Finnish education technology supports personalized learning in Mathematics

Mathematical competences play a huge part in today’s technology driven world. They are needed when learning of new technical skills, such as coding. How can a game-based digital platform help children get excited about math and simultaneously offer teachers tools to personalise the teaching?

Educational Games Must Not Be Too Entertaining

Games and playing are a big part of children’s lives. The world of playing, however, has moved from the real world to a virtual one. Several companies have seized on the opportunity to develop games for educational purposes for children, but how to know if the game is actually delivering its promises?

Makke Leppänen has a lot of experience from education and education technology. He has a master’s degree in psychology and works currently at Eduten, a company that has developed a digital learning platform based on the research made in the University of Turku, Finland. Leppänen lists four main characteristics that an efficient mathematics game needs to have.

1. Learning impact must be high

An efficient platform helps students become more engaged and therefore they do more calculations in comparison to only using a traditional textbook. Developing the mathematical competence is the main focus not the gaming itself.

2. Simple to use

The platform must be simple and mustn’t take too much time to learn to use. It can’t be too complicated for teachers either so that they can understand the learning analytics behind it. And for children, user-friendly platform means more time to make the actual calculations.

3. Visually not too appealing

It’s important that the game-based platform isn’t too entertaining. Visually it’s better to not have the best quality because it takes the children’s attention away from the task in hand. According to Leppänen, “Avatar-like characters are a definite no”.

4. Instant feedback

Instant feedback works as a motivational tool. The children are encouraged  to continue calculating when they don’t need to wait for the feedback for days.

In addition, the game platform should not be used daily. Once a week in a class, plus homework, is enough. Modesty is the key also in the game-based platforms.

Quality Game-Based Platform Develops Children’s Growth Mindset

Teaching children to work on their mindset is an investment in their future. As the world and working life become more hectic and ever-changing, having the ability to continue with confidence helps thread through the challenges.

“I see growth mindset as a foundation for future skills”, declares Leppänen. He considers that overcoming perfectionism allows you to make mistakes and thus invest in personal development by continuous practice. Overall, your whole attitude towards learning becomes more optimistic.

A mathematics game platform of high quality offers children the chance to make mistakes without judgement and to practise the calculations until they understand the issue fully. And as they receive instant feedback, they can see where more practise is needed. Continuous feedback also develops a positive mindset and attitude towards the activity at hand.

Personalising the Teaching Process with the Help of Adaptive Learning Algorithms

As a part of the digitalisation of the educational world, use of adaptive learning algorithms has increased. It might sound very technical and complex, but the idea is for the computers to help the teacher to create more personalised paths for students with varying skills. When the use of the platform with the adaptive learning algorithms is made user-friendly and simple, the teacher can focus on taking advantage of all its features, instead of struggling with the technology.

For students, personalised learning paths mean focusing on personal strengths and finding the most suitable ways to learn for everyone. If a student struggles with one area, they can receive the support they need from the teacher. Equally, a student succeeding in the subject receives recognition and the teacher can direct them to more challenging tasks.

Blended Learning is the Key

The use of digital platforms in the mathematics class doesn’t mean that teachers and books become useless. Reaching the best learning impact requires competent teachers and the right technology to support the actions in the class. Teachers have an important role: to stand as a supportive and encouraging figure in the students’ learning path.

The way teachers benefit, for example from Eduten Playgroud, is by saving time and gaining pivotal information about students’ progress. “According to our research, the teacher saves four weeks annually when using our platform”, informs Leppänen. Less time is needed for planning the lessons and test grading as automatisation covers most of it.

Personalising the teaching is not only beneficial for the students but for the teachers also. When teachers have access to relevant information about the students’ learning they are able to use the right tools for support, in accordance to the situation.

Case: Introducing new ways to learn mathematics in Namibia

Eduten was one of our partners included in the Namibia pilot during summer 2019. Makke Leppänen and his team introduced their digital learning platform to two Namibian schools, Faith Primary School and Berg-Op Academy. In cooperation with the University of Turku, Finland they studied the students’ development of mathematical competences.

According to Leppänen mathematics in Finland is most up to date in the world. He sees that platforms, like Eduten Playgroud, are a fast and effective way to share the Finnish educational knowledge with other countries. Not as much single-use materials are needed, and online connections enable quality teacher training even from the other side of the world.

Written by Polar Partners’ Marketing intern Juliaana Kärkkäinen