Blurred lines: producing the mathematics student through discourses of special educational needs in the context of reform mathematics in Chile

  • Lisa DarraghEmail author
  • Luz Valoyes-Chávez


Are students with special educational needs excluded from the reform promise of “mathematics for all”? This paper explores the discursive production of students with special educational needs in the context of professional development (PD) for collaborative problem-solving teaching. We held interviews with Chilean primary school teachers after their participation in PD and used a post-structural analysis to examine them. We turned to policy and institutional practices to understand the disability discourses that were evident. Teachers called on medical and deficit discourses to produce these students as abnormal and problematic in their learning of mathematics. Yet teachers also blurred the lines of categorisation between and within labels of special needs, including other students in these terms. Simultaneously, the reform PD created space for a counter discourse of ability. We suggest PD should help teachers of mathematics resist deficit discourses and see the ways in which experience may run contrary to them.


Special needs Disability Inclusion Exclusion Discourse Reform Problem-solving mathematics 


Funding information

The research reported in this paper was made possible by funding from the following funding sources: CONICYT/ FONDECYT No. 3160469 and No. 3180238, and PIA-CONICYT Basal Funds for Centers of Excellence Project FB0003.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Education and Social WorkUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Centro de Investigación Avanzada en Educación (CIAE)Universidad de ChileSantiagoChile

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