Stockholm university

Paola Ximena Valero DuenasProfessor

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

  • Stories of devoted university students: the mathematical experience as a form of ascesis

    2024. Francesco Beccuti, Paola Valero, Ornella Robutti. Educational Studies in Mathematics 115 (1), 51-67


    Drawing on autobiographical essays written by master’s students in mathematics preparing to become teachers, we investigate what mathematical identity these students articulate and how. By means of a discursive thematic analysis centered on the notion of ascesis, we show that the participants’ identity revolves around a characterization of mathematics as a challenging, useful, and comforting activity or knowledge, which is however regarded negatively by others. Indeed, mathematics is described as a uniquely challenging activity which requires an increasingly demanding self-discipline. Moreover, mathematics is depicted as a variously useful form of knowledge which is additionally capable to offer comfort to those who engage with it. However, the participants often remark that other people regard mathematics negatively, a fact explained by stressing others’ inability or unwillingness to understand or appreciate mathematics’ inherent positive features. This sets the boundary of an ideal club of math enthusiasts whose elitist membership is regulated in terms of acceptance or refusal of its constitutive values. Belonging to the club as well as proselytizing in order to recruit new members appears to be central to the participants’ mathematical identity.

    Read more about Stories of devoted university students

Show all publications by Paola Ximena Valero Duenas at Stockholm University