When helping is hurting

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Another post for no one to read.

It seems to me that too many (math) teachers in Sweden are afraid to tell the truth. Or maybe they think they are being nice. Or supportive. Whatever the reason, I constantly encounter students who have been told for years that they are good in math when in reality they do not understand even basic ideas and lack the most fundamental skills and knowledge needed to progress.

I think these previous teachers have done these children a great disservice by ignoring their problems and giving them a false sense of success instead of helping them to achieve real success. The students often have a difficult time coming to terms with the fact that they need extra help and support and don’t understand as well as they were led to believe. And until they come to that realization, they are unable to improve.

Maybe the plan was to try and build their confidence, but in the long run it has the opposite effect since the shock of reality is often pretty painful after years of being misled.

Instead of trying to give students a false sense of success to avoid making them feel stupid, the time and energy should be spent on helping children and parents understand that it is okay to need extra help in math and to get rid of the Swedish national fear of labeling (stämpling) – a fear which gives rise to often destructive behavior and policies.

These misguided attempts to protect children usually end up hurting them more in the long run.


Nationella prov

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Testing, especially national testing, in math is a constant problem for teachers and schools in Sweden. The way the national tests are currently set up is an extreme burden on teachers and on the schools and makes it pretty much impossible to be fair.


If the whole point of national testing is contribute to more fair (jämlika) schools, then as far as I can see the only reasonable solution is to have all national tests administered and graded by an independent third party.  Students should go off campus to a special location where the same test is given by the same people under the same conditions to all students. The same group should then correct all tests with the results being sent back to the teachers.


This is the only way to ensure fairness across the board and would take away a huge time sink and source of stress for math teachers.


A natural extension of this idea would be to have all major testing done by a third party. Maybe two tests a year from 7th grade through 9th grade. Independently created and graded. This would be the most fair.


There would be another major advantage of this: currently we teachers have a confusing double role for our students. We are both there to help and to judge. This causes many students to be afraid to share their problems with us since they are afraid if she show they don’t understand it will count against their grade. Taking the testing out of our hands allows us to just be there to help and I feel would go a long way towards improving the cooperation and relationship between teachers and students.