A Tribute to Dr Howard Tanner (1951-2016)

Dr Howard Tanner, Reader in Education at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD), was a prominent researcher who specialised in mathematics education.

He started his career as a teacher of mathematics and IT in secondary schools in Liverpool and Salford, before being appointed head of mathematics at a school in Bristol.

He taught in schools for a total of 16 years before joining Swansea University as leader for the secondary PGCE mathematics programme in 1988. In this role he was to train around 1,000 teachers of mathematics during his working life.

During his time at Swansea University, he also made a significant contribution to the Masters in Education – MA(Ed) – and CPD programmes for mathematics teachers, eventually becoming sub-Dean of the Faculty.

He was also responsible for the MA(Ed) outreach programme in Athens. During this time, he completed his PhD on Using and Applying Mathematics – developing mathematical thinking skills through practical problem-solving and modelling.

Dr Tanner co-authored or edited nine books in the fields of Mathematics Teaching, Developing Numeracy, Developing ICT Capability and Assessment. In 2006, he moved to Swansea Metropolitan University where he continued to lead the PGCE mathematics programme and became Director of Research in Education, managing the progress of many MPhil and PhD students.

He established and led the Master of Research (MRes) in Mathematics Education, which allowed almost 40 students to benefit from deep level engagement with research and its application to their own practice. As a lasting legacy of his work, many of these students now lead mathematics departments across England and Wales.

Dr Tanner made significant contributions to the mathematics education community within and beyond the UK and has been part of the editorial team for the Welsh Journal of Education /University of Wales Journal of Education since 2008.

He was involved with the Wales Education Research Network and the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency.

He was also an active participant in the British Society for Research into Learning Mathematics and Convenor of Mathematics Education Special Interest Group at the British Education Research Association between 2009 and 2012.

Dr Tanner’s research interests spanned all aspects of mathematics education, however for the last 20 years a clear strand in his work has been the teaching of mathematical modelling and problem-solving and the significance of metacognition in these complex processes.

For the last decade, and during the development of the emerging UWTSD, much of Dr Tanner’s research has focussed on the nature of classroom discourse and the forms of scaffolding used by teachers in what is commonly referred to as “interactive teaching”.

He has also explored the use of video-stimulated reflective dialogue as a research tool and undertaken research into the reasons for student choice of A-level mathematics, further mathematics and STEM subjects at university.

Most recently, Dr Tanner has been central to the development of a National Network of Excellence in Mathematics across Wales, work that is to continue to take forward his significant legacy.

Dr Jane Waters, Assistant Dean of UWTSD’s Faculty of Education and Communities, said: “Howard was a character in every sense of the word, he commanded huge professional respect, was generous with his expertise and always took the time to support and advise students and colleagues who valued him immensely. He will be sadly missed.”

 Research students have also been deeply saddened by the unexpected loss of Dr Tanner, describing him as “quick-witted”, “inspirational”, “clever”, “kind”, “compassionate and enthusiastic” and “consistently showing a huge generosity of spirit”.

Helen Denny, UWTSD’s secondary PGCE and mathematics lead, described Dr Tanner as “an irreplaceable colleague, tutor, supervisor and, above all, friend”.