations, which helps students better their understanding of the subject and fill in the gaps in their knowledge.
“Currently, Lyceum has a wide spectrum of consultations. The array of consultations include consultations for the purpose of covering the gaps in knowledge, consultations that aid students in covering gaps in changin courses, for exam prep as well as individual consultations. These types of consultations do not allow for the establishment of larger gaps in knowledge of Mathematics even in lower grades.” – says 5-8th grade teacher D. Jančiauskienė.
However, according to the teacher, much of the low results can be accredited to the students’ lack of motivation to achieve higher results.
“Communicating with maths teachers from Klaipėda and other cities, I have often heard that children often have difficulty finding the motivation to strive for high results. This is also determined by the low threshold of requirements for applying to Universities. That is why one can even hear of instances where children do not even solve the entirety of the exam as they have counted, ahead of time, how high a percentage they need to get to pass, leaving the difficult tasks and a big part of the exam unsolved. It is encouraging, however, that students in Lyceum do not have any motivation issues.” – D. Jančiauskienė shared her thoughts.
New education programme – more questions than answers
A new education programme will be starting next school year. According to Mathematics teachers-experts, it has a lot of positive solutions, which could be helpful for the students ability to more effectively gain understanding of Mathematics.
“The new programme has a lot of positive changes. A larger number of Mathematics lessons per week, various interesting activities, a larger focus on interdisciplinary teaching and filling learning gaps – all of these changes are worthy of applause. If they are possible to make reality in practice, they should have a positive effect on the quality of students’ learned knowledge, in the future.” – said R. Karapetian.
However, the teaching specialists all agree, that this programme requires many years to be effectively put into practice
“This process won’t be easy for teachers or their students. For example, the new education programme involves some more difficult mathematics course subjects, which are currently taught in later grades, will be moved to lower grades. This decision will immediately create gaps in knowledge for students currently in lower grades. For example, six-graders today will not be prepared to learn the Pythagorean theorem, and the nuances of its application, that they will be required to learn in sixth grade according to this new programme. This means that teacher will have to teach not only the new programme course, but will also have to fill the created gaps in knowledge in a short period of time.” – D. Jančiauskienė shares her thoughts.
More frequent tests of knowledge – a perk
Klaipėda Lyceum Mathematics teacher-expert J. Gedminienė thinks that the more frequent examinations of students’ Mathematics knowledge (the exam in 11th grade) are going to be beneficial.
“This exam should take off a bit of the psychological pressure of taking the final exams in the 12th grade. If some of the points from the 11th grade test of knowledge were meaningful, that would help most “live through” the unexpectedness effect of that singular examination day. Currently, the final school exam results are dependent not only on the students’ knowledge but on the events of that particular day. That day the students might be sick, or meaningful things might occur in their personal lives, and all of that can influence the student during the exam. Knowing that everything does not depend on a single afternoon, a student might more calmly view the final exams.” – says J. Gedminienė.
Magical or easy ways of learning do not exist
When asked about solutions about how current students could be made to be even more interested in the science of Mathematics, teachers unanimously state that there are no miraculous ways to do that.
According to R. Karapetian, it is especially important for today’s youth to see the meaning of every science, and that is why Mathematics should be taught not in width but with the depth of the discipline in mind.
“Applying and integrating knowledge of Mathematics can help better understand the subject. It could show the wider applications and value of this particular science. We have a very wide and rich history of Mathematics in our country. Thus, students could be taught about the various Mathematical personas in Lithuania, the successes of their stories. This would broaden their understanding of the discipline’s perspective and their application, as well as increase their motivation to seek knowledge.” – says R. Karapetian.
Still, according to the Mathematics experts, this science is learned through effort, and that is why children must first be taught to properly learn.
“The cooperation between parents, students and teachers is exceptionally important. In this chain there should be a lot of understanding, action, which is vital in noticing children’s difficulty in learning and trying to provide them with necessary help. If a child feels unmotivated, their efforts are not being taken note of and they do not see the progress of their achievement then the difficulties start, which, in the future, might have an effect on their poor learning results.” – states teacher D. Jančiauskienė.
Last year 5131 (35.4 percent) students who took the Mathematics exam did not pass. 5776 students (39.9 percent) received the worst score 16-35 points.
All the students of the previous graduating class in Klaipėda Lyceum passed the Mathematics exam, the overall average of all those who took the exam was 77 percent