From Russia, with love of numbers at Nashua school
Elena Trikoz, a former chemical automation engineer, teaches math at the School of Russian Language with a program that combines traditional Soviet school practices with the latest innovations in math education. (Barbara Taormina Photo)
"It's more complicated and more challenging than math in American schools," said Natalia Kaghashvili, who, along with Julia Stryhenko, co-founded the small school, which is tucked in an office park off of the Daniel Webster Highway.
"We wanted to start something for our own children," said Stryhenko, who is originally from Ukraine. The goal was to create a program that would let their children preserve their knowledge of Russian language and their ties to Russian culture.Word of the new school quickly spread among friends, and friends of friends, within the Russian-speaking community of southern New Hampshire. Today, about 50 children take classes in Russian language, art, music and math, which was added two years ago partly in response to a shared concern among Russian families that math programs in local schools weren't challenging their children.
Kaghashvili and Stryhenko grew up in Soviet schools that had a common curriculum with demanding standards that fostered logical thinking and analysis
"Here, parents will ask their children, 'Did you have fun today in school?" said Stryhenko. "That isn't the question that Russian parents ask their children."
"There was nothing entertaining about it," she said. "There were also a lot of word problems. We didn't do just mechanical things; we did things that developed logic."
"We had pencil and paper tests, but there was no multiple choice," said Kaghashvili. "We could not just choose the right answer, we had to prove we knew the process."
Kaghashvili described Soviet math as a program based on a gradual system of increasing complexity. Children seem to rise to the occasion despite the demanding work.
But the teachers at the Russian School also acknowledge that their students are from families with highly educated parents who are willing to spend the time, energy and money in additional education for their children.
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