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.
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