Adding up to acclaim

The city of Sandnes near Stavanger recently won the innovation prize from the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation after adopting a Russian model for teaching mathematics in school.

State secretary (junior minister) Paul Chaffey presented the NOK 500 000 award at a local government conference in the south Norwegian town of Arendal during June.

“Sandnes local authority has taken its schoolchildren seriously, collaborated with academics and introduced entirely new teaching methods for maths,” he observed.

“As a result, all the pupils have recorded much higher levels of attainment without the need for extraordinary resources. That’s impressive.”

An article in Norwegian Continental Shelf 3-2012 described a visit to class 4B at Smeaheia primary school in Sandnes, then the only one in Norway to have adopted the Russian system.

Known as “developmental learning”, this model was brought to the school by teacher Gerd Inger Moe after learning about it during a visit to Russia.

Moe, Ukrainian Natalia Blank at the University of Stavanger and colleague Kjersti Melhus translated textbooks and work sheets from Russian and adapted them to Norwegian conditions.

All this was in their free time. This commitment was noticed, and the method is now in use at 27 schools - 14 in Sandnes and 13 at Skien south of Oslo.

Jan Egil Sørensen, an adviser on childhood and youth services in Skien, learnt of the Smeaheia approach through the media, and the council found it so interesting that a delegation visited Moe.

That convinced the local authority to launch a pilot project last year and then to introduce the method in all primary and lower secondary schools this autumn, Sørensen reports.

“They’re very pleased with the programme so far,” he says. “But they’ve had some running-in problems because of a lack of textbooks and web resources.”

This issue is being overcome, reports Moe. She is now retired, but spends a lot of time travelling around and giving courses, and responds to e-mails from people who want to know more.


Facsimile from Norwegian Continental Shelf 3-2012.

Facsimile from Norwegian Continental Shelf 3-2012.


Think for yourself

The “developmental learning” approach is based on principles enunciated by Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky and his pupil Leonid Zankov.

This aims to encourage pupils to think, analyse and discuss their way to solving maths problems. They learn from making errors and then going through these mistakes in detail.


Impressive results

“After introducing the new teaching method, 65 per cent of pupils in year five reach the highest level of maths attainment in national tests, and none are at the lowest. The local authority has achieved impressive results from its ‘Russian maths’ project, which the jury knows does not just happen. This shows that complex social problems can be overcome by taking new approaches.” From the jury’s citation.


Norwegian Continental Shelf no.2-2015

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