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I’m a 17-year-old young man from Finland. I go to high school in Tampere and would like to tell you what studying math in Finland is like.
In Finland high school students choose between advanced and ordinary level math. Advanced math goes deeper into each subject and has more mandatory courses. Some universities require an advanced math degree or they will grant you extra points for having one. I chose advanced math because math isn’t very difficult for me.
Here’s how a typical advanced math lesson would go. First the students can ask the teacher for help in homework exercises they found too difficult. After that the teacher shows us the equations for the subject of the lesson and where they’re derived from. The teacher does example exercises on the board, which we copy into our notebooks, and then tells us which exercises to do. The ones we do not complete during class are our homework. Instead of listening to the teacher for the whole lesson, the students spend about half of the lecture doing exercises. The teacher will go around the classroom helping students with their exercises and trying to help them understand the subject as best as possible.
The responsibility of learning a subject is placed mostly on the students. There is no penalty for not doing your homework, but most courses have a certain number of exercises, that must be completed before you can take the course exam. Teachers will try their best to help you understand, but they aren’t there to mother you or to boss you around. Some people need less time to understand a subject, so they don’t have to work as hard to keep up with the curriculum. That’s why the time spent on homework will vary from student to student.
Schools have an exam week after each course has been completed. During exam week there’s an exam in the morning and a class preparing you for tomorrows exam in the afternoon every day. Math exams are split into two parts, one without a calculator and one where a calculator is allowed. Math exams have 7 exercises from which the student chooses 6, three from both parts, and three hours to complete them.
Each subject is studied for three 75 minute lessons a week. After each maths lesson I usually do around 30 or 45 minutes of homework, but some people do homework for multiple hours. The time you choose to spend is totally up to you, as long as you get your mandatory assignments done. To do well in exams students can’t just slack off though.
In closing I think the education system in Finland works well for keeping students motivated. I’ve heard students in some countries spend almost all their free time on homework. I wouldn’t be able to stay motivated in an environment like that!
I'm Tuomas Aimonen and I'm a 17-year-old high school student in Tampere, Finland.
In my blogs I offer a young person's perspective on the Finnish lifestyle. I hope you find my posts interesting and entertaining.