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Situations are often regarded as the panacea which guarantees ‘concretisation’ of abstract notions. Recent research results have led us to qualify this opinion. After analysing briefly the notion of situation, we raise various issues on the basis of the responses of children aged 11–15 to the ‘racing car problem’. We observed various limits brought about by the situation in the abstraction prócess, and also that the task involved more abstract notions (even pictorial) than expected. The conclusion singles out some principles ensuring a better use of situations and points out key problems such as the role of mental images and the importance of the ‘spoken’ language.

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Janvier, C. Use of situations in mathematics education. Educ Stud Math 12, 113–122 (1981).

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