Math is more than numbers and symbols
In Norway the tendency is clear: Many students early develop a non-interest in mathematics and natural sciences. Fewer and fewer choose to study these subjects. We wanted to contribute to turning this trend around.
Our theory was in short to try to apply mathematics and natural sciences on a more practical level. To place the abstract mathematical terms into the students daily life.
Field research and student enthusiasm through practical tasks are focal points. The idea of making the students realize that the math is all around us and can be applied, was essential.
We also had to make a break with the traditional way of organizing the day, and this proved inspiring for the rest of the school. To the extent that the entire school today is organized by and large in the same way. The curriculum is reorganized into themes, and the students take charge of their own learning.
We further organized the students in primary groups to make them work together. This was not an easy task, but it got better and better as the time passed.
Among other projects, we made a grand scale model of our part of the city.
We also set the focus on news and politics during this year. Every day started by watching the news and commenting on this. The result was an enhanced awareness of the interconnection of political events and history. In the natural sciences this interest turned in the direction of an awareness of taking care of the environment, both internationally and locally.
The students even got the national government minister to come for a visit to the class. This happened after they had sent the minister a rather angry e-mail. During the visit they really showed enthusiasm and arguments arguing their case.
We got extra resources to buy equipment, and we focused on laptop computers. Each group had their own computer, in addition to three class-computers. This led to a way of using the computers that was wanted. They all now treat the computer as a natural working tool, be it wordprosessing, searching the internet or working with spreadsheets. Each week the first year the groups also published their own reports on the internet in html-format. These pages are only available in Norwegian. The reports this year are published after completing each theme.
We also bought our own digital camera.
This year some of the students really have got an interest in working with Flash.
The project is now running it's second year. We are also organizing the curricculum in stricter themes, and are working hard to make the assignments in the diffenerent subjects to interconnect and make a natural unity. We are learning as we move ahead, and have a positive feeling about it.
During the autumn we divided the assignment tasks into three groups: "Must do", "Should do" and "Can do". We recently changed this into levels. Level 1-3. Level one being the easier. The level of the students in the class naturally follows this trait.
Next year we will follow up on this observation, and differentiate the teaching level into three levels, where the students may participate on what level they have the most benefit from.