Mathematics - Important Knowledge at Any Age

The Latvian association “NGO Education Innovations Transfer Centre” has just closed a significant NORDPLUS Adult Education Project “Cooperation to Strengthen Citizens' Math Skills in the Context of Sustainable Development and Welfare (MathPro)”, which took place from 1st July 2013 to 30th September 2014.

The association unites the participants of educational process of all levels - teachers, high school teaching staff, pedagogues of formal and informal adult education, students of educational science, researchers, as well as students of all educational levels and their parents. One of the main aims of association's activity is to carry out research, to provide recommendations, and to support creative and research projects in the field of education development, thus promoting the implementation and transfer of education innovations.


Why mathematics?

As the project coordinator, representative of “NGO Education Innovations Transfer Centre” Anna Vintere tells, the idea to implement such a project has occurred while identifying insufficient mathematical skills among the inhabitants of the Baltic States. “Mathematics is a discipline, which is a background for specialists who work in the field of environmental protection, engineering, construction, entrepreneurship, telecommunications, textile, new energy sources, etc. It is obvious that mathematical knowledge and skills have a great impact on both everyday life and professional activity. Moreover, mathematics is essential also in the field of lifelong learning. When analysing the socio-economic situation in the Baltic region, we have concluded that mathematical competences are not developed enough. Therefore, with the help of Nordplus project we want to activate the role of mathematics in the sustainable development of the region, to identify mathematical education needs of inhabitants, and to develop recommendations for adult education providers on promoting basic mathematical skills”.


Partnership – newly obtained experience and friends

One of the main results anticipated during the implementation of the project was the development of a cooperation network between three organisations of the Baltic States – NGO Education Innovations Transfer Centre (Latvia), NGO Innova (Estonia), Vilnius Gabriele Petkevicaite-Bite Adult Education Centre (Lithuania), to exchange experience and create new innovative lifelong learning products. The aim of cooperation was to identify the supply of mathematics further education in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, as well as to determine the mathematical education needs of inhabitants of the Baltic States.

A. Vintere reveals how project partners were found: “NGO Innova is a non-governmental organisation of a similar profile in Tallinn, with which we have already successfully cooperated exactly in the field of mathematics. Namely, in cooperation with two more organisations from Iceland and Sweden, we created a similar project and issued a NGO grant within the framework of the programme in the office of the Nordic Council of Ministers in Latvia, yet unsuccessfully; therefore, we decided to continue developing the idea within the framework of Nordplus programme. Unfortunately, partners from Iceland and Sweden refused to continue. Wherewith, we invited Vilnius Gabriele Petkevicaite-Bite Adult Education Centre. This resulted in a great team: we, Latvians, had experience in university mathematics, Estonians – in school mathematics, while Lithuanians – teaching of adults”. Moreover, A. Vintere admits that the culture and people's peculiar properties of partner countries were discovered and new friends were obtained along with intensive work over the year: “Three meetings of the working group were organised during the project. The first meeting of the project working group took place in Jūrmala from 28 to 31 August 2013, the second meeting was organised in Vilnius from 9 to 13 April 2014, whereas the third one – in Tallinn from 21 to 25 August 2014. Each meeting of the project working group included not only extensive work, but also interesting cultural and social programmes”.

“During the project, answers were found to the following questions by joining forces:

  1. What should be done at a national, institutional, and individual level to promote citizens' mastering of basic mathematical skills?
  2. How can different organisations / institutions participate in this process?
  3. How should mathematics further education of adults be organised and what methodological support would be preferable / necessary?

 

Everything planned was achieved during the implementation of the project and even more!

“I can confidently state that we achieved all the previously outlined aims and defined results during the implementation of the project. Moreover, I consider that we did even more than we initially demanded from ourselves. For instance, with the help of seminars-discussions in all the three Baltic States, we made the issue of mathematical education topical not only during our initiated events, while discussions occurred even on Internet websites next to the published articles (read here),” A. Vintere points out.

"The results of the survey were presented at the 15th International Conference “Teaching Mathematics: Retrospective and Perspective”” which took place in Liepāja from 8 to 10 May 2014, as well as at the Nordic–Baltic Agrometrics Conference from 11 to 13 June 2014”.


What is the joint benefit from the project implementation?

“In my opinion, the greatest value of the project was the possibility of obtaining new experience and knowledge, discussing topical issues on the adult education with colleagues from different countries and organisations of a similar profile in Latvia, as well as getting acquainted with other cultures and meeting people from other countries. This project is highly important for the involved organisations and people participating in it. Within the framework of this project, meetings were organised in all the partner countries, where discussions were held on the mathematics education and mathematical competences of adults, on different ways of organising mathematics further education, as well as motivating adults to improve mathematical skills. People, who were involved in project activities, shared knowledge and experience. They learned a lot about mathematical education in partner countries, broke stereotypes related to training methods and mathematics. Moreover, the project improved the status and trust to our organisation at a local and international level. Whereas, during seminars-discussions, there was a possibility of establishing new contacts with schools and institutions which provide adult education services in Jelgava and Zemgale region”, A. Vintere tells.

 

The main benefits from the partnership may be divided into three groups of results:

new knowledge was obtained:

  • a survey questionnaire was created – a tool for identifying the supply of mathematics further education in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia and determining mathematical education needs of inhabitants of the Baltic States;
  • a new electronic survey tool was developed;
  • the organisation of mathematics further education in Latvia and partner countries was assessed;
  • recommendations were prepared for the providers of adult education services regarding the promotion of mathematical skills and influence on the creation of methodological support of mathematics further education of adults;
  • it was described that different organisations might participate in promoting mathematical skills

new data bases were created:

  • results of survey of inhabitants and employers of the Baltic States were summarised;
  • a handbook was created for the teachers of adult “How to Strengthen Citizens' Mathematical Skills”;
  • two presentations were provided at international scientific conferences;
  • an international comparative study was carried out on mathematical education needs in the Baltic States.

new skills were obtained:

  • new professional knowledge and experience was obtained on the organisation of mathematics further education of adults and training issues;
  • knowledge was supplemented on the education system in the region of Nordic–Baltic countries;
  • language competition, motivation, and interest in obtaining new experience was improved, particularly at an international level;
  • significant experience was obtained in the implementation of international projects and experience of being a coordinator.

 

Project potential

As A. Vintere explains, the supply of mathematics further education and development issues in the Baltic States are practically equal. When assessing the experience obtained during the implementation of the project, the strengths and weaknesses of each partner organisation can be seen, and hence the potential to learn from each other. It also outlines the possibilities of further cooperation and development issues which may be continued in four directions:

  • further development of the problem at a national level;
  • cooperation at an institutional level;
  • cooperation between teachers;
  • cooperation between adult students.

“By implementing this project, the financing of Nordic countries – NORDPLUS – was successfully implemented by the funds of the programme “NGO Co-Financing Programme” Financed by the State Budget of Latvia”.