Alternative way of teaching maths increasingly popular in Czech schools
If you ask Czech kids what is their most hated subject at school, the answer is nearly always the same: mathematics. This may soon change, however, with more and more schools pushing an alternative way of teaching mathematics, the so-called Hejný method. It has now been adopted by more than 350 schools around the country and for the first time this year, it will also be tested in grades five to nine.
The method was founded in the late 1980s by mathematician Milan Hejný, who was unhappy with the way the subject was taught at schools. Along with a group of colleagues he developed a new teaching method that would allow children to enjoy the process of learning. The system is aimed at constructing a network of mental mathematical schemes, which are formed by each student individually. But how exactly does this work in practice? I asked Megan Fraley, who has been using the method with four-graders in the town of Jesenice:
“We try to use different kinds of materials, if we are learning for example to calculate the size of an area, we have little cubes that students can use, to measure and count, and then try to multiply them to get the answer. If we are doing shapes, we might use pretzels, for instance, to help them figure out angles and directions. It means using a lot of visual and concrete objects to help them work out the problems.”
“The teacher is really just supposed to facilitate the learning process and oversee the students but without actually getting too involved, to try to let them figure it out by themselves or working in groups as well, that is another method, and to help them get the answer, to help with the steps in order for them to reach the conclusion on their own.”
Though some teachers argue that the Hejný method is more suitable for students with good visualisation, and may not be good for everyone, the number of its supporters is steadily increasing. Megan Fraley says the new method has helped her as well, forcing her to be more creative:
A Hejny maths textbook, which has been approved by the Ministry of Education, is now being translated into other languages, as several European countries have expressed interest in testing the method in practice.