Manuela David: “Mathematics is not a discipline of study, but a discipline of the spirit”

Elena Manuela David is an atypical mathematics teacher – erudite, elegant, cheerful, vivid, bon viveur, human explorer – who teaches mathematics not only in the classic, arid style of abstract formulas, but also through storytelling, sacred geometry, hypnotizing mandalas, creative games.

The ultimate test of her innovation and creativity was to teach mathematics to refugee pupils from Ukraine, when none of them knew the other’s language. Cheers to her awesome geometry games and fascinating mandalas.

She is a mathematics teacher at the “Petru Rareș” National College in Suceava and although she has been teaching for almost 40 years, she is one of the most creative and innovative mathematics teachers I know.

I discovered her 12 years ago, at a contest for a glossy women’s magazine, and I was impressed by her writing style, vivacity and humor, somehow atypical for a math teacher. After getting to know her better, I told her that if I had her as a teacher, I would definitely have chosen a job in the field of STEM and not in the artistic or social area. She is the kind of educator who can influence your destiny, attracting you to the side of mathematics – the one full of poetry, philosophy and high spirituality – the one you understand better as the years go by.

Manuela David is the prototype of an educator-leader, a schoolmaster, or, more precisely, a mentor who sees education as an entity that cultivates and develops leadership. When she talks about education, she admits that the voice she feels most in her mind and soul is that of a mentor – including for his two daughters, two beautiful young professionals.

That is why she is aware that leadership must be learned at school, as well as well-being. Until they are officially included in any program, she believes that every educator has the moral duty, unstated, to leave an imprint of a leader, a mentor, regardless of the subject they are teaching. Children feel it, recognize it instinctively and remain marked by it in a positive way, all their lives. To paraphrase Maya Angelou, pupils will forget what you taught them, what information you shared, but they will never forget the way you make them feel, dream, and become professionals.

Her classes are infinitely more than boring, dull, sterile, abstract mathematical formulas; they are skillfully explained with the help of storytelling, sacred geometry, mandalas full of symbols, with stories about people who enlightened the world with their formulas (Newton, Platon, Aristotel, Pitagora), but also with elements of cosmology and sacred architecture, based on the principle reformulated by a famous mathematician, Gauss – “God does arithmetic.”

It is said that storytelling helps to transform the school, the educational process, to make it friendlier for young pupils, and at the same time, contributes to their general culture and personal development. Storytelling helps the child to follow an idea over time, to say it further, and when he becomes an adult, he makes the connection with what you said in school. Storytelling develops creativity, complex problem solving and communication skills. Children’s national evaluation exam results have nothing to do with storytelling. What makes it different? The way they succeed to expresses themself, the way they present a subject and improvise on a topic, because that genial and outstanding teacher was able to present an abstract issue, bringing it to reality.

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