Dr Judy Sayers


I joined the University of Leeds in September 2018, after five years at the department of mathematics and science education, Stockholm University, in Sweden 2013. First as a post doctorate, then as a senior lecturer in mathematics education with interest in early mathematics. Prior to this I had worked ten years at the University of Northampton, UK as a senior lecturer in teacher training and masters’ courses. After beginning my career in education as a primary teacher in Hertfordshire in both lower and upper primary school.

I have always been interested in how children learn and teachers teach mathematics since I walked into the classroom.  I have been an active member of the Mathematics Association (MA) and the Association of Teachers of mathematics (ATM), taking part in and organising past national conferences for both associations and collaborating with the national networks; for example, the British Congress of Mathematics Education (BCME) conference held every four years. 

When working in the University of Northampton I had pleasure working with a variety of associations, groups and societies. 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. BECTa (British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (1998-2000) as the National Online moderator for primary phase teacher resource sharing. Other work: Editor and reviewer for various conference and publications. 


  • Programme Manager
  • Researcher
  • Lecturer

Research interests

Whilst working in Northampton, I was involved as a researcher on the mathematics education traditions of Europe (METE) project, funded by the EU, which ran for the years 2003-2005. Its purpose was to examine the ways in which teachers, defined locally as effective, in England, Finland, Flanders, Hungary and Spain, conceptualise and present mathematics to students in the age range 10-14. The age range represents a key transition as school mathematics shifts from concrete and inductive to abstract and deductive. I worked with the English team, based at Cambridge University. 

I completed my PhD in 2012, supervised by Anne Watson at Oxford University. The focus was ‘How primary teachers conceptualise whole class interactive phases of a mathematics lesson’ continued her interest in teaching and learning mathematics by working closely with teachers in local schools. The in-depth case studies revealed interesting findings, some of which reflect the changes of constraints on primary teachers imposed by policy and local interpretation. Another has highlighted a lack of professional autonomy with regard to classroom decision-making, supporting an ever-growing sense of frustration on the part of primary teachers, particularly within a high-stakes assessment culture. 

More recently, along with Paul Andrews (PI) Stockholm University, I have been researching cross-culturally the key number skills that year one children need to acquire Foundational number sense (FoNS) in order to be successful learners of mathematics. Funded by Vetenskapsrådet (Swedish Research Council) 2016-2021, (€1,000,000) to investigate the development of Foundational Number Sense in year one children in England and Sweden. The project will involve interviews, surveys and observations with parents and teachers of year one children in both countries. 

I am a member of the British Society in Research of Mathematics Education and contributes to the research output.  More recently she has been asked to co-lead the European mathematics group on Arithmetic for the Congress of the European Research in Mathematics Education (CERME), which will be held in Utrecht 2019. Chair of the Topic Study Group (5) for Teaching and Learning of Number and Arithmetic (TSG5) ICME 14 Shanghai 2020.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://essl.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD Primary Mathematics Education (2012)
  • B Ed Primary Education with QTS
  • FHEA Fellowship Higher Education Academy

Professional memberships

  • International Congress in Mathematics Instruction Teaching and Learning of Number and Arithmetic (TSG5).
  • European Research in Mathematics Education
  • British Society of Research in the learning of Mathematics
  • Association of Teachers in Mathematics
  • Mathematics Association

Student education

I supervise PhD students working in the areas of mathematics education, comparative education and early formal schooling. I am particularly interested in what we can learn from others, e.g. from scandinavian approaches to primary education. I welcome inquiries for projects related to any of my research interests.

I am programme manager for the MA education and Professional Enquiry qualifiaction and co-lead and co-teach on other post graduate and undergraduate modules:  Teaching and Learning Primary Mathematics; Developing Teaching and Learning Through Evidence-based Practice; International Perspectives of Pedagogy and Practice ; Children and Education: historical and contemporary perspectives; Students into Education.

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>The school welcomes enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>