Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Special Education - General Curriculum (Ed.D)



Committee Chair

Dr. Harriet Bessette

Committee Chair/First Advisor

Dr. Melissa Kypraios Driver

Second Committee Member

Dr. Amanda Richey


Students’ perspectives in learning mathematics are important considerations in education yet few studies document their insights. The current investigation used a case-study design and interviews, drawings, clarifying discussions, and focus group interview data collection methods to capture detailed perspectives of high school students with disabilities while learning mathematics. Document data was used to substantiate students’ achievement information and the impact of their disability, if any, on their experiences in learning mathematics. The sample of participants consisted of four self-selected high school students, from two inclusive Advanced Algebra classrooms. Three major tenets of Vygotsky’s (1978) framework were used to analyze the results of the study, namely the zone of proximal development, the internalization of socio-cultural-historical factors, and the compensatory re-organization of brain functions, all as mediated through socio-cultural-historical processes. Findings suggest secondary students with disabilities 1) are heterogeneous in ability levels, strengths, achievement, interests, and needs; 2) exhibit learning and growth as impacted by socio-cultural-historical supports; 3) are frequently offered limited class selections and reduced standards of excellence; 4) are rarely exposed to varied pedagogical strategies in learning mathematics, including real-world and digital technology applications, and team-work integration; and 5) are often viewed by teachers and school personnel through deficit-based lenses. As positive implications, the participants perceived disability as a difference, part of human diversity, showed constructive transformations over time, were successful as measured by multiple criteria of achievement, and revealed unique insights about the role of the special education teacher and of a team of teachers in their learning and growth.