The students have the freedom to choose their work and the responsibility to complete it on time

Meet our lovely teachers at Otkrivatel Montessori School where we have Pre-school (2,5 – 6 years), Elementary (6 – 12 years) and Adolescents (12 – 18 years) classes. Here, students and teachers are partners in the process of self-construction and development.

Lyubo Dimitrov is a Math teacher. He combines a balanced and principled approach, a sense of humour and an inquisitive spirit, partnering with each student and creating opportunities for a maximum effort.

– What is it like to be a math teacher in a Montessori school?

– Work is a challenge, but also a pleasure and satisfaction. I am reminded of an old joke that is still relevant today: “An old man was asked: What is the bravest thing you have ever done?” And he answered: I once raised my hand in a math class. Well, my main goal is to help students overcome their fear of mathematics, to instil in them self-confidence and trust in own powers. And then turn it into a powerful tool that will serve them throughout their lives. Fortunately, working in a Otkrivatel Montessori School allows me to have complete freedom in my approach and way of working. I encourage students to find solutions to problems by themselves, emphasising the way of thinking instead of the end result. I often mix in one group students of different ages. They love to learn from each other. Searching for the solution supports the students for developing their mathematical and logical thinking.

– How do students develop their mathematical thinking in Otkrivatel?

– How often have you heard from a child the words: “That’s how the teacher showed me and that’s how she wants the math task to be done”? We appreciate exactly the opposite – when the student has found his own way and his own method of solving a math problem, no matter how strange it seems to us. Sometimes although they have solved the math task, they try to find alternative solutions. Every week we have a math seminar – we all discuss pre-assigned math and logic problems together. Everyone can offer their solution, complement their friends, or be inspired by the solution of a classmate. We can put ourselves in the place of the great discoverers who first encountered a problem, and sometimes even immerse ourselves in a certain life situation in which to apply our mathematical thinking.

– Why do you think Montessori math materials are a materialised abstraction? How does this help students’ understanding? What are your observations?

– Mathematics is the most abstract of all academic disciplines – you can neither touch nor see the numbers. You can not do an experiment with them. It is precisely for this that the human brain needs something concrete in the reality. Montessori materials provide this feeling of reality – with their help, children can touch not only whole numbers, but also fractions, arithmetic operations, geometric figures and even powers of numbers. With them, they do the operations long before they start doing the same thing, but without the materials. Thus, students gain confidence and the stress of newness and abstraction is much less.

– You went through a mentoring program as part of your induction to work at Otkrivatel. What inspired you about the Montessori approach?

– The freedom that students and teachers have to explore. By not trying to fit everyone into a mold and produce identical bricks for the wall of meaninglessness. We are guided by the individuality of each child and try to help him develop his talent and satisfy his interest. To learn to communicate with peers, to be responsible for one’s work and actions and to appreciate others – their individuality and work.

– What do you observe differently in the way of thinking and functioning of the students in Otkrivatel compared to the students in a traditional school?

– Students are much more open in their communication – with each other and with adults. They have the freedom to choose their work for the day, but also the responsibility to complete it within the aligned deadline. Everyone has a minimum of knowledge and skills to master, but they also have the freedom to dive deep into the ocean of their interest and discover new and interesting knowledge and skills. In addition to learning, students in Otkrivatel have many activities related to real life – they plan, produce and sell the production, prepare their own food. And these are valuable skills.