Tom’s lasting legacy – the gift of education

30th June 2020

After a distinguished career focused on improving mathematics education, Emeritus Professor Tom Cooper passed away recently and will be remembered for his passion for improving mathematics teaching and learning in schools, as a visionary educator and researcher, and as a long-time staff donor for QUT’s Learning Potential Fund.

Tom retired last year after 36 years of service to the Faculty of Education, the YuMi Deadly Centre (YDC), and QUT. Tom commenced his career at the Queensland Institute of Technology (one of the University’s predecessor institutions) in 1983 as a lecturer and, from 1991 until 2005, he was the Head of the School of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education. 

In 2009, he co-founded the YuMi Deadly Centre to develop mathematics pedagogy and conduct research projects focused on improving mathematics education. He led YDC as Director from 2011 – 2019, and during his tenure brought YDC to national prominence.

The YDC’s mission is to enhance the learning of all students to improve their opportunities for further education, training and employment, and to equip them for lifelong learning and the programhas been used to train teachers in more than 250 schools across Australia and in Thailand to provide a more practical and active approach to learning, particularly for Indigenous and low-SES students. 

School-aged students weren’t the only ones inspired by Tom – many of Australia’s leading maths and science educators are QUT alumni who attribute their careers to Tom’s influence. Over the years he supervised or co-supervised 30 PhD, EdD and MEd (research) students, co-wrote over 200 publications and regularly presented at conferences both in Australia and overseas.

QUT’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Sheil expressed her condolences to Tom’s family and praised his work as a researcher and educator.

“Throughout his career, Tom made an outstanding contribution and significant impact across the broad disciplines of algebra learning, teacher change, social justice, and mathematics pedagogy.

“Tom will be remembered for his passion for improving mathematics teaching and learning for Indigenous Australian, immigrant, refugee and low-SES students.

“His life work is a wonderful example of how teaching and research can affect real, positive and lasting change in society.”

Tom’s passion for improving education went further as he became a staff donor for the QUT Learning Potential Fund, which sees hundreds of students from low socio-economic backgrounds supported each year through the generosity of donors like Tom. 

Want to make a difference in the lives of others? Discover how you can give the gift of education now and into the future via the QUT Learning Potential Fund.

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