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Paola Valero

About me

Born in 1971, PhD in 2003 at the Danish University of Education with the thesis Reform, democracy and mathematics education. Towards a socio-political frame for understanding change in the organization of secondary school mathematics. She has taught and researched at the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia and Aalborg Universitet in Denmark. Her research explores the crossings between the mathematical and scientific rationality, the education in mathematics and science, and society. Through theoretical and empirical studies of pedagogical processes, her research contributes with an understanding of how mathematics education has become central in processes of political, cultural and economic inclusion and exclusion of diverse populations in modern society. Her research is of relevance for teachers and policy-makers.


My research pursues the overall question of why and how mathematics education can be thought as political. My doctoral research explored reform processes in mathematics education in school organizations and the possibilities for building democratic relationships around mathematics in schools. Within studies of critical mathematics education, my research provided insight into the dynamics that bind micro-processes of teaching and learning in classrooms with larger social and political processes in which children, teachers and schools operate.

During the 14 years I worked at Aalborg University in Denmark, my research explored the constitution of math education as a broad socio-political network of practices, in an attempt to show how the political of math and math education is rooted in the social and cultural significance and value given to math in contemporary societies. A cultural and political perspective was developed in collaboration with PhD students and international collaborators in topics such as science and math teachers’ professional life at the intersection of subject matter issues and contextual framing of their practice; learner’s and teachers’ identity formation processes in math and science; neoliberal changes in math and science education; and the growing economic steering of mathematics and science education.

More recently I am developing a new area of scholarship that can be called the cultural politics of mathematics education. It highlights the centrality of math and science in the making of the Modern rationality that is at the basis of the social, cultural and economic development of Western societies. As subjects in the school curriculum, math and science together are not only providing important and highly valued knowledge to learners (children, youth or adults). These subjects are also central in how notions of modern citizenship are made part of people’s sense of themselves.

My current research posits the focus of the political in how math in the curriculum is an important site of subjectification in contemporary societies. Such perspective unfolds in a diversity of studies of how mathematics education generates inclusion and exclusion in society with respect to, for example, newly-arrived students, indigenous communities, low-income students etc. Some studies are of a more historical type and explore the forming of mathematics education as a field of study, and the growing importance given to mathematics in schools since the Second World War. My research is highly interdisciplinary and provides an understanding of math (and science) as subjects of teaching and learning at the intersection between the scientific subjects, educational and pedagogical processes, and society. This basic research is of relevance to the theoretical but also practical construction of teacher education as well as to policy-making.

Research projects

New Belonging through Math Education: in(ex)clusion of newly arrived children in math education in Sweden and USA

This project is part of the INSPIRE initiative of collaboration between Stockholm University and the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign.The project addresses the question of how the configuration of math education practices impacts newly arrived learners’ sense of belonging to their new schools and societies, and may result in in(ex)clusion from participation in education. We seek to analyze the state of research on math education of the newly arrived population —refugees in Sweden and Latin immigrants in the USA. We seek to identify what is known about the configuration of math education practices and their relation to processes of in(ex)clusion, and develop new strategies to connect the research results with the education of math teachers and new researchers in math education.

Mathematics and science education and the dispositive of technoscientificity

International collaborative project between Brazi, Colombia, Denmark and Sweden.It has as main purpose to analyze how discourses work on mathematical and scientific education, in different school forms of life, in their articulations with the dispositive of technoscientificity. Such dispositive governs school subjects and practices in relation to the making of neoliberal economic processes and subjectivities. The project critically explores the dynamics of mathematics and science education contributing to social development through the generation of educational inclusion and exclusion.

Research projects


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Diversity and teacher students' positioning in research

    2021. Kicki Skog, Paola Valero. Exploring new ways to connect, 927-936


    How to educate future mathematics teachers to deal with the challenges of diversity in mathematics classrooms continues to be a central concern for practice and research. Through researching the research on mathematics teacher education that addresses equity, justice and diversity in initial teacher education, three different positionings of teacher students were identified: the teacher student as unachieved, recipient and agentic. The nuances in how research positions teacher students are important in themselves, since they allow to challenge implicit assumptions about opportunities to develop a multifaceted sensibility towards diversity in teacher education. 

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  • A la educación se le perdió la ética! Y.... por qué queremos reecontrársela

    2021. Paola Valero, Kenneth Mølbjerg Jørgensen. Ética: Entre Educación y Filosofía, 257-276


    Ofrecemos una lectura y comentario a los capítulos de este libro resaltando tres asuntos temáticos que identificamos están presentes en ellos: primero, las nociones de ética; segundo, el vínculo entre ética, conocimiento y educación; y tercero, la expresión de la sensibilidad ética en acciones y actuaciones educativas. Estos tres asuntos nos permiten entrar en diálogo con las propuestas de los autores y traer a la discusión otras perspectivas teóricas de ética que no han sido abordadas: la visión de ética de Jacques Derrida asociada al discurso; la visión de ética, poder y ser como práctica de la libertad de Michel Foucault; y la visión de ética en conexión con la acción política de Hannah Arendt. Estas tres perspectivas nos permiten problematizar las ideas que se discuten en el libro al resaltar lo político como elemento constitutivo de la ética y su importancia en el esfuerzo de rescatar, resignificar y actualizar la inseparabilidad entre ética y educación.

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  • Multilingual Students Working with Illustrated Mathematical Word Problems as Social Praxis

    2021. Laura Caligari, Eva Norén, Paola Valero. Multilingual Education Yearbook 2021, 175-194


    Word problems in mathematics can present challenges for multilingual students. Previous research shows that the language and cultural contexts of word problems are major obstacles for many students. This study advances the research by considering the work with illustrated word problems as a social praxis. We specifically ask what social, cultural and linguistic experiences multilingual students mobilise and create when working with illustrated word problems. Data were collected from eight multilingual students in fourth grade. The students were given word problems to solve individually. The data were qualitatively analysed based on a four-fold structure of social praxis as a framework. Findings reveal that word problems will always mobilise exclusion. The study concludes that when working with illustrated word problems teachers need to recognise this condition and balance the ways of working with word problems. Policies need not only to promote linguistic and cultural diversity explicitly. They could open real possibilities for policy enactment where the linguistic and cultural differences embedded in illustrated mathematical word problems are discussed and negotiated. 

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  • Political Perspectives in Mathematics Education

    2020. Paola Valero. Encyclopedia of Mathematics Education


    A political perspective in mathematics education is a way of looking at how mathematics, education, and society relate to power. It stands on the critical recognition that mathematics is not only important in society due to its exceptional, intrinsic characteristics as the purest and most powerful form of abstract thinking but also and foremost, because of its functionality in the constitution of the dominant cultural project of Modernity. Thus, it assumes that the teaching and learning of mathematics are not neutral practices but that they insert people – be it children, youth, teachers, and adults – in socially valued mathematical rationalities and forms of knowing. Such insertion is part of larger processes of selection of people that schooling operates in society. It results in differential positioning of inclusion or exclusion of learners in relation to access to socially privileged resources such as further education, labor market, and cultural goods.

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Show all publications by Paola Valero at Stockholm University