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Immigrant students' opportunities to learn mathematics: In(ex)clusion in mathematics education
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Mathematics and Science Education.
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis explores immigrant students’ opportunities to learn mathematics. The research is concerned with issues of social justice and adopts a socio-political approach. Immigrant students are often described as students who do poorly in school because they lack “Swedishness” and have insufficient Swedish language skills. This deficit discourse is used when explaining immigrant students’ failure in mathematics, which this thesis aims to critique. Also, by adopting two theoretical frameworks, one that draws on the work of Skovsmose (1994, 2014) and one on the work of Foucault (2000, 2002), it aims at exploring possible understandings of immigrant students’ opportunities to learn mathematics.

The research questions are addressed in a preamble and four articles. They address immigrant students’ perceptions of their opportunities to learn mathematics and how these perceptions come into existence, and the different contributions of using the theoretical frameworks.

Data emanates from interviews, with immigrant students aged 15 to 16 years old and policy texts regarding schooling for newly arrived. Skovsmose’s notion of foreground is used when analysing immigrant students’ perceptions of their opportunities to learn mathematics. A Foucauldian perspective is used for exploring immigrant students’ identity formations as mathematical learners in a context of a forced school transition. The notions of fabrication and abjection (Popkewitz, 2012, 2013) are used as analytical tools when exploring how the newly arrived student as a mathematical learner is fabricated in policy texts.

The findings show how conditions concerning future plans, otherness, Swedishness, perceiving their parents as deficit in relation to Swedish parents, segregation, feelings of exclusion and rowdy mathematics classrooms constitute their foregrounds, and affect their perceptions of their opportunities to learn mathematics. It was also shown how students’ identity formations as learners of mathematics are dynamic and enabled by discourse. For example, discourses operating in two different school contexts enabled the transitioning students to form identities as un-engaged and respectively engaged mathematics students. It was shown how students’ perceptions were influenced by public discourses, and thus how categorisations of them as immigrant students with deficiencies had looped into their lives. By exploring fabrication of the newly arrived student as a mathematical learner and the process of abjection information on how students may be ordered in relation to what degree they have come to master for example the Swedish language were provided. This may generate feelings of in(ex)clusion, which refers to the inseparability of inclusion and exclusion: any move to include brings with it potential exclusions.

A conclusion is that to be able to understand immigrant students’ opportunities to learn mathematics and explain achievement in mathematics, deficiency explanations are not sufficient. Instead, it is of importance to try to understand the students’ perspectives and explore the role of discourse and power since it allows for explanations that ground students’ opportunities to learn mathematics in the socio-political conditions in which they emerge. This enables for learning more about what constitutes immigrant students’ perceptions and how they come into existence and thus allows for addressing processes of in(ex)clusion and critique deficiency explanations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Mathematics and Science Education, Stockholm University , 2018. , p. 172
Series
Doctoral thesis from the department of mathematics and science education ; 18
Keywords [en]
mathematics education, immigrant students, narratives, learning opportunities, foregrounds, identity, policy texts, fabrication, deficit perspective, discourse, power
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Mathematics Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-152070ISBN: 978-91-7797-129-0 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7797-130-6 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-152070DiVA, id: diva2:1177002
Public defence
2018-03-09, sal G, Arrheniuslaboratorierna, Svante Arrhenius väg 20 C, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Accepted. Paper 4: Accepted.

Available from: 2018-02-14 Created: 2018-01-24 Last updated: 2018-01-31Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Learning mathematics: hope and despair
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Learning mathematics: hope and despair
2016 (English)In: ICT in mathematics education: the future and the realities: Proceedings of MADIF 10 / [ed] Johan Häggström, Eva Norén, Jorryt van Bommel, Judy Sayers, Ola Helenius, Yvonne Liljekvist, Göteborg: Svensk förening för matematikdidaktisk forskning (SMDF) , 2016, p. 101-110Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

To escape imposed deficit discourses around immigrant students when discussing their achievement in mathematics; this study examines immigrant students’ own perspectives on their opportunities to learn mathematics. This was done by interviewing immigrant students from a multicultural and socially deprived area in Sweden, in two focus groups. In the interviews rowdy mathematics classrooms, the multicultural school and segregation emerged as hindrances that limit their opportunities to learn mathematics, creating a feeling of despair. However, the students demonstrated hope when talking about the future, which indicates a need for students towalk a balance between these two opposites when interpreting their opportunities to learn mathematics.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Göteborg: Svensk förening för matematikdidaktisk forskning (SMDF), 2016
Series
Skrifter från svensk förening för matematikdidaktisk forskning, ISSN 1651-3274 ; 11
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Mathematics Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-151484 (URN)978-91-984024-0-7 (ISBN)
Conference
Tenth research seminar of the Swedish Society for Research in Mathematics Education, Karlstad, Sweden, January 26–27, 2016
Available from: 2018-01-12 Created: 2018-01-12 Last updated: 2018-01-24Bibliographically approved
2. Immigrant students’ perceptions of their possibilities to learn mathematics: the case of homework
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Immigrant students’ perceptions of their possibilities to learn mathematics: the case of homework
2014 (English)In: For the Learning of Mathematics, ISSN 0228-0671, Vol. 34, no 3, p. 32-37Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In Sweden often immigrant students’ failure in mathematics is explained by referring to deficit discourses. To critique that our aim have been to highlight the complexity of the situation in which immigrant students are positioned, by interrogating their perspectives on mathematics homework and the importance of parental support, as well as how their views seemed to have been shaped by wider Discourses. The students describe their parents’ background and education as inadequate, while “Swedish” parents’ backgrounds were considered desirable. With no hope of changing their parents, they seemed to have accepted that they have limited possibilities for achieving in mathematics.

Keywords
Immigrant students, mathematics homework, foregrounds
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Mathematics Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-111018 (URN)
Available from: 2014-12-19 Created: 2014-12-19 Last updated: 2018-04-24
3. Identity formations as mathematical learners in the context of transition
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Identity formations as mathematical learners in the context of transition
2018 (English)In: Nordisk matematikkdidaktikk, ISSN 1104-2176Article in journal (Refereed) Accepted
Abstract [en]

This paper explores the relation between discourses and identity formations as mathematical learners in the context of transition.The data consists of an interview with two 16 years old immigrant girls who were re-allocated when their school in a multicultural and socio-economically disadvantaged area in Sweden was closed. The girls showed dynamic and unstable identities by drawing on different discourses. Social realtional discourses more than mathematical pedagogical discorses, governed their actions as learners of mathematics. Enabling identities as noisy un-engaged but able students in the old school, and as engaged and accepted, but also as strangers, in the new school.

Keywords
mathematics, identity formations, discourse, transitions, immigrant students
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Mathematics Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-152053 (URN)
Available from: 2018-01-23 Created: 2018-01-23 Last updated: 2018-03-20
4. Fabrication of newly-arrived students as mathematical learners
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Fabrication of newly-arrived students as mathematical learners
2018 (English)In: Nordisk matematikkdidaktikk, ISSN 1104-2176Article in journal (Refereed) Accepted
Abstract [en]

As a response to recent laws on how to support newly-arrived students’ schooling, new policy texts have been released in Sweden. By analyzing policy texts we show how a particular kind of human, “the newly-arrived student as a mathematical learner” is fabricated through discursive processes. We show how the policy texts are framed within an including discourse that encourages multiculturalism, and views students’ mother tongue and backgrounds as resources. However, simultaneously the newly-arrived student is thought of, in a more excluding discourse, as being in need of rescue and as lacking the most valuable asset, the Swedish language.

Keywords
mathematics, newly-arrived students, fabrication, discourse, policy, abjection
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Mathematics Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-152054 (URN)
Available from: 2018-01-23 Created: 2018-01-23 Last updated: 2018-03-20

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