Mathematics is the subject in which most students fail to achieve a passing grade when they finish compulsory school, with the exception of Swedish as a second language. Without a passing grade, the student cannot apply to the public programs of the upper secondary school, which is necessary in order to gain access to higher education.
There are differences between groups of students, indicating a lack of equity and possible pedagogical segregation in the subject. Moreover, mathematics is sometimes described as a gatekeeper for higher education, and students' achievements in mathematics are often used as a system indicator of quality for countries' educational systems. Decisions and directional changes in school policy are often justified by low achievement in mathematics.
There is a need for more research in the field, as mathematics represents one of the largest and most-demanding areas in Swedish schools where students are in need of additional support. Efforts such as earlier and more-extensive standardized testing, teacher training, and adding more hours of math studies in the curriculum, have not provided satisfactory results. The overall purpose of research in the field of special education is to contribute knowledge regarding those factors that facilitate or complicate students' agency, motivation and development in the subject. These factors are often related to aspects of teaching and the conditions for individuals, groups and organisations.
The focus for special educational research within UMERC is identify approaches and methods in close cooperation with schools in order to develop mathematics teaching, learning and assessment. In addition to this, research problematises what quality and equity could mean in teaching and learning of challenged students. Questions regarding what it means when merit values and grades are the prevalent quality measurements of education and what lack of equity in grades indicates are then addressed. In addition, questions relating to inclusion and exclusion must be considered in any research related to all pupils' learning. Research in special educational mathematics addresses the following: compulsory school, upper secondary school, special needs comprehensive and upper secondary school, and also students who are included in a school different from the one they are enrolled in. Within UMERC, there is broad competence in the field of special educational mathematics. Research projects focus on assessment and learning in preschool classes, national tests, multilingual aspects of assessment and learning in mathematics, and also on specific teaching and assessment methods, including formative assessment. To read more about these, it is recommended that you examine the research projects or publications or read the researchers' websites, which can be found under the tab "About UMERC."
The boundaries of the group are not strictly defined. Researchers in this group work together in different constellations and also individually. Projects may be ongoing for several years and in collaboration with members within and outside of UMERC and Umeå University. In the research group, individual researchers also conduct smaller projects. Researchers in other mathematical didactical research groups might, in addition, pose special educational questions.