Implementation research as a new area in mathematics didactics

Researchers in mathematics education at Uppsala University and the Department of Education have recently received research funding from the Swedish Research Council for the project Implementation Research as a new area in mathematics education.

Mathematics education is an established research area. But the process of implementing important results from this area into schools has only recently become a distinct research problem for mathematics education. This is in contrast to other research areas, such as health sciences, where implementation research is a well-defined sub-area.

The aim of the four-year project is to create an empirically based theoretical framework for implementation research in the field of mathematics education research, in particular for research on large-scale development projects. The project examines which existing theories in implementation research and which parts of these are applicable to implementation projects related to mathematics. To verify this, we test the theories and related concepts that we find relevant through comparisons of five carefully selected different cases. First, a historical comparison is made of three Swedish projects: Matematiklyftet (Boost for Mathematics, 2011-2016); PUMP (1970-1985); and New Mathematics (1960-1975). Second, a contemporary comparison, made in time but not geographically, is made by Matematiklyftet and MIST (2007-2011) and TRIUMPHS (2015-2020), two development projects from the USA. Based on the results of the comparisons, we create a theoretical framework for large-scale development projects.

The main material is reports on the five development projects that describe, for example, preparations, implementation processes or evaluations. Research publications on the projects are also studied. There will also be interviews with people who have been or are involved in the projects.

The project has very high international scientific relevance. There is no empirically based theoretical framework on how research results in mathematics education have been implemented and can be implemented in schools. Although there are general theories about research results and large-scale implementation projects, there is very little knowledge about whether and how these general theories are applicable to mathematics education and mathematics teaching. In recent times, more and more researchers in mathematics education have begun to perceive this as a real problem. The research that exists in mathematics education on the implementation of curricula is not sufficient because the part of the curriculum that concerns research results and innovations linked to these are overlooked. This problem applies both internationally and in Sweden. There is thus a clear need for a specific theoretical framework for implementation research in the mathematics education research field.

From a Swedish perspective, the project has very high practical relevance. Our intention is to develop the theoretical framework into more practical guidelines for how large-scale development projects can involve research results in mathematics education. There is a need for it. Historically, large-scale projects have been carried out regularly in Sweden since the 1950s to develop mathematics teaching in schools; projects based on mathematics education research. And it is highly likely that such projects will be implemented in the future. However, there is not much systematized knowledge about how these Swedish development projects have worked, what role the research results have played, and in what way the research results have reached the teachers and students. Although there are a large number of reports on these projects, they have never been compared and studied in a more systematic way with a focus on implementation research. Our project will thus not only provide guidelines, based on a theoretical framework, but these will be linked to concrete Swedish examples of when research results have been implemented via large-scale development projects.

Participating researchers: The project is led by Uffe Thomas Jankvist, professor of mathematics education at Aarhus University and the Danish Institute for Pedagogy and Education. Jankvist is a visiting professor at Uppsala University, Department of Education. Other researchers in the project are Johan Prytz and Linda Marie Ahl, both at the same department. Another researcher will be employed in the project.

Financier: Swedish Research Council.

Project period: 2021-2024

Last modified: 2023-11-23