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Mathematics teaching expert wins 2023 NRF lifetime award

Image: National Research Foundation

Jill Adler reimagined mathematics teacher training and research for a free South Africa

A University of Witwatersrand distinguished professor in mathematics education has won the National Research Foundation’s lifetime achievement award for 2023.

The award comes with a R50,000 grant, which recipient Jill Adler says will fuel her work on teaching mathematics in ways that take the student’s home language into account. It is given out yearly to somebody who has made significant contributions to South African science over a long period of time.

Accepting the award in person on 31 August in Durban, Alder said: “This award for me gives recognition to the importance of educational research that is grounded in the realities of our mathematics classrooms.”

Born and raised in Johannesburg, Adler qualified as a teacher before moving into academia in the mid-1980s. Her PhD thesis examined the dynamics of teaching and learning mathematics in multilingual classrooms.

Dealing with deficits

In the 1990s, Adler took steps to transform higher education programmes to address the deficits of maths teacher training legacies formed during Apartheid, which ended in 1994. In 2005 she established a centre for mathematics and science education at Wits that aims to empower teachers.

From 2010 to 2019 she held the South Africa Research Chair of Mathematics Education.

Other awards were given out at the Durban ceremony. Ryan Blumenthal from the department of forensic medicine at the University of Pretoria won the public engagement with research award. Fhumulani Mavis Mulaudzi from the nursing department at the same university won an accolade for championing research capacity development and transformation.

Addressing the ceremony, science minister Blade Nzimande described the awards as “high standard”. He said: “They demonstrate the power of public investment in science for public good, science as a service of society, particularly for the most marginalised and vulnerable sectors of our society.”