Mirka Konrádová teaches mathematics at the Lutheran Academy in Martin. She credits her passion for math to having great math teachers during her childhood. Today, Mirka is one of only four educators in Slovakia credentialed to teach mathematics (and train other teachers) in the “Hejný method,” a non-traditional approach in which students learn math principles by solving interesting math problems rather than by memorizing formulas. Originated in the 1990s by mathematician Milan Hejný, the innovative technique is gaining popularity in Europe as well as in Canada.
Not many of us can claim to love math, but you do! When did you discover your attraction to mathematics?
Math was fun for me even in elementary school. I had a great teacher who lived for school and mathematics. But I wasn’t such a math star from the beginning: I even got an F in geometry in third grade. I remember my father trying to explain that I couldn’t mix apples and oranges but I stubbornly insisted that you can mix them—and get a fruit salad. I think his head almost exploded! (laughs)
Perhaps it applies to any school subject, that whether we like it or not depends on the person who helps us learn it.
Maybe yes. I had several great teachers. And maybe I was just lucky to come into contact with outstanding people who channeled my life into mathematics. Professor Hejný once said, “Anyone can learn math. But only a really good teacher can ignite children’s hearts for mathematics.” I know I still have a long way to go [to achieve that kind of accomplishment], but I enjoy it!
You became credentialed to teach the Hejny method in October 2015. How long did it take to earn this credential?
Preparing for the certificate is a long-distance run. Now that I have it, this is just the beginning. For the credentialing test itself, I had to prepare a portfolio that included a few videos, analyses, and other works. The entire preparation took me almost three years.
The process must have involved some sacrifice on your part.
Yes, it’s been a big part of my work and private life; I often worked late into the night. It may sound like a cliché, but without the patience, understanding, and support of my relatives, I couldn’t have done it. My students became a part of my portfolio through videos. You know, once you learn the Hejný method, it’s always in your head. I’m always thinking about how to do it better, what to change and where to find the time. But despite it all, I don’t consider it sacrifice. The whole process gave me a lot!
So, you plan to continue to grow in your application of the Hejný method and implement it at the Lutheran Academy?
I hope to be useful in preparing and executing the approach in our elementary and high school. First, I will collaborate with the director of the Lutheran Academy to train our elementary-school teachers in the method. Then I want to continue providing intensive assistance to teachers.
Do you also plan to work with teachers outside the Lutheran Academy?
Yes! In fact, today we’re establishing a club for teachers of the Hejný method open to all educators. We’ll meet once a month. The goal of this club is to exchange experiences and solve problems from practice.
And of course I’ll train and work with other teachers of the Hejný method in areas where I have strengths. And where I need to improve, I pledge to improve! This is the promise I made when I earned my certificate: first and foremost, to ignite the hearts of my students in discovering the joys of math.
Is the Lutheran Academy a good place for teaching the Hejný method?
I think the Lutheran Academy in Martin is an excellent place for several reasons. First, we have great leadership that supports change. The school is a place where students come first. When the headmaster Jozef Sopoliga first learned about the Hejný method he was thrilled and immediately understood that this is the way to help children find their way to understanding mathematics.
Second, we have great teachers here. I’m very glad I can be part of this team. Despite the teachers’ having to change their teaching methods, they are embracing the Hejný method. Their students are enthusiastic and are learning math with pleasure.
Parents also have a role in transitioning to this method. They, too, are doing a great job and are learning fast, letting their children learn to work and think, and that is important. Without them none of this would be possible.
Mirka Konrádová: Bio
Miroslava (Mirka) Konrádová studied at Comenius University in Bratislava, majoring in mathematics education. In October 2015 she earned a certificate from Charles University in Prague to teach math using the Hejný method. Mirka joined the Lutheran Academy in Martin in September 2013, teaching in the Academy’s five-year bilingual high school. She and her husband Lubomír are the parents of two children.
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