The world’s youngest professor of mathematics education

Jan 24, 2012 | Research/Cooperation

On 17 January, Andreas Ryve was appointed professor of mathematics education at Mälardalen University. That makes him the youngest professor in the world in this subject area. Since research in mathematics education typically becomes better if one has worked as a school teacher for a number of years, professors are often somewhat older.

- It is more important to do a good job than to be the youngest! Being a professor means, among other things, that you are expected to lead a research group, and I have started to do that, but being a professor gives me both greater opportunities and more responsibility to participate in the work concerning strategically important questions for MDH, says Ryve.

Research in mathematics education at MDH follows two main directions. One is co-production with municipalities in the form of combined research and development projects aiming to improve mathematics teaching, of which the Räkna med Västerås [‘Count on/with Västerås’] project is one example. Within the project, the University is working with the entire educational organization of the municipality, not only the teachers, so that changes take place at all levels. The aim is to improve classroom teaching in mathematics.

The other main direction is about comparing mathematics teacher training in different countries. We have a cooperation with the University of Cambridge that is concerned with investigating and analyzing teaching practices for teacher students in Swedish and Finnish teacher education. We will also apply for funding to include more countries in the study, starting with England and Ireland.

- I estimate that the professorship will offer opportunities to further strengthen co-production with the municipalities in the region and additional opportunities to study mathematics education on an international level, says Ryve.

Research that benefits teacher training at MDH

The research projects imply both research within our teacher education and that researchers able to teach within the subject teacher programmes come to the University. Since the co-productive project is about the development of classroom teaching, this also means that the teacher students’ school placements will become better.

- What is more, the students’ degree projects will be of a higher quality, partly because researchers within the field will supervise the students, partly because the degree projects can become a part of the bigger project, which benefits the latter and puts the degree projects within a greater context, says Ryve.

Popular research education

The research group in mathematics education at Mälardalen University, M-TERM, consists already now of nine doctoral students and several senior researchers. In the spring, there will be two or three additional doctoral students, and other senior researchers have expressed an interest in coming to Mälardalen University and joining the research group.

One step towards strengthening the research group was to initiate cooperation concerning the research school DME (’Developing Mathematics Education’), which MDH has developed together with Umeå University, Linnæus University, and Malmö University. The school is funded by Vetenskapsrådet [‘the Swedish Research Council’] and creates opportunities for MDH to develop in-depth cooperation with several municipalities in the region, e.g. Arboga, Strängnäs, Eskilstuna, Köping, and Kungsör.

- Via the research school, the Räkna med Västerås project, and funding for external doctoral students, Mathematics Education at MDH obtained 23 million kronor worth of research funding last year, according to Andreas Ryve.