Educational Studies in Mathematics

, Volume 74, Issue 3, pp 275–294

Mathematical practices in a technological workplace: the role of tools



This paper investigates the role of tools in the formation of mathematical practices and the construction of mathematical meanings in the setting of a telecommunication organization through the actions undertaken by a group of technicians in their working activity. The theoretical and analytical framework is guided by the first-generation activity theory model and Leont’ev’s work on the three-tiered explanation of activity. Having conducted a 1-year ethnographic research study, we identified, classified, and correlated the tools that mediated the technicians’ activity, and we studied the mathematical meanings that emerged. A systemic network was generated, presenting the categories of tools such as mathematical (communicative, processes, and concepts) and non-mathematical (physical and written texts). This classification was grounded on data from three central actions of the technicians’ activity, while the constant interrelation and association of these tools during the working process addressed the mathematical practices and supported the construction of mathematical meanings that this group developed from the researchers’ perspective. Technicians’ emerging mathematical meanings referred to place value, spatial, and algebraic relations and were expressed through personal algorithms and metaphorical and metonymic reasoning. Finally, the educational implications of the findings are discussed.


Workplace mathematics Place value Algebraic and spatial relations Mathematical invariants Problem-solving strategies Thinking and communicative tools 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EducationUniversity of PatrasPatrasGreece
  2. 2.Department of MathematicsUniversity of AthensAthensGreece

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