, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 33–47 | Cite as

Mathematics learning and tools from theoretical, historical and practical points of view: the productive notion of mathematics laboratories

  • Michela MaschiettoEmail author
  • Luc Trouche
Original Article


In our research work, we have looked at the way in which artefacts become, for teachers as well as for students, instruments of their mathematical activity. The issues related to the use of tools and technologies in mathematical education are now widely considered. A look to history highlights the different ways in which the same questions have been studied at different times and in different places. This suggests that the contribution of artefacts to mathematics learning should be considered in terms of various contexts. Our “visits” to these contexts will be guided by the coordination of two main theoretical frameworks, the instrumental approach and the semiotic mediation approach from the perspective of mathematics laboratory. This journey through history and schooling represents a good occasion to address some questions: Are there “good” contexts in which to develop mathematical instruments? Are there “good” teaching practices which assist students’ instrumental geneses and construct mathematical meanings? How is it possible to promote such teaching practices? Some study cases are discussed.


Artefacts Instruments Instrumentalisation Instrumentation Orchestration Semiotic mediation 



We wish to sincerely thank Lulu Healy for her kind help in rereading our paper and helping us to correct our English language, and, more generally, for her valuable advice.


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Copyright information

© FIZ Karlsruhe 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Università di Modena e Reggio EmiliaModenaItaly
  2. 2.National Institute for Pedagogical ResearchLyonFrance

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