Towards a Materialist Vision of ‘Learning as Making’: the Case of 3D Printing Pens in School Mathematics


In this paper, we build on a previously developed notion of ‘learning as Making’ to examine mathematics thinking and learning in a highly transformative and technological Making environment: one that involves a handheld 3D printing technology which enables 3D models to be created instantly via one’s moving hand. In particular, we present two examples of Maker-centred lessons for teaching and learning of primary mathematics. In these lessons, the students actively constructed artefacts with 3D Printing Pens while engaging in inquiry-based learning activities, where the target concepts were properties of prisms and cross-sections at the primary 5 (age 10–11) and primary 6 (age 11–12) levels respectively. We use diffractive analysis to capture the fine details in students’ body-material interactions while engaging in the tasks with or without the 3D Printing Pens during the lessons. Through the lens of Making as a material act of creation and seeking to update Papert’s constructionist view of learning, we propose to rethink Making in school mathematics according to a four-fold characterisation: Making is co-constructing meanings, Making is mathematising, Making is assembling with technology and Making is inventing. We discuss our contribution towards advancing a materialist perspective of learning mathematics and implications for a ‘learning as Making’ pedagogy and curriculum.

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The authors would like to thank the annoynomous teachers and students who participated in this research.


This study is funded by The Chinese University of Hong Kong Direct Grant (Reference no. 4058058).

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The authors contributed equally in this paper, of which the data was drawn from the first author’s research.

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Correspondence to Oi-Lam Ng.

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Ng, OL., Ferrara, F. Towards a Materialist Vision of ‘Learning as Making’: the Case of 3D Printing Pens in School Mathematics. Int J of Sci and Math Educ 18, 925–944 (2020).

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  • Constructionism
  • Gestures and diagramming
  • Making
  • Mathematics education
  • Materialism