Josef Molnár

Born in Kopřivnice near Ostrava, he dreamt of becoming a teacher as early as in primary school. As he always inclined toward natural sciences, mathematics was one option for future study. “Then descriptive geometry appeared on the scene. I was utterly fascinated, the choice was suddenly very clear to me,” said Prof Molnár, describing the beginnings of his professional career. He graduated in Secondary School Education, study combination Mathematics – Descriptive Geometry, at the Faculty of Science at Palacký University Olomouc; he received the title RNDr. (Rerum Naturalium Doctor) after defending his work in Algebra and Number Theory. He studied externally and graduated in Theory of Mathematics Education at Charles University in Prague, where he also received the title CSc. (Candidate of Sciences). He became Docent in the same field at Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Slovakia and was named Professor in Education at Palacký University Olomouc in, 2011.

Prof Molnár worked as a secondary school teacher at the Gymnasium Šternberk; then he taught mathematics classes at the Gymnasiums in Bílovec and Olomouc as a visiting lecturer. In 1980 he commenced his paedagogical activities at Palacký University, where he has been employed ever since. He began teaching seminars in Linear Algebra, Algebra and Number Theory, and Geometry, later lecturing in Imaging Methods and Constructive Geometry. Currently he specialises in teaching the Didactics of Mathematics at the UP Department of Algebra and Geometry. “Teaching mathematics is not science – it is an art. I teach my students that they have to know their discipline thoroughly and have a talent for teaching as well. And the less talented they are, the more they have to study and practise. And if that was not enough, they will face a number of problems in their profession – low teachers’ salaries, too intensive programme in the curricula at all levels of schools, and the decreasing number of classes in Mathematics,” observes Molnár.

Besides academic work and teaching, Molnár also frequently popularises science and works with young talents. He is a member of the international organisation Kangourou sans frontières, with accredited representatives from more than 60 countries on four continents who participate in the Mathematical Kangaroo competition. He was the person who had initiated the foundation of this competition in the Czech Republic, and also helped with preparations for the Mathematical Kangaroo in Austria and Slovakia. “I knew that the talented need to be trained. The International Mathematical Olympiad, however, is suitable only for the top pupils. What I like about the Mathematical Kangaroo is that everyone can compete. This competition will bring many children to mathematics. What matters is logical reasoning, the ability to find a fast solution. The questions are short, brisk, and humorous, and more solutions are possible,” explained Molnár. Based on the pattern of the Mathematical Kangaroo, he also created a national competition entitled Natural Science Kangaroo. Both events are financed by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic and integrated into the Excellence programme, run by the Ministry of Education.

Prof Molnár is the main author of a complete edition of mathematical textbooks for all the nine grades of Czech primary education, published in the Olomouc publishing house PRODOS. He is the author of more than 250 publications and an investigator of a number of Czech and international projects. His monograph Rozvíjení prostorové představivosti (nejen) ve stereometrii [Developing Spatial Imagination (Not Only) in Stereometry] received the UP Rector Honorary Award and the Faculty of Sciences Dean Award. He again received the latter award for the textbook Průvodce třírozměrným prostorem [A Guide to Three-Dimensional Space] and other publications. He co-organises and participates in specialised conferences all over the world, for example in Melbourne, Monterrey in Mexico, Cambridge, and Seoul.

He likes to go skiing with his two sons, both downhill and cross-country; sometimes he likes to take a ride on a mountain bike or even canoe or raft. When there is time and the conditions are right, he goes with his wife Eva to pick mushrooms. He plays guitar in a band called 3 + 1, founded with his faculty colleagues, occasionally playing and singing folk and country music to their fellow workers from Palacký University.

Personal creed:

“Some people have a very clear idea about what they want. However, their idea may sometimes be only in black and white, so they cannot see the variety of colours, cannot feel the abundance of smells and tastes, cannot hear the beautiful tones of life, having forgotten the touch of love. The cost of the beauty is endless searching and catching up with a new reality; however, it makes you move on, even though with a bigger and heavier cart, containing jumble and junk as well as treasures such as love, friendship, thoughtfulness, gratefulness, expectation… If you find the treasures and pull them out at the right time and assemble them into the wonderful mosaic of your own life, embracing all your near ones, friends, loves – then you are content and happy.”

Interview

Why are you so enchanted by mathematics?

It definitely must have been because of my way of thinking, based on logical deduction. I’ve always had a natural inclination towards such reasoning. When two lawyers meet, they will provide three of four different opinions upon a matter. When two mathematicians meet, only one opinion is concluded. This is the beauty of mathematics: there is only one truth. Although presently things seem to be slightly complicated due to the so-called third crisis of mathematics: we do not know what absolute truth is.

What are your professional goals?

I still pay attention to talents and work with students, and I am also the chairman of a number of habilitation and professorship committees. My goal is to facilitate didactics to grow higher and higher. So I like to help my colleagues reach a higher level of competence so that didactics may prosper.

Do you not regret that many scientists overlook didactics?

Of course I regret that. Our research is similar to the research of the others, such as ornithologists, only our terrain is the school. We acquire and assess data. Our findings do not go into prestigious journals, but into schools where they serve the needs of teachers. Didactics is closer to applied research.

Is there a part of mathematics that does not interest you?

No. On the contrary, I love geometry, especially synthetic geometry. There are areas, of course, which I’m not competent in, such as the modern higher algebra and mathematical analysis. One cannot fathom everything. It is also necessary to be familiar with psychology, paedagogy, often even acting, rhetoric, and phoniatrics.

Curriculum vitae

Date and place of birth: April 29, 1953, Nový Jičín, Czech Republic

Current employer: Palacký University Olomouc, Faculty of Science, Department of Algebra and Geometry, 17. listopadu 12, CZ-771 46 Olomouc, Czech Republic

Education:

MA, Secondary School Education, Mathematics – Descriptive Geometry, Faculty of Science, Palacký University Olomouc, 1977

RNDr., Algebra and Number Theory, Faculty of Science, Palacký University Olomouc, 1979,

CSc., Theory of Mathematics Education, Faculty of Education, Charles University in Prague, 1988

Doc., Theory of Mathematics Education, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, 2005

Prof., Education, Faculty of Education, Palacký University Olomouc, 2011

Employment History:

Military service, 1977–1978

Scholarship, Faculty of Science, Palacký University Olomouc, 1978–79

Secondary school teacher, Gymnasium Šternberk, 1979–80

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Science, Palacký University Olomouc, 1980–2005

Docent, Faculty of Science, Palacký University Olomouc, 2005–2011

Vice-Dean, Faculty of Science, Palacký University Olomouc, 2003– 2010

Head of the Centre of Pedagogical Training, UP Faculty of Science, Olomouc, 2010 – present

Head of the Section of Didactics of Mathematics, Department of Algebra and Geometry, UP Faculty of Science, Olomouc, 2009 – present

Member of Academic Senate, Faculty of Science, Palacký University Olomouc, 2011–2014

Vice-Dean, Faculty of Science, Palacký University Olomouc, 2014 – present

Visiting Lecturer: Nicolaus Copernicus Gymnasium Bílovec, 1981–1987, Slavonic Gymnasium Olomouc, 1987–1993)

Memberships and positions in academic and study programme boards and professional organisations:

Member of the Academic Boards of the Faculty of Education at the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice, the Faculty of Education at Palacký University Olomouc, and the Faculty of Logistics and Crisis Management at Tomas Bata University in Uherské Hradiště

Study Programme Guarantor and Vice-Chairman of the Study Programme Board for the Doctoral Study Programme “Didactics of Mathematics” at the Faculty of Science, Palacký University Olomouc, Member of the Study Programme Board for the Postdoctoral Programme “General Problems in Mathematics” at the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice, Member of the Examination Board for the Postdoctoral Programme “General Problems in Mathematics” at the Faculty of Science at Masaryk University in Brno, Member of the Examination Board for Postdoctoral Programme “Pedagogy” at the Faculty of Education, Palacký University Olomouc

Accredited Representative of the Czech Republic in the international association Kangourou sans frontières

Chairman of the Olomouc branch of the Union of Czech Mathematicians and Physicists, Chairman of the Terminological Committee for Mathematics in Schools at the Union of Czech Mathematicians and Physicists

Initiator of the international competition Mathematical Kangaroo in the Czech Republic (since 1993), initiator and Chairman of the competitions Natural Science Kangaroo and Run with Kangaroo

Initiator of the international autumn schools for talented MAKOS (since 1992)

Foreign languages: intermediate Russian, English, German

Awards:

Palacký University Student Medal, 1976

Medal of the City of Olomouc, 1988

Honorary Award by the Union of Czech Mathematicians and Physicists, 1987 and 1990

Pedagogical Award by the Union of Czech Mathematicians and Physicists, 1993

Meritorious Member of the Union of Czech Mathematicians and Physicists, since 2002

Bronze Medal of Palacký University, 2003

UP Faculty of Sciences Dean Award and UP Rector Honorary Award for the monograph Rozvíjení prostorové představivosti (nejen) ve stereometrii [Developing Spatial Imagination (Not Only) in Stereometry], 2005

UP Faculty of Sciences Dean’s Award for the textbook Průvodce třírozměrným prostorem [A Guide to Three-Dimensional Space], 2005

UP Faculty of Sciences Dean’s Award for the English textbook A Guide to Three-Dimensional Space, 2006

Palacký University Dean’s Award for the monograph Učebnice matematiky a klíčové kompetence [Textbook of Mathematics and Key Competences], 2007

Silver Medal of Palacký University, 2010

Medal from Towarzystwo Upowszechniania Wiedzy i Nauk Matematycznych (The Fellowship for Dissemination of Knowledge and Mathematical Sciences, Poland), 2011

Member of the winning team in the CEEPUS project, 2012

Gold Medal of Palacký University, 2013

Honorary Member of the Union of Czech Mathematicians and Physicists, 2014

International presentations (mostly invited lectures)

1) KMU Leipzig, Germany, 1987

2) MGPI Moscow, Russia, 1988

3) UB, Bern-Konolfingen, Switzerland, 1994

4) WFNMC, Sofia – Pravec, Bulgaria, 1994

5) BRG Graz, Austria, 1996

6) CMU Mount Pleasant, Michigan, USA, 1998

7) WFNMC, Melbourne, Australia, 2002

8) UKF Nitra, Slovakia, 2005, 2007

9) MFF UK Bratislava, Slovakia, 2006

10) WFNMC, Cambridge, UK, 2006

11) ICME, Monterrey, Mexico, 2008

12) WFNMC, Riga, Latvia, 2010

13) ICME, Seoul, Korea, 2012

14) JDU Czestochova, Poland, 2011, 2014

15) PWSZ Nowy Sącz, Poland, 2011, 2012, 2013

16) CEEPUS, Sarospatak, Miskolc, Hungary, 2012, 2013, 2015

Selected publications:

1) GREBEŇ, R., MOLNÁR, J.: Geometric terminology and Imagination. Scientific Issues Jan Dlugosz University in Częstochowa, Mathematics XIX, 2014, 298 pages, ISSN 1896-0286.

2) MACHAČÍKOVÁ, I., MOLNÁR, J.: Polyhedrons, chemistry and something in addition. In: Matematyka v przyrodzie – matematika i przyroda w ksztalceniu powszechnym. Nowy Sacz: PWSZ, 2011, 173 pages. ISBN 978-83-63196-04-2.

3) MACHAČÍKOVÁ, I., MOLNÁR, J.: Šroubovice v přírodě a umění. In: Matematyka w przyrodzie i stuce – matematkyka, przyroda i stuka w kstałceniu powszechnym. Nowy Sącz: PWSZ, 2013, 279 pages, ISBN 978-83-63196-46-2.

4) MACHAČÍKOVÁ, I., MOLNÁR, J.: Groups of Symmetries of Molecules. (Book chapter.) In: Matematyka w przyrodzie i sztuce, matematyka, przyroda i sztuka w powszechnym kształceniu. Nowy Sącz: PWSZ, 2012, 219 pages, ISBN 978-83-63196-30-1.

5) MOLNÁR, J.: Rozvíjení prostorové představivosti (nejen) ve stereometrii. (Monograph, 2nd edition, revised and supplemented.) UP, Olomouc, 2009, 144 s., ISBN 978-80-244-2254-1.

6) MOLNÁR, J.: Matematika pro SOŠ – Planimetrie, Prague: Prométheus 2011, 115 pages, ISBN 978-80-7196-415-5.

7) MOLNÁR, J. et al: Geometrická představivost. (Monograph.) Olomouc: VUP, 2014, 116 pages, ISBN 978-80-244-4057-6.

8) MOLNÁR, J. et al: Matematika pro 1.–9. ročník. (Textbook.) PRODOS, Olomouc, 1995–2015.

9) MOLNÁR, J., TLÁSKAL, J.: Prostorová představivost nejen v matematice. (Spatial imaginations not only in mathematics.) Linquistica online, Issue Fourteen, 2012, 67–74, http://www.phil.muni.cz/linguistica/art/molnar-tlaskal/mot-001.pdf, ISSN 1801-5336.

10) MOLNÁR, J., SCHUBERTOVÁ, S.: From Research on Space Imagination. Problems of Education in the 21st Century, 2009, 13 (13), 83–93, ISSN 1822-7864.

11) MOLNÁR, J., SLEZÁKOVÁ, J.: Testing of the Geometrical Imagination (poster). Seoul, Korea: 12th International Congress on Mathematical Education, 2012, http://icme12.org

12) SLEZÁKOVÁ, J., MOLNÁR, J., BENEŠOVÁ, L. TLÁSKAL, J.: Testing of geometrical imagination. Scientific Issues Jan Dlugosz University in Częstochowa, Mathematics XVI, 2011, 370 pages, ISSN 1896-0286.

13) ULOVEC, A. et al: Motivating a Exciting Methods in Mathematics and Science: Glossary of Terms, UP, Olomouc, 2014, ISBN 978-80-244-4138-2.

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