Mathematics assessment in special education using a didactic approach: a research-action project

This research-action project, which was conducted with the participation of special educators and educational advisors in mathematics and special education from eight school boards, focuses on a system for evaluating the mathematical knowledge of students identified as having learning difficulties at the elementary level.

The didactic instruments on which the system is based make it possible to go beyond a success/failure-based assessment by equipping special educators to exercise their professional judgement on students' mathematical knowledge and to harmonize evaluation and intervention. The system is essentially based on the relationship between tasks and knowledge, posing questions such as: what strategies can be deployed to perform this task? What knowledge do these strategies entail? Are they appropriate to the student's academic level and education? What issues are these strategies related to? The system also includes didactic tools that make it possible to assess the coordination of knowledge between different content, as in the following example: is the student's knowledge of multiplicative structures consistent with that displayed about number systems? 

It is important to develop a common didactic framework for learning difficulties in mathematics.

Each of the four instruments includes a theoretical model providing an overview of the progression of key issues in the teaching/learning of the targeted content, a set of some thirty tasks as well as benchmarks for interpreting students' successes, errors and difficulties, in order to better target the work to be done with them in mathematics. The instruments were tested on more than 80 students, allowing us to make improvements and refine our understanding of the progression of students' mathematical knowledge. In addition, the didactic knowledge acquired by the special educators reinforced their sense of competence and their desire to collaborate with the classroom teachers.

The results of this project highlight the importance of developing a common didactic framework for learning difficulties in mathematics in order to work with students in a concerted manner.

Main researcher

Jacinthe Giroux, Université du Québec à Montréal


Research report

Call for proposals

Deposit of the research report: February 2020