Description of Advanced Mathematics Programs and Curriculum

Norway: Description of the Advanced Mathematics Programs and Curriculum

TIMSS 2003 and PISA 2003 showed a decrease in Norwegian students’ performance in mathematics and science in compulsory school compared with TIMSS 1995 and PISA 2000. This resulted in a broad discussion about how to improve the learning outcomes in Norway. A big effort was made to change the curriculum for all subjects in all 13 grades. There was an agreement nationally that something had to be done, and the new curriculum received support across all political parties in the parliament. It was called the Knowledge Promotion Reform, and was implemented in the autumn of 2006. The last cohort using the previous curriculum was in Grade 13 in the 2007–2008 school year, which means that these students were assessed in TIMSS Advanced 2008. Students assessed in TIMSS Advanced 2015 have been taught according to the 2006 curriculum.

In the present curriculum, two features stand out. First, the learning goals are formulated as competencies. Second, there are five basic skills (literacies) which are supposed to be used and developed in all subjects and at all levels: the ability to express oneself orally, the ability to read, the ability to express oneself in writing, the ability to use digital tools, and numeracy. Digital devices are supposed to be widely used in teaching, learning, and testing.

The following table indicates topics taught in the courses Mathematics R1 and Mathematics R2, normally taken in Grades 12 and 13, respectively.

Content Area Topics
Geometry
(R1 and R2)
Selected elements of Euclidean plane geometry, including geometric loci and similarity; constructions with compass and straightedge, and with geometry software; the intersection theorems for heights, angle bisectors, perpendicular bisectors and medians in a triangle; various proofs of Pythagoras’ Theorem; vectors in the plane, with and without coordinates; application of vectors to determine lengths, angles, and parallelism and orthogonality of lines; vectors in space, with and without coordinates; application of scalar and vector products to determine distances, angles, areas and volumes; representation of lines, planes, and spheres by equations and in parametric form; calculation of lengths, angles and areas in bodies limited by planes and spheres
Algebra
(R1 and R2)
Division and factorization of polynomials; logarithms; polynomial, rational, and logarithmic equations and inequalities; transformation and simplification of rational functions and other symbolic expressions with and without the use of digital aids; direct and contrapositive proof; proof by induction; number patterns; finite arithmetic series; finite and infinite geometric series; convergence
Functions
(R1 and R2)
Limit, continuity and differentiability; derivatives of polynomial, exponential, and logarithmic functions; derivatives of sums, differences, products, and quotients of functions, and of composite functions; interpretation of functional behavior from the first and second derivatives; interpretation of derivatives in models of practical situations; drawing function graphs by hand and by digital tools; interpretation of a function’s basic properties from its graph; horizontal and vertical asymptotes; vector functions with parameters; velocity and acceleration as derivatives of vector functions; trigonometric functions and equations; derivatives of trigonometric functions; modeling periodic phenomena; definite and indefinite integrals; integration by substitution, by parts, and by partial fractions with linear denominators; interpretations of definite integrals in practical applications, and calculation of areas of plane regions and volumes of solids of revolution; mathematical modeling based on observed data
Combinatorics
and Probability
(R1 only)
Independence and conditional probability; Bayes’ theorem for two events; ordered samples with and without replacement; unordered samples without replacement; applications to calculation of probabilities
Differential
Equations
(R2 only)
Modeling practical situations by differential equations; interpretation of solutions; linear first order and separable differential equations; second order homogenous differential equations; the use of Newton’s second law and second order differential equations to describe free oscillations by periodic functions; application of digital tools to draw vector diagrams and integral curves

The previous curriculum for advanced mathematics covered quite a bit of statistics, including binomial, hypergeometric, and normal distributions, confidence intervals, and hypothesis testing. This was an important part of the curriculum in both of the advanced mathematics courses. The present curriculum has much less on statistics. The remaining parts are some combinatorics and probability taught in the first year of the advanced mathematics track (Mathematics R1). Another important change in the curriculum is that mathematical proof is emphasized more in the present curriculum than in the previous one. The new curriculum states that students shall “give an account of implication and equivalence, and implement direct and contrapositive proof” the first year (Mathematics R1) and “implement and give an account of proof by induction” the second year (Mathematics R2).

There have only been minor adjustments made to the curriculum after 2006. Both the new and the previous curricula emphasize the use of digital tools in mathematics. Under previous curricula, a liberal policy was developed to encourage and allow an extensive use of aids in all teaching and testing. Written notes and advanced calculators were normally allowed in local tests as well as in national written examinations. This has changed in the present curriculum. Every exam in mathematics is now divided into two parts. The first part is solved by pen and paper only and no aids are allowed. The second part, however, does not only allow the use of digital tools, but some are even required, like dynamic geometry programs. It is specifically stated that students in the second part of the exam shall have quite sophisticated electronical aids available.

Not all students have to take a national written exam in mathematics. About 40 percent of the first year (Mathematics R1) students are sampled, as are about 60 percent the second year (Mathematics R2) students. For the local oral exam, about 5 percent and 15 percent of the students in the respective courses are sampled for testing.

There is no national certification of teaching materials, such as textbooks, in Norway. The authors and publishers are free to decide the content of a textbook; the responsibility for covering the national curriculum rests on the school and the teacher.

Generally, one may say that the present curriculum emphasizes pure mathematics a little more than the previous one, across all levels. For instance, the present curriculum has a slightly stronger emphasis on algebra in compulsory school. Also, as has already been mentioned, formal proofs are now more emphasized than before in the advanced mathematics courses of upper-secondary school.