From Finland to Tanzania Part 3


During September 2016, Matias Hynynen, an IT teacher from Helsinki working as a volunteer in Arusha kept a blog during a two week training visit to his school by 2016 Global Teacher of the Year Finalist, Maarit Rossi. Here Matias looks back at the visit and considers how things had changed.

The AfterMath

After Maarit’s departure I had the chance to observe the effect Maarit’s lessons had had on our teachers – and of course on me too. Here’s a little analysis. The first question that comes to my mind is “why?” Why are Maarit’s methods not used more widely? They work and they’re fun.

Top tip: make every tenth lesson something special

What I really liked in Maarit’s teachings was the variety. There is something for everyone. Not every lesson is about doing something spectacular in a group, what we mostly did in our sessions in Meru Primary school. Maarit said that if every tenth lesson is something different, then students’ motivation will last. Also if you really understand how and why something is calculated it gives you confidence and can be linked to reality. I really enjoyed the practicality of the exercises. I have always hated theoretical teaching because I need to do and feel things to learn. That’s why mathematics wasn’t my favorite subject at school. I hope next generations will feel differently.

“Trick Maths” doesn’t work

The internet is full of ad-filled basic mathematical games that kids play for some time, but their interest rarely lasts very long. They learn that 5 times 5 is 25 and when you do it many times you start remembering it. Then there are nice looking games where you destroy monsters and draw geometrical objects. Maarit calls this “trick maths”. Schools are putting a lot of money and frustration into those games hoping they make students understand math better. I have spent hours and hours to find good apps for maths. It’s a long and tough road if every teacher has to do the same. It is just takes so much time away from teaching.

Teachers’ thoughts

I interviewed Lilyan Martin, a teacher from the deaf unit of Meru Primary School. She really liked Maarit’s lessons and enjoyed being there. She liked especially the lesson where teachers cut triangles and then tore out the angles so it showed that all angles are together 180 degrees. She said that before Maarit’s lessons she had just memorized without ever thinking about what it really meant. Lilyan had tried that also with her students and tomorrow they are going to build a cube using peas and toothpicks. She also said that she would like to learn more maths.

Paulina Mallya was impressed with Maarit’s lessons and especially how practical it was. In her classroom teaching is different because she has 90 fifth graders and there is no Internet connections or tablets available.

She had tried the exercise where one person is a drawer and the other a teller. Students enjoyed it and now they understand math better than before. The biggest problems are getting enough material for the whole class and the lack of computers.

In general I have noticed a positive hype around Maarit’s lessons. Teachers who participated in Maarit’s class have been teaching those teachers who were not able to attend. That really surprised me in a positive way. Looks like Tanzania was ready for Maarit’s methods.



Matias Hynynen

Teacher in Special Education at Laajasalon opisto, Helsinki Area, Finland




Feature Image: Children from Meru Primary School

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