For the past 17 years, the U.S. National Commission on Mathematics Instruction (USNC/MI) has held workshops with mathematics educators from countries that typically perform well on international assessments and have a history of strong mathematics education programs, such as Japan, China, and South Korea. Finland is among this group. Even though its mathematics education system has some common characteristics with other top-performing nations, such as a great social respect for the teaching profession, it also has unique characteristics. The USNC/MI wanted to learn more about Finland’s educational system and benchmark their best practices. While this is not the first time U.S. and Finnish mathematics educators have discussed educational practices, this workshop focused primarily on teacher development in both nations in the context of mathematics education.
Finland’s students are among the highest achievers in mathematics in the world. In 2015, Finland was among the 21 highest-performing countries on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) mathematics assessment, and its fourth and eighth graders scored among the top 10 countries in the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).1 U.S. students’ performance in mathematics has not been
1 PISA is administered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; see http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/education/pisa-2015-results-volume-i_9789264266490-en#page178 [accessed January 8, 2017]. TIMSS is administered by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement; see http://timssandpirls.bc.edu/timss2011/international-results-mathematics.html [accessed September 1, 2016].
at the highest levels—their 2015 PISA results were below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average. However, despite differences in size and other attributes, these two countries face similar challenges, such as serving increasingly diverse student populations in a climate of constrained resources.2 Educators in both nations are interested in learning from one another about practices and approaches that contribute to success in mathematics education, particularly in the development and support of an excellent teaching force.
The USNC/MI, a standing committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, planned a workshop at which U.S. and Finnish mathematics educators could exchange information and ideas about the preparation of new mathematics teachers and the means of providing them with support and professional development throughout their careers. Held August 1–2, 2016, at the University of Helsinki in Helsinki, Finland, the workshop brought together approximately 15 American and 15 Finnish professionals, as well as virtual participants who contributed with questions through a live-streaming platform.3
The charge for the workshop planning committee was to organize presentations and discussions on the key characteristics of the education systems of Finland and the United States, with a focus on their approaches to preparation and professional development for mathematics teachers (see Box 1-1). This proceedings document, prepared by the workshop rapporteurs, summarizes the presentations and discussions that took place at the workshop.4 The planning committee’s role was limited to planning and convening the workshop. The views contained in the document are those
2 According to the World Bank, in 2015 the United States had a 1.5 percent immigration rate while Finland had a 1.9 percent rate, based in net migration over the total population; see http://country-facts.findthedata.com/compare/1-94/United-States-vs-Finland [accessed March 5, 2017].
3 The National Academy of Sciences is the U.S. body responsible for adhering to the principles of the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction (ICMI), which promotes collaboration and the dissemination of ideas related to the theory and practice of mathematics education. Through the USNC/MI the National Academy of Sciences manages the relationship with ICMI; see the project page for the workshop, at http://sites.nationalacademies.org/PGA/biso/ICMI/index.htm and http://www.mathunion.org/ICMI [both accessed February 2, 2017] for more information.
4 The workshop agenda and a list of workshop participants can be found in Appendix A and Appendix B, respectively. These and a selection of readings collected as background material for the participants can be found at the project website, along with videos of the workshop sessions; see http://sites.nationalacademies.org/PGA/biso/ICMI/index.htm.
of individual workshop participants and do not necessarily represent the views of all workshop participants, the planning committee, or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Chapters 2 and 3 provide a detailed look at the structure of the Finnish and U.S. public education systems and highlight some of their differences. Chapters 4 and 5 discuss the ways new teachers in each country are prepared, and Chapters 6 and 7 discuss approaches to providing ongoing development for teachers in the two countries. Chapter 8 summarizes participants’ reflections on key messages from the workshop.
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