Jöran Petersson

Jöran Petersson


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Works at Department of Mathematics and Science Education
Telephone 08-120 765 02
Visiting address Svante Arrheniusväg 20 A, E-huset, Arrheniuslab
Room P 436
Postal address Institutionen för matematikämnets och naturvetenskapsämnenas didaktik 106 91 Stockholm

About me

Jöran Petersson has a PhD in mathematics education (2017) and is lecturer and postdoctoral researcher in mathematics education. He also got a master (licentiate) in mathematical systems theory and optimization from the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm (1999) and a diploma as upper secondary school mathematics and physics teacher from Linköping University (2004). He has worked with research and development as mathematician in industry (sensor signals and control systems) and insurance business (1999-2002). He has taught several years in secondary school in classroom and as distance teacher via internet (2002-2007) and as university lecturer in mathematics for engineering students (1993-1998) and mathematics education for teacher students (since 2007).


I teach mathematics education mainly for secondary school teacher students but sometimes also for primary school teacher students. I also supervise theses in first and second cycle.


Presently Jöran is a post doctor researcher in the FoNS-project at MND together with professor Paul Andrews and doctor Judy Sayers. In this project he studies how concepts in Foundational Number Sense, FoNS, are presented (by books, teachers and parents) for children in grade one in school.

Jöran's PhD in mathematics education (2017) was in the intersection of students having Swedish as a second language and students' use of mathematical concepts and he had Eva Norén as main supervisor. He has collected data from students' solutions on classroom tests and from interviews. In this research project one conclusion is that there is a need to see early and newly arrived immigrants as two groups having different challenges when being taught and tested in mathematical concepts in their second language: While newly arrived student are challenged by the new language, the early immigrants on average are more challenged with the mathematical content. A second conclusion is that there is a need in research to look at specific topics in mathematics for these student categories.

Jöran's licentiate thesis in mathematics (1999) was on designing an algorithm for the optimisation problem of fitting a sum of up to three exponential terms a_{i}*exp(-b_{i}*t) to empirical data (a time series). This problem is difficult for two reasons, namely since exponential functions are non-linear and since sums of exponential functions are strongly linearly dependent. This problem was solved by using algebraic methods to design a start-up algorithm finding a near-optimal solution and then fine-tune this solution using numerical methods. As a historical note, the idea behind the algebraic start-up algorithm is the same as in methods used by astronomers in the 1700 for solving over-determined systems of equations; namely to aggregate data into as many partitions as there are unknowns to determine and thus formulate a solvable system of equations. This research task in applied mathematics illustrates that solving a problem takes not only one branch of mathematics, but several branches, such as algebra, statistics and numerical methods working closely together. This aspect of learning to master a whole palette of mathematical tools certainly applies to teaching problem solving in school mathematics as well.



A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2019. Judy Sayers (et al.). International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology

    In this paper we present statistical analyses of three textbooks used by Swedish teachers to support year one children's learning of mathematics. One, Eldorado, is authored by Swedish teachers, another, Favorit, is a Swedish adaptation of a popular Finnish series and the third, Singma, is a Swedish adaptation of a Singapore series. Data were coded against the eight categories of foundational number sense, which are the number-related competences literature has shown to be essential for the later mathematical success of year one learners. Two analyses were undertaken; the first was a frequency analysis of the tasks coded for a particular category, the second was a time-series analysis highlighting the temporal location of such opportunities. The frequency analyses identified statistically significant differences with respect to children's opportunities to acquire foundational number sense. Additionally, the time series showed substantial differences in the ways in which such tasks were located in the structure of the textbooks. Such differences, we argue, offer substantial didactical challenges to teachers trying to adapt their practices to the expectations of such imports.

  • 2019. Jöran Petersson (et al.). Proceedings of the Seventh Conference on Research in Mathematics Education in Ireland (MEI7), 251-258

    In this paper we compare adaptations of a Singaporean year-one mathematics textbook for use in England and Sweden respectively. The texts were analysed in two different ways against the eight dimensions of Foundational Number Sense (FoNS), a set of core competences that the literature has shown to be necessary for year-one children’s later mathematical learning. The first analysis, based on frequencies, showed that neither adaptation incorporated any opportunities for children to acquire the two FoNS competence relating to estimation and number patterns respectively. They also showed that the English adaptation comprised significantly more tasks than the Swedish, particularly with respect to systematic counting, where the former comprises 26% more tasks than the latter. The second analysis, based on moving averages, showed that across five of the six FoNS categories for which there were data, the temporal location and emphases of FoNS-related learning were comparable, with, in particular, no such opportunities after the mid-point of the school year in either book. However, the English adaptation’s presentation of systematic counting, occurring at various points throughout the school year, was substantially different from the Swedish adaptation, highlighting differences due, we speculate, to interpretations of local didactical traditions.

  • 2018. Jöran Petersson. Nordisk matematikkdidaktikk, NOMAD 23 (3-4), 105-122

    The present study investigated how 259 Swedish, grade 9 students, of whom 90 had an immigrant background, achieved on twelve written test items in the content area of number. Four of the twelve test items required good knowledge of arithmetic syntax, such as when it was appropriate to apply order-of-operation rules and the associative and distributive laws of arithmetic operations. On these four test items, the most-recently arrived students showed on average significantly more knowledge than the students who had immigrated when they were younger and had participated in Swedish schools for longer periods of time. The outcome suggests that these two groups of immigrant students in later school years should be considered as separate sub-categories of second-language students when it comes to teaching, assessment and research.

  • 2017. Jöran Petersson, Eva Norén. Education Inquiry

    The present study investigated test responses from 259 immigrant and non-immigrant school year 9 students in Sweden with the focus on how they solved two problems on fractions, one of them halving a fraction, in a test. The authors report three observations. Newly arrived second language immigrants seemed less likely to have the word ‘half’ in their Swedish mathematical vocabulary. Moreover, second language learners with longer experience of the new language connected the word ‘half’ with a division by two, but showed mathematical difficulties in correctly applying it to a fraction. A third finding was that the longer the experiences with Swedish school mathematics, the more likely both first and second language learners were to erroneously omit the percentage symbol, when choosing to use percentage representation of the fraction given in the test problem. The authors suggest seeing newly and early arrived second language immigrants as meeting different challenges. The newly arrived second language immigrants may know some mathematical concepts better and Swedish language less. In contrast the opposite seems to hold for second language learners with longer experience of the language of instruction.

  • 2017. Jöran Petersson. Nordisk matematikkdidaktikk 22 (2), 33-50

    This study compares Swedish first (N=2 253) and second -language (N=248) students' achievement in mathematical content areas specified by the TIMSS-framework. Data on mathematics achievement from three national tests 2007-2009 in school year 9 are used. The present study found that the achievement difference between the mathematical content areas algebra and number was smaller for second language students than for first language students and this result holds with statistical significance (p=0.016). The same holds for algebra versus data and chance (p=0.00053). A hypothesis for further research is suggested; that students immigrating in late school years have contributed to the observed result by bringing experiences from other curricula into their new schooling.

  • 2013. Jöran Petersson. Tintinism, 113-120
Show all publications by Jöran Petersson at Stockholm University

Last updated: June 29, 2020

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