Danish Teachers Use Maple in Middle School Math Class; Students Score Highest Grade in School System- Maplesoft

User Case Study:
Danish Teachers Use Maple in Middle School Math Class; Students Score Highest Grade in School System

The Ministry of Education in Denmark wanted to introduce technology into middle schools across the country to better prepare students for future learning.

Jesper Estrup and Gitte Christiansen, teachers at Holbaek By Skole, afd. Absalon in Denmark, introduced Maple into STEM courses to meet this objective.

Estrup and Christiansen were able to move class materials and homework online and create a more interactive learning environment. As a result, their students achieved the highest grades in the school system on their final exam.

Learning is a life-long process and the earlier children are introduced to new skills and concepts the more time and opportunities they have for growth and success. This is especially true in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, which involve complex concepts and problem solving. The Ministry of Education in Denmark wants middle school students working more with technology in the classroom to better prepare them for the future. Jesper Estrup and Gitte Christiansen, teachers at Holbaek By Skole, afd. Absalon in Denmark, identified Maple as a valuable tool in meeting this objective of using technology to teach complex STEM subjects.

Estrup began using Maple with Grade 6-9 students in 2014, and the following year, he was joined by Christiansen. Together they teach three classes using Maple and other digital tools. Some students were having difficulty focusing in their math classes. “There were several tools for them to focus on as learning was distributed between calculators and computers and paper and pens,” Estrup said. “We needed to simplify things and minimize the tools. With Maple, we could integrate all of the elements into one place. The learning process became much more streamlined, because students only had to focus on one screen.”

Maple enabled Estrup and Christiansen to integrate text, videos, Excel sheets and more, allowing them to move class materials and homework online. Students could access class notes from anywhere and assignments were delivered in the cloud. The results were extraordinary, Estrup said. “Not only did our students receive the highest grades in the school on the final exam, they had one of the highest grades in the entire public school system!” he said.

Both teachers feel that a key reason for that success was Maple’s ease of use combined with the digital nature of the tool. They believe computers feel natural to the current generation of students, and when trying to engage them, instructors sometimes lose sight of what methods work best. “Computers and other digital tools are how students interact with the world, so that’s what comes naturally to them,” Christiansen said. “Maple’s digital character allows them to play with math. They can manipulate problems and the math behind them, and see how the results are impacted. They actually have fun with it.”

Maple provides many other benefits, including any time accessibility for students, the ability for instructors to assist students at their point of difficulty, and the possibility of eliminating the risk of students losing materials as everything is saved electronically. Estrup and Christiansen particularly like the multimedia options and the ability to visualize math in Maple. They believe this makes the subject easier and more attractive to students. It also removes some of the limitations of a traditional classroom, Estrup noted. “We are not limited by school hours,” he said. “We can have online discussions and answer questions at any time. I had a discussion with students recently that lasted until 1:00 a.m.”

The Ministry of Education originally introduced its technology focus in 2009. Over time it became mandatory that all content in schools is delivered electronically. Students are given computers and are required to master a computer algebra system, Excel and a geometry program. At Absalon, students work through Danish Gymnasium Worksheets, a series of worksheets made available by Maple as teaching aids.

Implementing Maple has allowed students to move from book-based learning to more interactive and exploratory learning. They can research problems that interest them while still learning core concepts. Estrup recollected a 6th grade class that wanted to investigate how many of their classmates came from outside Denmark, and another class that wanted to study if there was a correlation between cellphone ownership and demographics such as ethnic backgrounds, income and other factors.  Both teachers believe that students analyze better and learn more deeply with the introduction of Maple. According to him, Maple has paved the way for more time in class to discuss new concepts, introduce more advanced topics, and also for students to work together in groups, helping each other.

The next objective for Estrup and Christiansen is to use Maple for Physics, Chemistry and other STEM courses in the school. Students love the new technology and are excited to use it more, Estrup said. “They can now work with more complex problems and play around with the math. Maple keeps them engaged with the course materials and has become an integral part of math classes.”

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