Educators Want to End Math Class

schoolgirl in front of wipe board, math equations
481738255 Photo: Jasper White/Getty Images

What if history class were history and math class reduced to zero? Would a school without subject areas better prepare young people for success in the 21st century? A handful of innovators in one of world’s most admired education systems thinks so.

Led by educators in Helsinki, Finland is about to embark on a dramatic revision of the way teachers guide children, moving away from math, language, history, and geography classes and instead toward classes on topics like the European Union, which encompass elements of all those things.

“We really need a rethinking of education and a redesigning of our system, so it prepares our children for the future with the skills that are needed for today and tomorrow,” Helsinki’s education manager Marjo Kyllonen told The Independent. The irony is that Finland is already among the world’s best at educating its children. Even the best have issues, though, and Finland’s were exposed in 2013 when it fell from its lofty perch atop the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) rankings. This change seems like a response, if not to the drop in the rankings then to the underlying cause of it.

The change is already taking place for some high-school students in Helsinki, where they’re encouraged to work in groups to solve problems, rather than sit in rows while a teacher lectures. Already, Finns in Helsinki are claiming small success in schools where the changes have been emphasized. Now they’ll attempt to expand the program to the rest of the country. And if it works like they say it will, perhaps the rest of the world, which already looks to Finland for ideas on education, will start moving that direction too.