Educational Studies in Mathematics

, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 297–315 | Cite as

Problem solving activity in the workplace and the school: The case of constructing solids

  • Murad Jurdak
  • Iman Shahin


The purpose of the present study is to document, compare, and analyze the nature of spatial reasoning by practitioners (plumbers) in the workplace and students in the school setting while constructing solids, with given specifications, from plane surfaces. Data were collected from a plumbing workshop and five high school students while constructing a cylindrical container of capacity one-liter and height of 20 cm. The results confirm the power of activity theory and its methodology in explaining and identifying the structural differences between the two activities in the two different cultural settings. Students and plumber activity structures differed in the operational aspect (actions) and the means and concrete conditions (operations) under which such a goal is carried out. Activity theory has the potential to explain the differences between the two activities in terms of differences in the motive, social-cultural settings, the tools that were available and accessible which resulted in different actions, and the constraints (operations) under which the task was executed. Theoretical and pedagogical implications were identified.


Activity Theory School Setting Cognitive Action Spatial Reasoning Cylindrical Container 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Murad Jurdak
    • 1
  • Iman Shahin
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of EducationAmerican University of BeirutBeirutLebanon
  2. 2.Department of EducationAmerican University of BeirutBeirutLebanon

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