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Does disability matter in mathematics educational research? A critical comparison of research on students with and without disabilities


Using a Disability Studies in Education framework, this systematic review analyzed international research published in English (2013–2017) on the teaching and learning of mathematics from the prekindergarten to 12th-grade level, comparing research on students identified as having disabilities to research on students without disabilities. Coding articles (N = 2477) for methodology, participants, mathematical domain, and theoretical orientation, we found that research on students with disabilities was overwhelmingly quantitative (81%) and tended to use behavioral and medical theoretical orientations. Research on students without disabilities was both qualitative (42%) and quantitative (42%) and tended to use constructivist and sociocultural theoretical orientations. In addition, research on mathematical learning that included students with disabilities lacked sustained qualitative inquiry documenting learning processes of students with disabilities and rarely included the teacher as an explicit focus. Following Gervasoni and Lindenskov (2011), we contend that these pronounced differences in research contribute to the segregation of students with disabilities and low-achieving students in lower quality mathematics instruction and may lead to low expectations of the mathematical competence of students with disabilities. We call for increased attention to research that considers how disability is produced and enacted in the complex context of mathematics classrooms.

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Appendix: Included journals by journal category with number of articles included in (): 88 total journals

Appendix: Included journals by journal category with number of articles included in (): 88 total journals

STEM education journals (17 journals, 1461 articles)

American Journal of Distance Education (2)

Australasian Journal of Educational Technology (5)

Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education (33)

Educational Studies in Mathematics (183)

EURASIA Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education (131)

For the Learning of Mathematics (56)

International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology (109)

International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education (156)

Journal for Research in Mathematics Education (76)

Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching (37)

Journal of Mathematical Behavior (77)

Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education (112)

Journal of Urban Mathematics Education (37)

Mathematical Thinking and Learning: An International Journal (59)

Mathematics Education Research Journal (108)

Mathematics Teacher Education and Development (72)

ZDM: The International Journal on Mathematics Education (208)

Special education and psychology journals (49 journals, 643 articles)

American Annals of the Deaf (2)

Annals of Dyslexia (2)

Assessment for Effective Intervention (7)

Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice (4)

Contemporary School Psychology (3)

Developmental Psychology (47)

Developmental Science (18)

Early Education and Development (38)

Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities (10)

Education and Treatment of Children (3)

Educational and Psychological Measurement (11)

Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice (2)

European Journal of Psychology of Education (15)

European Journal of Special Needs Education (6)

Exceptional Children (17)

Exceptionality (6)

Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities (4)

Gifted Child Quarterly (7)

Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences (2)

International Journal of Disability, Development and Education (4)

International Journal of Inclusive Education (3)

Journal for the Education of the Gifted (9)

Journal of Applied School Psychology (5)

Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (7)

Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education (2)

Journal of Early Adolescence (8)

Journal of Educational Psychology (70)

Journal of Experimental Child Psychology (49)

Journal of Experimental Education (15)

Journal of Intellectual Disability Research (3)

Journal of Learning Disabilities (41)

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (1)

Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities (1)

Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs (2)

Journal of School Psychology (4)

Journal of Special Education (6)

Journal of the International Association of Special Education (2)

Learning and Individual Differences (55)

Learning and Instruction (30)

Learning Disabilities Research & Practice (19)

Learning Disabilities: A Contemporary Journal (4)

Learning Disability Quarterly (25)

Preventing School Failure (11)

Remedial and Special Education (17)

Research in Developmental Disabilities (37)

School Psychology Quarterly (4)

Support for Learning (2)

Teacher Education and Special Education (2)

Topics in Early Childhood Special Education (1)

General education research journals (22 journals, 373 articles)

American Educational Research Journal (25)

American Journal of Education (15)

American Secondary Education (3)

Asia Pacific Education Review (11)

Australian Educational Researcher (3)

Australian Journal of Teacher Education (42)

Curriculum Inquiry (4)

Education Policy Analysis Archives (17)

Education Sciences (12)

Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (21)

Educational Researcher (17)

Elementary School Journal (29)

Harvard Educational Review (3)

Journal of Curriculum Studies (14)

Journal of Educational Research (43)

Journal of Teacher Education (20)

Journal of the Learning Sciences (19)

Review of Educational Research (6)

Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research (4)

Teacher Development (8)

Teacher Education and Practice (15)

Teachers College Record (42)

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Lambert, R., Tan, P. Does disability matter in mathematics educational research? A critical comparison of research on students with and without disabilities. Math Ed Res J (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13394-019-00299-6

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  • Equity and diversity
  • Research methods
  • Mathematics
  • Special education
  • Disability studies
  • Critical mathematics