This paper comments on the expanded repertoire of techniques, conceptual frameworks, and perspectives developed to study the phenomena of gesture, bodily action and other modalities as related to thinking, learning, acting, and speaking. Certain broad issues are considered, including (1) the distinction between “contextual” generalization of instances across context (of virtually any kind—numeric, situational, etc.) and the generalization of structured actions on symbols, (2) fundamental distinctions between the use of semiotic means to describe specific situations versus semiosis serving the process of generalization, and (3) the challenges of building generalizable research findings at such an early stage in infrastructure building.
In this paper, we consider gestures as part of the resources activated in the mathematics classroom: speech, inscriptions, artifacts, etc. As such, gestures are seen as one of the semiotic tools used by students and teacher in mathematics teaching–learning. To analyze them, we introduce a suitable model, the semiotic bundle. It allows focusing on the relationships of gestures with the other semiotic resources within a multimodal approach. It also enables framing the mediating action of the teacher in the classroom: in this respect, we introduce the notion of semiotic game where gestures are one of the major ingredients.
I begin by appreciating the contributions in the volume that indirectly and directly address the questions: Why do gestures and embodiment matter to mathematics education, what has understanding of these achieved and what might they achieve? I argue, however, that understanding gestures can in general only play an important role in ‘grasping’ the meaning of mathematics if the whole object-orientated ‘activity’ is taken into account in our perspective, and give examples from my own work and from this Special Issue. Finally, I put forward the notion of a ‘threshold’ moment, where seeing and grasping at the nexus of two or more activities often seem to be critical to breakthroughs in learning.
This paper reports a part of a study on the construction of mathematical meanings in terms of development of semiotic systems (gestures, speech in oral and written form, drawings) in a Vygotskian framework, where artefacts are used as tools of semiotic mediation. It describes a teaching experiment on perspective drawing at primary school (fourth to fifth grade classes), starting from a concrete experience with a Dürer’s glass to the interpretation of a new artefact. We analyse the long term process of appropriation of the mathematical model of perspective drawing (visual pyramid) through the development of gestures, speech and drawings under the teacher’s guidance.