A little more about the children's part of the conference. Was there some kind of selection, or did everyone who wanted to make a report? How did the children choose the topics, how did they prepare, jointly with their teachers, or independently?
- We used Sosinsky's book "Knots and Scythes" as the basis. We gave it to the children and told them that there would be a conference and that it was possible to take part. I addressed some of the children in our school because I knew that they were interested in it, and I also wrote to my colleagues and friends, and they responded and brought their children. In particular, I really liked the team from School No. 179. At first I sent them the book, they registered, then there was a long silence. And suddenly a girl from school 179 called me the day before and said she wanted to do a report. I asked which chapter, she said the whole book. Then I realized that the children were ready and would come and do it. So that was the first conference. And I want to build on that, because I think it's important when kids can live through something, some mathematical topic. It's such a feeling, I know from myself, a sense of pride that I got through it, I'm good at it, and I got through this math thing.
Someone suggested today that men and women teach math differently. If men are somehow trying to fulfill themselves, women are more giving back. What do you think about this in your experience?
- That's a very interesting thought. I haven't thought about it, it's hard to say. I have a specific experience, I went to matric class, and there we were really taught to achieve something, to develop. But on the other hand, I've always been comfortable with both male and female math teachers. When that thought was expressed, I tried it on myself as a female teacher. I don't know if it has to do with gender, but I do have a maternal touch to these kids. If they don't do well, I let it all go through me, I worry about it, I really want to help them, and I often have one-on-one counseling sessions with them. I'm afraid to talk about gender, because I think that most of it comes from personality. But if you talk about me, I really always try to take care, to show them that it's not difficult, that I'm there for them, I'll help them, I'll give them a shoulder to lean on so they're not afraid, but on the contrary, they're eager to fight. So there really is something like that.
At all times generations are compared. Some say that "the kids now are not the same," some, on the contrary, believe that everything is always the same. In your experience, how do kids now relate to learning math, how different are today's kids from the memories of your school days?
- It's hard to compare, because I was in math class. The kids in New School are different, of course, because these kids don't take for granted that math is fun to do, and the kids who went to math class knew that by default it was. I love when kids have these discoveries that math doesn't work on the principle of "the teacher said so it is," that everything can be shown, that everything is logical, everything has origins. I love that through math, kids get a sense of the base that everything is logical, that if something is broken, you just have to get to the bottom of it and everything can be fixed. And my favorite and most important accomplishment is that the kids start asking questions and thoughtfully following what I'm doing. Sometimes I make mistakes, sometimes on purpose, but often I don't, and they catch me by the hand and prove that there was a mistake.
But going back to the question of whether the kids are different, in some ways I guess they are different really. They are very modern, you have to maneuver with them, because they are very bright, sharp on the tongue, active. But I like their optimism. I really like modern kids, I don't know why they get scolded. They are amazingly optimistic, often very kind. Strange situations sometimes happen to them, just like they happen to all of us, but I like the way they get out of them. They are thoughtful, they think a lot about human relationships, more than we do in our day, give a lot of importance to it, maybe something good will come out of it.
Mathematics at school is often presented as elitist, exclusive. They say to understand it, you need to be if not a genius, then at least a gifted child. How are things with this in the New School? What do you think, do you need to get away from this, or will there be this isolation?
- It seems to me that all edges need to be embraced. Indeed, we have developed a reputation for elitist mathematics. There are matric schools in which the mathematics is very strong, and we need to let this continue. I really want there to be another level. For children who, not so matriculate, but are good, strong, who can think consistently and solve problems of the right degree of difficulty, who are eager to work. Overall, I don't see any problem with making math for creative kids. To translate, for example, the same knots into mathematical language because it is very beautiful and unexpected, and I am sure that many children will do much better than solve quadratic equations