2/2014

TUT brings expertise to bear on engineering mathematics education in Russia and Caucasia

Seppo Pohjolainen

 

“TUT has special expertise in the educational uses of ICT. Our mathematics teachers habitually use data networks and ICT for teaching purposes as well as specialist software, such as basic skills tests and online revision training,” Professor Seppo Pohjolainen says.

 

The traditional system of mathematics education in Russian, Georgian and Armenian universities is lagging behind modern standards. TUT has joined a project that helps the universities modernize their engineering mathematics education and promotes the use of ICT in the classroom.

The Russian education system provides learners with a solid foundation in mathematics but is largely focused on training mathematicians. The situation is similar in the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Armenia. The countries inherited an excellent education system as they gained their independence from the Soviet Union, but the system no longer meets the needs of the current generation of engineering students.

”Russia, Georgia and Armenia are in need of professionals who have the competence to apply mathematics in their employment outside of university. They must be able to use a broad range of technological applications to generate and analyse mathematical data on which customers and policy-makers can base their decisions,” says Seppo Pohjolainen, Professor in the Department of Mathematics at TUT.

Curricula and teaching methods brought up to date

TUT is participating in a project that promotes the development of curricula and teaching methods in Russian, Georgian and Armenian universities.

”The mathematics courses available in these universities are compared to their EU counterparts. We look into course contents and teaching methods and try to identify gaps and areas for improvement. This is pedagogical development,” Pohjolainen says.

The partners are striving to maximize the use of ICT as a teaching aid and increase access to technical teaching equipment.

“The goal is to introduce advanced technology and more modern teaching methods into classrooms.”

Mathematics is a universal language, and numbers and formulas have the same meaning everywhere in the world. Pohjolainen says that cultural differences are mainly reflected in the working methods and procedures of the universities.

”Things may not always go according to plan, but everything works out fine in the end.”

More motivation and support

“A great deal of work has been done in Finland to stir interest in mathematics among university students and increase their motivation to study the subject. When the frequency of ICT use in education is measured, Finland ranks among the leading countries in the EU,” Pohjolainen says.

Learning mathematics takes patience and practice, which increases the odds that students get discouraged and drop out.

“Finnish universities have developed bridging courses that offer first-year students the opportunity to revise and improve the maths skills they learned in secondary school. As bridging courses help reduce dropout rates, we’re working to integrate them into the curricula of the target universities.”

According to Pohjolainen, all mathematics students entering TUT take a basic skills test in mathematics. Based on the results, approximately one fifth of them are required to complete revision training that provides a run-through of secondary school mathematics.

“I’m one of the students who attended the revision course,” Research Assistant Tuomas Myllykoski says.

TUT’s unique teacher training programme

Myllykoski is working towards both a master’s degree and qualified teacher status. He is enrolled in TUT’s teacher training programme that equips students with mathematical skills and pedagogical competence. This is a one-of-a-kind concept in Finland.

”Students like Tuomas evolve into professionals whose first-hand teaching experience places them in a unique position to contribute towards the development of mathematics education,” Pohjolainen claims.

MetaMath and MathGeAr

  • Sister projects that bring the best European practices of teaching engineering mathematics to Russia (MetaMath) and Georgia and Armenia (MathGeAr).
  • Duration: from spring 2014 to the end of 2016.
  • Financier: The EU’s Tempus Programme.
  • EU partners: German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, Tampere University of Technology, Saarland University and Claude Bernard Lyon University.
  • Russian partners: Association for Engineering Education of Russia, Kazan State Technical University, N.P. Ogarev Mordovia State University, Nizhny Novgorod State University, Saint Petersburg Electrotechnical University and Tver State University.
  • Georgian and Armenian partners: Akaki Zereteli State University, Armenian National Quality Assurance, Armenian State Pedagogical University, Georgian Research and Educational Networking Association, Georgian Technical University, Institute for Informatics and Automation Problems of NAS, National Center for Educational Quality Enhancement, Shota Rustaveli State University, State Engineering University of Armenia and the University of Georgia.
 

Text: Leena Koskenlaakso
Photo: Virpi Andersin

 
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