The other week my son’s 2nd grade class had a math test where the skills they have been learning this fall were tested. The test consisted of nine sections testing different skills: counting verbally given exercises, basic mechanical math exercises and exercises where logical thinking had to be applied. The class had 45 minutes to take the test. The pupils were not told about the test beforehand.

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The first section is an exercise where the pupils had to count equation the teacher told them verbally.

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Section 2 is an exercise where the same equation has to be marked and calculated in two ways: as an addition and as a multiplication.

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Section 3 is an exercise where the missing number had to be reasoned.

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Section 4 and 6 are exercises where the mechanical equation needs to be calculated.

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Section 5 is an exercise where the missing number has to be figured out.

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Section 7 is an exercise where the smaller than (<), equal to (=) or the larger than (>) needs to be applied after the calculation has been resolved.

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Section 8 is an exercise where the problem is presented in a story format and the pupils need to 1) figure out what the actual calculation is, 2) visually and in numbers present the calculation and then 3) resolve it and mark the correct answer. The exercise a says: There are 6 packages of cookies in the cabinet. Each package has 2 cookies. How many cookies are there in total? The exercise b says: Emma goes and picks up apples from the cellar three times. Each time Emma brings five apples. How many apples will Emma bring in total?

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Section 9 is considerably harder than the previous sections and tests the ability to apply logical thinking and reasoning. In the exercise each image represents a number and by applying logical thinking the pupils need to figure out the correct numbers. The exercise is tricky as in order to figure it out you need to resolve first the first and the last row, after which you can figure out the rows two and three. This exercise also measures the pupils’ ability to concentrate and perseverance, the ability to keep trying to solve the equations despite it being complicated and not easy to solve immediately.

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Exercises like section 9 are brilliant in my opinion and I am glad to see my son’s math book being full of them. In the real world, logical thinking is one of the most important skills and problem solving without having previous knowledge or learned “toolkit” for that particular problem is a key to success. The new Finnish National Curriculum is very much based on teaching the pupils “thinking and reasoning” skills versus learning by memorization. Sometimes these skills are not easy to objectively measure and grade.  There have been articles in the newspaper where educators and parents wonder if the school system is able to measure the learning of these skills well enough and if the pupils hence are measured on an equal basis. This dilemma deserves its own blog post, but in the meantime, I am glad that the 2nd graders’ math book is making them to practice these logical thinking exercises continuously.

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Inkeri Mentzoni
I am Inkeri Mentzoni, the founder of Kidemaa. I am a working mother of 8 year old son and we live in Helsinki.
I lived 15 years in the United States of America, but I returned to Finland four years ago in order to provide Finnish childhood to my son. I love working and I am grateful that the Finnish lifestyle allows me to pursue my professional goals and be an active mom at the same time. My favourite part of Helsinki: the fact that you can walk almost everywhere and nature is always around you.