The evolution of education – teaching mathematics to primary school children through programmed instruction – Maria Natalia
Figure 26: Patricia Bulie, Director of a private kindergarten and after-school in Romania
Figure 27: Patricia Bulie, presenting the teaching methods of "Maria Natalia" kindergarten and "Ingrid’s Club" kindergarten and after-school in a TV show (January 2024)
9.1 Interview with Patricia Bulie, Director of a private kindergarten and after-school in Romania
On 30 January 2024, we conducted an interview with Patricia Bulie, co-owner at “Maria Natalia” kindergarten and Director of “Ingrid’s Club” kindergarten and after-school, both private educational units in Romania.”Maria Natalia” is an accredited educational institution by the Order of the Ministry of National Education no. 5394/16.08.2023. It is also a member of the Association of Private Schools in Romania. Patricia Bulie (34 years) brings five years of experience in both pre-school and primary education, supported by a bachelor’s de gree in the field. Additionally, she holds training certificates in continuous learning through the Romanian School in the Context of Decentralisation program and in the management of preschool education institutions. At their unit, they educate children between three and almost ten years old. In our interview, we discussed about the innovative methods and interactive tools they use to teach mathematics to primary school children, and about the differences between programmed instruction in various regions in Romania, as well as about the benefits and challenges encountered in teaching mathematics to primary school children via programmed learning and computer based instruction.
9.2 Transcript of the interview
Question: How would you describe the education model that is prevalent in your institution?
Answer: According to the fact that we are a private kindergarten, we also include traditional ways of teaching, but we also have progressive methods, because we try nowadays to be in a perfect timing with the schools from other cities and countries in Europe.
We try to develop new methods for teaching. In our curriculum we try to introduce some, let’s say, games. In order to be more accurate in teaching maths, for example, we have a dashboard, and we have a lot of games.
Question: This is very interesting. Could you please expand more on what kind of tools do you use, if you use, for example, programmed instruction tools, and how do you include this kind of tools to children into the curriculum?
Answer: It is well known that the fact that the younger children from kindergarten are very interested and very focused on using games in order to learn something. Also, I can say that during the COVID-19 pandemic we had to use a lot these progressive methods because we had to rely a lot on Internet.
The children from kindergarten love to stay in front of a computer or in front of a board to learn something. We also have in our kindergarten interactive boards, to show them various applications, and a lot of games.
Question: And how these tools evolved over time? For example, before and after COVID-19. How these new tools have been introduced to the education of children?
Answer: First, there was a gap of communication, because also the parents were not very used to these new methods of teaching. They were use to have everything on the paper. Now, we offer something else, we have tests for primary-school children, such as those used for Comper. Now, Comper can be used also online and can be filled in online.
We like very much this type of evaluation because it is more accurate, it is more clean, and children like it very much, too. They like to do this kind of homework in front of a computer and we are much closer like this.
Question: What is Comper? Can you explain more?
Answer: Comper is a test that assess children’s knowledge in literature and maths. It is a test conducted all over Romania and this test is performed by children from primary school, starting from the 0 grade [editor’s note: 6-7 years old] to the fourth grade [editor’s note: 10-11 years old].
Question: It is somehow similar to the Mathematics Kangaroo or not?
Answer: Yes, yes. It is the same.
Question: From your perspective, how has the approach to teaching mathematics to program instruction varies in different regions or cities in Romania?
Answer: Of course, we can do a a parallel and see the difference between the urban way of teaching and the rural way of teaching. If we think about the schools and the kindergartens from the cities, we see that the teachers and also the children have a more developed way of thinking, acting and using programs
If we look back in the past or if we look nowadays in the small villages, we see that they don’t have so much approach with technology, maybe because of the geographical position, because they don’t have too much access to Internet, maybe they don’t have too much money to buy a new programs.
And this is why in some parts of Romania we don’t see such an evolution. But I also think the teachers should learn more about programmed instruction as a way of teaching.
Question: Do you have multi-cultural children in your after-school or kindergarten?
Answer: Yes, we have some Ukrainian children. We also have a boy whose mother is from Croatia, and we also had some Japanese children, so we are a multicultural kindergarten.
We have also English teachers, who teach English, and the children have the opportunity to study in English in our kindergarten.
Question: Did you identify any cultural patterns, for example, to allow people from different cultures to better integrate to the program learning? Or if, for example, some of some nationalities were better in learning math, and others in learning English?
Answer: Yes, it is well known that the Japanese and Chinese are very quickly in maths because they have the Soroban way of calculating. But I think that the most important thing is what the child sees at home, because nowadays parents are working more remotely, from the computer, and they use different programs and the children see that level of knowledge and see how their parents can do a lot of things on the computer and they are very curious about how this works. And of course, when you see these things at home, the child would also try to copy.
Question: What are your personal views on the effectiveness of programming instruction in teaching mathematics to primary school children?
Answer: I think that program instruction has a lot of benefits nowadays and for certain there will be a lot of benefits in the future. Probably the most effectively will be when a lot of Romanian students will try to accede to international colleges because they will be able to work with new programs. Because I see nowadays that in other countries program instruction is very well developed and they use a lot of programs in their activities. And we have to keep up with this.
Question: Do you consider that the technological advancement and changes in educational theories are relevant? For example, traditional methods are still an efficient method of teaching mathematics to primary school children today, or they should be more creative, more innovative?
Answer: I can say only what happens in our unit. We try to be creative, and also to align creativity with the programmed instruction. But we have to follow the curriculum and we try to use both of them.
We are also a traditional unit, and try to implement as much as possible this type of programs because I really see the difference with our children in the after-school.
In private units, children have access to information more than those that are educated in public schools.
Question: Do you see any differences in the acceptance on the use of programming instruction tools compared to traditional public school settings?
Answer: Yes, from the parents, but also from the teachers with a lot of experience in education because they have their own standards, their own way of teaching and it is probably hard to make them implement another way of teaching.
But with my colleagues I see the difference. I see that they try to do more, and by using some other tools in education we see that we are closer to what children think, what is their opinion about education. They want another type of education, they want a free education.
Nowadays, teachers are not only staying at a table in front of children, they are not only a statue in front of a table, they are the persons that open the imagination door. And we like very much to play.
We have our way of thinking that we, at the kindergarten and after-school, we play, we grow and we learn together. So these the three pillars and the the most important things in our activity: we play, we grow while playing, and then we learn something about what we do in each day.
Question: We discussed a lot about the benefits of programmed instruction, but what were the challenges you encountered when trying to implement these methodologies in teaching?
Answer: Unfortunately, there are challenges regarding some medical conditions. Because we also have children who are fighting with the ADHD, meaning that they don’t have enough power to stay still, to watch and to learn. They have medical issues, so they don’t have the opportunity to embrace the programmed instruction the same way as the other children. So for them you have to follow the traditional way.
We also have some challenges in obtaining the learning programs, because we need some licenses for that, we have to book the licenses and after that we have to go training, to learn how to use these programs. So we are like doctors: we are in a continue practice and learning.
Question: And in your opinion, what role should programmed instruction play in the future of primary school mathematics education in Romania, both in private and public sectors?
Answer: I think it should play a significant role in the future because it offers innovative solutions. It offers us a window to go into the next type of learning because we are the next generation. We have the next opportunities in developing teaching and we want to share all the information we gained with our children, with our future students and hopefully this programmed instruction will help us achieve a lot in our journey in life.
Question: Is there anything else you would like to share or discuss regarding a the historical perspective of teaching mathematics through programmed instruction?
Answer: If we do a parallel between the mathematics that was used in the ancient Egypt or ancient Greece, we see that Plato and Aristotle used programmed instruction in a way. They left us some axioms from where we started and premeditated the answer, and
we tried to implement some machines in order to obtain that result.
Also, I am glad that the programmed instruction is a theme of discussion in the universities, and I am grateful that you invited me to talk about this subject.
Finally, in the name of “Maria Natalia” kindergarten and “Ingrid’s” club kindergarten and after-school, I am very glad to to meet you and to be part of your journey. And I wish you a very good luck.