Vale: Prof Alan J. Bishop (14 Oct 1937 – 18 Nov 2023)

Fellow researchers of values/valuing in mathematics education,

It is with a heavy heart and an immense sense of loss that I share the news here on the recent passing of Prof Alan J. Bishop in Cambridge, UK.

As many of us know, Alan has had an illustrious research and academic career over a few decades in both Cambridge University, UK and Monash University, Australia. His research in the earlier days of his academic career was on spatial abilities and visualisation, which revealed how Alan’s thinking has always been ahead of his time. In my opinion, his sabbatical trip to the Papua New Guinea in 1977 was a game-changer, for it stimulated his awareness of how mathematics and mathematics education are both culturally-referenced. Alan then applied his brilliance and innovative thinking to this important aspect of the discipline and pedagogy of mathematics, which popularised the research thread now commonly known as the sociocultural aspects of mathematics, including ethnomathematics and values/valuing. His lifetime contribution and achievement in mathematics education was recognised in the later part of his career in the form of the 2015 Felix Klein Medal, awarded by the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction.

Over the years, Alan’s academic reputation not only led to many prestigious publications and editorial work, but also attracted many a research student. I was a member of this group of privileged early career researchers. In 1998, I had to reject a scholarship which restricted me to study in the top institutions in UK or USA, sold my house and car in Singapore, and migrated to Australia with my wife and our then 6-month-old son so that I could have my PhD study supervised by Alan. His mentorship has shaped how I now guide my own doctoral students. Over the years, Alan has become not just my teacher, but also a colleague, mentor and friend.

Alan has been passionate about supporting and advancing the mathematics education of young people in so-called Third World countries. I hope that his passing will prompt more of us to continue with this important work empowering as many young citizens as we can with mathematics and numeracy.

It is good to know that Alan left us peacefully and comfortably, and we are blessed that he left us with an understanding of mathematics education that is all the more richer, one which acknowledges the role and contribution of cultures (broadly understood) and of values.

There will be a family funeral on 8 Dec, and a public memorial service online for the mathematics education research community in the new year. Some of us may have the chance to celebrate Alan’s life then; further details will be provided. Nevertheless, I hope that everyone who know him – or will now get to know him – will be motivated to reflect on and even carry on with Alan’s mission, that is, to democratise mathematics learning through raising our awareness of the political and sociocultural aspects of mathematics pedagogy.

– Wee Tiong

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