Judy Sayers

Judy M. Sayers


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Works at Department of Mathematics and Science Education
Visiting address Svante Arrheniusväg 20 A, E-huset, Arrheniuslab
Room P 423
Postal address Institutionen för matematikämnets och naturvetenskapsämnenas didaktik 106 91 Stockholm

About me

Judy Sayers began her career in education, as a special needs education assistant. Realising there was much to learn and develop in teaching and learning she became a primary teacher specialising in mathematics. She taught in primary education in Hertfordshire, England, in both lower and upper primary school, before leaving to pursue research activity at the University of Northampton, U.K., where she was a senior lecturer in education for 13 years. In 2013 she took a post doctorate position at Stockholm University, soon followed by an assistant professor post in mathematics education in September 2015.


Judy’s research focus has always been on the ways in which we can improve teaching and learning in school mathematics. Her PhD on ‘How primary teachers conceptualise whole class interactive phases of a mathematics lesson’ (2012, Supervisor Anne Watson, Oxford) continued her interest in teaching and learning mathematics by working closely with teachers in local schools. The in-depth case studies revealed how the changes of constraints and affordances provided by primary teachers reflected the imposed policy and local interpretation. It also informed the teacher education programme selection process at Northampton. Her current research projects are focussed in early years mathematics, and in 2015, she and her colleague Paul Andrews (PI) were awarded a Swedish Research Council grant of more than SEK 9 million to investigate the development of foundational number sense in year one children in England and Sweden.


In addition to supervision of doctoral and masters students, Judy’s teaching typically focusses in masters and doctoral courses. These include academic writing and literature review courses for PhD, and masters’ courses in research methods, Action Research and her specialist subject of early mathematics education 3-8yrs. Judy enjoys working with local mathematics teacher communities, and is often found engaging with both groups and individual teachers. She has also been invited to engage with Norwegian mathematics teacher organisations. She has always been interested in how teachers teach mathematics and has been active in Sveriges Matematiklärarförening, (SMaL); LärarUtbildare i matematik (LUMA); Ma/Nv-Biennette; and Matematikbiennalen conferences in Sweden. In England, she was an active member of the Mathematics Association (MA) and the Association of Teachers of mathematics (ATM), taking part in and organising national conferences for both associations and collaborating with the national networks; for example, the British Congress of Mathematics Education (BCME). Judy has also worked with discussion groups with the Advisory Committee in Mathematics Education in England (ACME) whose aim is to provide evidence on which to formulate mathematics education policy across the 5 – 19 age range.


In 2003-2005, she worked as a researcher on an EU grant of €300,000 to investigate, with colleagues in different countries, how mathematics is taught to children in the age range 10-14 in England, Finland, Flanders, Hungary and Spain: Mathematics Educational Traditions in Europe (METE) project. More recently, along with colleague Paul Andrews, she has been researching cross-culturally the key number skills that year one children need to acquire - foundational number sense - in order to be successful learners of mathematics. This project also involves MND’s full time PhD student, Gosia Marschall. Judy has also recently worked with Pernille B. Sunde on one aspect of her PhD into arithmetic strategies in year 1. Pernille is studying at Aarhus University, Copenhagen, Denmark, and will complete in 2018.  Judy is very active in the European mathematics research community, and is co-lead of the Arithmetic and number working group for the Congress of the European Research in Mathematics Education (CERME), held in Dublin 2017.Other work: Editor and reviewer for various conferences, funding councils and publications. 


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2016. Judy Sayers, Paul Andrews, Lisa Björklund-Boistrup. Mathematics education in the early years, 371-394

    Evidence indicates that children with a well-developed number sense are more likely to experience long-term mathematical success than children without. However, number sense has remained an elusive construct. In this chapter, we summarise the development of an eight-dimensional framework categorising what we have come to call foundational number sense or those non-innate number-related competences typically taught during the first years of schooling. We also show, drawing on grade one lessons from Hungary and Sweden, how focused instruction on conceptual subitising, the teaching of children to identify and use easily recognisable groups of objects to structure children’s understanding of number, facilitates children’s acquisition of a range of foundational number sense-related competences.

  • 2015. Paul Andrews, Judy Sayers. Early Childhood Education Journal 43 (4), 257-267

    It is known that an appropriately developedfoundational number sense (FONS), or the ability tooperate flexibly with number and quantity, is a powerfulpredictor of young children’s later mathematical achievement.However, until now not only has FONS been definitionallyelusive but instruments for identifyingopportunities for children to acquire its various componentshave been missing from the classroom observationtools available. In this paper, drawing on a constant comparisonanalysis of appropriate literature, we outline thedevelopment of an eight dimensional FONS framework.We then show, by applying this framework to three culturallydiverse European grade one lessons, one English,one Hungarian and one Swedish, that it is both straightforwardlyoperationalised and amenable to cross culturalanalyses of classroom practice. Some implications arediscussed.

  • 2014. Paul Andrews (et al.). Educational Studies in Mathematics 87 (1), 7-26

    Finnish students’ success on all three content domains of each of the four cycles ofthe OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has created muchinternational interest. It has also prompted Finnish academics to offer systemic explanationstypically linked to the structural qualities of Finnish schooling and teacher education. Lesswell-known has been the modest mathematics performance of Finnish grade 8 students on thetwo Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in which Finland hasparticipated, which, when compared with its PISA successes, has created something of anenigma. In this paper, we attempt to shed light on this enigma through analyses of Finnishmathematics classroom practice that draw on two extant data sets—interviews with Finnishteacher educators and video-recordings of sequences of lessons taught on standard topics. Dueto the international interest in Finnish PISA success, the analyses focus primarily on theresonance between classroom practice and the mathematical literacy component of the PISAassessment framework. The analyses indicate that Finnish mathematics didactics are morelikely to explain the modest TIMSS achievements than PISA successes and allude to severalfactors thought to be unique to the Finns, which, unrelated to mathematics teaching practices,may be contributory to the repeated Finnish PISA successes. Some implications for policyborrowingare discussed.

Show all publications by Judy M. Sayers at Stockholm University

Last updated: January 9, 2019

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