VR grant to curricula and mathematical reasoning skills research
A project at the Department of Science and Mathematics Education at Umeå University receives six million SEK from the Swedish Research Council to study the dual role of mathematical reasoning skills in school curricula.
Text: Ingrid Söderbergh
Ewa Bergqvist is associate professor at the Department of Science and Mathematics Education at Umeå University.
This research grant gives me the opportunity to contribute with an understanding of the challenges that teachers face and the role of curricula, especially in school mathematics teaching.
“It feels fantastic, of course, and very exciting! This research grant gives me the opportunity to contribute with an understanding of the challenges that teachers face and the role of curricula, especially in school mathematics teaching. For our department, all external funds are very important, as we are a fairly small department,” says Ewa Bergqvist, associate professor at the Department of Science and Mathematics Education at Umeå University.
Mathematics and other school subjects are often described both in terms of content (for example, algebra or photosynthesis) and abilities (for example, the ability to reason or communicate). Abilities are complex phenomena, as they can exist both as goals and means of the students learning in school. They therefore have a dual role in the curricula. Previous research shows that it is a big challenge for teachers to interpret and concretize this role.
The project, which is now underway with Ewa Bergqvist at the lead, will be going on for four years with the aim of explaining how the dual role of abilities is put into practice, that is, all the way from the syllabus to the classroom.
In order to be able to study the area in depth, Ewa Bergqvist and her colleague Magnus Österholm have chosen to focus on one subject and one ability, namely mathematical reasoning ability.
“The choice fell on mathematics because it is a subject that is included as a core in curricula worldwide. The ability to reason is in turn central to mathematics, which is clear in many frameworks and curricula for school mathematics worldwide,” says Ewa Bergqvist.
Data from both Sweden and England will be analysed, to enable a comparison between countries and thereby make it easier to find patterns and relationships.
Why do you compare Sweden with England?
“We have done some preliminary studies where we see that there are important differences between how the curricula in England and Sweden present reasoning skills. It gives us good conditions to compare how teachers and teaching material authors take on the task of putting this ability into practice. We have also had the privilege of collaborating with Professor Candia Morgan at University College London, who is an expert in the field,” says Ewa Bergqvist.