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Mathematics instruction in Norway and Finland (PhD project)

This doctoral research project studies patterns of instruction in secondary math classrooms in Norway and Finland.

What does mathematics instruction in Norway and Finland look like? (photo of teacher with students in class: colourbox).

What does mathematics instruction in Norway and Finland look like? (photo: colourbox).

About the project


The overarching aim is to investigate instructional practices in Norway and Finland by comparing and contrasting instruction in these two contexts. The study contributes to the field of comparative mathematics education with knowledge about what it means to teach and learn mathematics in these contexts. Norway often looks to Finland for inspiration when renewing their national education system due to good PISA scores. However, there seem to be some contradictions about the Finnish education system and its success story in PISA studies; empirical data from classrooms are lacking, and the little that exist are not indicating any revolutional practices - rather quite traditional, teacher centered teaching.

In Norway, improving mathematics instruction has been focus of attention for the last decade with emphasis on making learning more student-centered. This project thus gives updated insight into what is going on in math classrooms in these contexts, and detect possible contextually distinct strengths and weaknesses in teachers’ instructional practices. This project thus deals with questions such as “What might such distinct practices be?” “What contextual factors shape instructional practices?” and ultimately; “What are possible dilemmas with conceptualizing instructional quality as a universal concept?”


The project uses observation of mathematics lessons and interviews with mathematics teachers to study instruction. The interviews are conducted in order to shed light on the background and rationale of the teachers’ enacted practices. The study sites are secondary classrooms in Oslo and Helsinki area. In order to systematically compare lessons across and within contexts the project utilizes parts of an observation manual designed to capture instructional quality. The aspects of instructional quality relevant for this study, identified as the biggest differences between contexts, are presentation of mathematical content and classroom discourse. These aspects are based on a theoretical framework inspired by socio cultural and cognitive learning theories which in a classroom context mean learning by participation and learning by organizing (meaningful) knowledge. Another aim of this PhD project is to investigate this observation manual’s conceptualizations of quality instruction – and how well it travels across borders.


Research project Linking Instruction and Student Achievement - study (LISA).

The Nordic Centre of Excellence (NCoE) Justice through education in the Nordic Countries (JustEd).

Published July 30, 2018 2:47 PM - Last modified July 30, 2018 2:48 PM