Academic journal article The Mathematics Enthusiast

Demographics of Self-Selected Participants in Mathematical Tracks in Swedish Upper Secondary School

Academic journal article The Mathematics Enthusiast

Demographics of Self-Selected Participants in Mathematical Tracks in Swedish Upper Secondary School

Article excerpt


This study investigates the three demographic factors gender, geographical origin and parents educational level among self-selected students in mathematical tracks in Swedish Upper Secondary School (n=147). Comparisons are made, through statistical tests of significance, with corresponding student distributions on the closely related Natural Science program (η = 1528). Data is obtained from Statistics Sweden. Results confirm that females are under-represented in mathematical tracks (p<0,01) and that parents of students in mathematical tracks have higher educational level than parents of students in the comparison group (p<0,05). Results do not show that students with foreign background are underrepresented in mathematical tracks, but raise questions about under-representation of Swedish students. Possible implications of these findings for these and similar programs are discussed.

Keywords: mathematical track; demographics; Sweden, self-selection; gifted


In the search for educational equity the representation of different groups of students regarded as gifted has been studied since the rise of gifted education. Gender, students' ethnic origin and socio-economic background have been, and still are, three of the main measures used (see e.g. Bianco, Harris, Garrison-Wade & Leech, 2011; McBee, 2010; Yoon & Gentry, 2009; Preckel, Goetz, Pekrun & Kleine, 2008; Wallace & Eriksson, 2006; Freeman, 2003; Donovan & Cross, 2002; Sarouphim, 2002; Borland & Wright, 2000; Feldhusen & Jarwan, 2000; Ford, 1998). These studies often identify a lack of equality in the representation or enrollment of different student groups in gifted programs.

According to the Swedish law (Swedish statue-book, 2010) all students should have equal access to educational opportunities in the school system. Thus lately there has been a focus on the demographic representation of students in "cutting-edge programs" (Swedish National Agency for Education, 2010a, 2011a). These cutting-edge programs, which were established nationally in 2009, are the Swedish version of gifted programs and the only form of gifted education that has been initiated by the Swedish government. The cutting-edge programs have been introduced in various subjects, including mathematics, for Upper Secondary School (Swedish statute-book, 2008). However, so far no evaluation of demographic factors of students in these gifted programs has used comparison groups, nor have clear accounts for the representations of different demographic factors in subjectspecific programs been given.

During the last quarter of a century there have been a few Upper Secondary Schools in Sweden that have offered the national mathematics courses at higher pace and with special depth, and that have offered extension courses as well as university courses in mathematics (Mattsson & Bengmark, 2010). For many years these programs, addressing self-selected gifted students in mathematics, have gained very little attention in education policy, although these programs have offered, and still offer, similar activities as the newly established cutting-edge programs in mathematics. The major difference is that all the cutting-edge programs have national recruitment (see ibid, for a more detailed discussion about the benefits of national recruitments). Hence, studying these earlier, long-running, gifted mathematics programs could give valuable insight when developing the cutting-edge programs.

From a national perspective, there is a need for research on the demographic representations for gifted students that takes into consideration relevant comparison groups, the subject specificity of the program, as well as the earlier programs for gifted students. Such studies will contribute to a more well-established discussion about the representations in these programs. This study aims to fill this gap for gifted programs in mathematics in the Swedish Upper Secondary School. …

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