The productive notion of mathematics laboratories

Michela Maschietto and Luc Trouche have written an article called Mathematics learning and tools from theoretical, historical and practical points of view: the productive notion of mathematics laboratories. The article was published online in ZDM on Monday. Although they start with a glimpse from a babylonian clay tablet, their main focus is on the development of tools and use of tools in the last century. In the main part of their article, they have a strong focus on the so-called mathematics laboratories. Here is the abstract of their 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.

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