Pioneering in arithmetic for high schools

A lot is going on in the Netherlands when it comes to arithmetic education. From next year on it will be a new compulsory subject on the national exams in high schools and vocational training. The Dutch government pointed out that a basic level of arithmetic is desirable when it comes to functioning in society.

The introduction poses a few serious challenges for high schools. First of all it is a completely new subject, because it is something different than mathematics. Of course, for someone very skilled in maths the subject will not be very hard to tackle. But we all know that’s not the case very often, so a new curriculum for this subject has to be developed and implemented. The teachers responsible for teaching arithmetic are almost always maths teachers. They are not keen on teaching this extra course, because they are already experiencing a high workload and are not really excited by the subject either (they chose to teach math, not the simpler arithmetic).

A solution is when possible self study and when need teacher intervention. In this line of thought, e-learning seems to be a good solution. Publishers have acknowledged this fact. Although they are traditionally holding on to paper books, we fortunately see that if they have the chance of developing something completely new, they choose the digital alternative. This is actually not even a correct choice of words anymore. I believe digital learning is not the alternative anymore, learning from books and paper is. We see a lot of arithmetic learning methods arriving in the marketplace, some good, some not so good. Still, the digital ones tend to be relatively successful.

Together with a couple of innovative high schools SOWISO will be developing an adaptive arithmetic method, specifically aimed at a (large) group of students for which the now available methods are not sufficient. The schools’ experience tells that traditional e-learning technologies are not able to help those who need it most. From simple feedback saying something is ‘incorrect’ no student will learn what has gone wrong and how to avoid it in the future. Our e-learning platform is able to give targeted feedback and thus help relatively bad performing students (bad students don’t exist, bad performing students do!) to gain knowledge on the course without the need to address the busy teachers all the time (For our Dutch readers, the main target group are VMBO students who are struggling to reach the 1F reference-level).

This initiative is received very positive within high schools., but also by other institutions. This can be derived from the fact that our initiative was one of the winning concepts in the ‘Onderwijspioneers’ (en: Pioneers in education) 2013-2014 challenge. Our partner high-schools will receive support in the form of different types of resources to make this pioneering project a success. We are looking forward to a year in which we hope to support teachers and students in the last year before the new exams! We will keep you updated on the results.

For more information on onderwijspioniers, click here.

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