South African maths educator and Wits Professor Jill Adler has been recognised by the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction (ICMI) with two distinct honours – the position of president and the prestigious Hans Freduenthal medal for research.
The ICMI has elected Prof Adler, a National Research Foundation A-rated scientist, to steer this influential body founded in 1908. The announcement was made at the annual general meeting in Hamburg, where the 13th International Congress on Mathematics Education is taking place.
Prof Adler is the first African to lead the ICMI and she will serve in this position until 2020. She succeeds Ferdinando Arzarello from Italy.
In addition, the ICMI has awarded Prof Adler the Hans Freudenthal Medal for outstanding achievement in mathematics education. The award recognises a major cumulative programme of research and is named after the eighth president of ICMI (1967-1970).
An elated Wits vice-chancellor and principal Professor Adam Habib says: “Wits University is extremely proud of the achievement of Professor Adler in the important field of maths education. This is a significant milestone for South Africa and the continent.”
Prof Adler has received numerous accolades for her work, starting with the 1990s ground-breaking and socio-culturally relevant research on the inherent dilemmas of teaching mathematics in multilingual classrooms.
She has spearheaded several large-scale teacher development projects, most recently (and current) the Wits Maths Connect Secondary project, which began in 2010. This project aims, through professional development with teachers, to improve mathematics teaching practice at the secondary level and so enable more learners from disadvantaged communities to qualify for mathematics-related courses at university.
Prof Adler’s book, entitled: “Teaching mathematics in multilingual classrooms” was instrumental in leading research internationally in the field. Her more recent work on mathematics teacher education has been published in French and Portuguese. She has made an enormous contribution to research capacity development working with research teams and graduate students, particularly in southern Africa.
Prof Adler holds the SARCHI Chair of Mathematics Education in the Wits School of Education. She made history as the first educator to be awarded an A-rating by the National Research Foundation; A-ratings normally being awarded to academics from science disciplines. Prof Adler is also the recipient of the 2012 prestigious gold medal for science in the service of society, awarded by the Academy of Science of South Africa.