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Editorial

Javier Díez-Palomar1

1 ) Universitat de Barcelona, España.

Date of publication: February 24th, 201 3

To cite this article: Díez-Palomar, J. (201 3). Editorial. Journal of


Research in Mathematics Education, 2 (1 ), 1 -6. doi:
1 0.4471 /redimat.201 3.1 8

To link this article: http://dx.doi.org/1 0.4471 /redimat.201 3.1 8

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REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education Vol. 2 No. 1
February 2013 pp. 1-6

Editorial

M
Javier Díez-Palomar
Universidad de Barcelona

e complace presentar el primer número del segundo volumen


de la revista REDIMAT. Hace un año que con esta revista
iniciamos el sueño y el deseo de crear un nuevo espacio
de diálogo que contribuyera al debate, la discusión y el intercambio de
investigaciones y teorías en nuestro ámbito de estudio: la educación
matemática. Hace un año que trabajamos para contribuir a alimentar el
debate científico añadiendo nuestros esfuerzos a los que ya se hacen
desde otras revistas de investigación de nuestro campo.
Con este número queremos hacer un homenaje al trabajo que personas
que han dedicado toda su vida han realizado para profundizar en el
conocimiento de la didáctica de las matemáticas, y ofrecernos
herramientas y enfoques teóricos que nos permitan mejorar los análisis
didácticos que hacemos de las situaciones de aprendizaje de las
matemáticas. En este sentido, nos es grato presentar un artículo del
profesor Luis Radford, cuyas contribuciones han sido reconocidas por la
prestigiosa medalla Hans Freudenthal que le otorgó el ICME en 2011.
Luis Radford ha realizado una extensa producción de artículos, libros y
capítulos de libro donde ha puesto las bases para una teoría sociocultural
que permita comprender mejor cuáles son las claves del aprendizaje.
Para ello ha analizado en múltiples ocasiones episodios de aula donde
ha sabido encontrar detalles clave que explican cómo los y las
estudiantes acaban interiorizando los conceptos matemáticos que
aparecen en el currículum de matemáticas. Los estudios de Radford nos
emplazan en la idea de que la enseñanza y el aprendizaje de las
matemáticas es un hecho social. Apoyándose en referentes como los
trabajos de Vygotsky, Bakhtin, o Ilyenkov entre otros, Radford analiza
2013 Hipatia Press
ISSN 2014-3621
DOI: 10.4471/redimat.2013.18
2 Javier Díez-Palomar - Editorial

cómo el aprendizaje es en realidad un proceso de objetivización en el


que los y las estudiantes interiorizan a través de la mediación de
artefactos los saberes matemáticos. Para Radford, la cognición no es
otra cosa que el proceso en el que el individuo interioriza una serie de
ideas y de conceptos que están siempre mediados desde el punto de
vista histórico y cultural. Cada idea es expresión de un determinado
momento histórico, y aparece en un determinado lugar, motivada por
unas relaciones sociales muy concretas. La semiótica cultural estudia
cómo los signos y los artefactos culturales se convierten en mediadores
de la actividad y en elementos clave en los procesos de reflexión (y
según entendemos nosotros, de aprendizaje).
El primer artículo que presentamos en este número de REDIMAT es
Three Key Concepts of the Theory of Objectification: Knowledge,
Knowing, and Learning. En este artículo Radford y sus colegas exponen
tres conceptos fundamentales para entender su aproximación teórica:
“saber”, “conocimiento” y “aprendizaje.” Estos tres conceptos son
claves para entender la teoría de la objetivización que exponen los tres
autores a lo largo de las páginas de su artículo. A través de un ejemplo
que se discute utilizando una aproximación dialéctica, Miranda, Radford
y Guzmán analizan el aprendizaje de las matemáticas como un proceso
eminentemente social, que emerge de la reflexión sobre acciones
codificadas histórica y culturalmente. Los tres autores se remiten a la
tradición de Kant o Hegel para explicar la idea de conocimiento como
una construcción social, que luego ha vuelto a aparecer en trabajos
posteriores de manera recurrente, como es el caso de la obra de Piaget,
al que citan los autores en su artículo.
Para Miranda, Radford y Guzmán, conocimiento es “movimiento.” En
concreto, es el resultado de siglos de reflexión y de investigación que se
han ido acumulando en conceptos que son los que constituyen los
diferentes cuerpos de conocimiento (teorías, procesos, relaciones,
axiomas, etc.). A todo eso Radford y sus colegas lo denominan como
procesos; y la teoría de la objetivización pone las bases para entender el
conocimiento como un proceso de objetivización históricamente
constituido. Las referencias al materialismo hegeliano tiñen
completamente este enfoque socio-cultural. A lo largo de las páginas de
este artículo, los tres autores reflexionan sobre cómo los y las
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 3

estudiantes esperamos que interioricen formas y configuraciones


matemáticas que hunden sus raíces en civilizaciones antiguas (como
Mesopotamia, la antigua Grecia Clásica, etc.). A través de ejemplos
históricos que llevan a Radford y sus colegas a invocar a Pitágoras,
Diofanto, o Hypsikles, se reflexiona sobre la idea de conocimiento que
Vygotsky y después que él otras personas que siguieron su estela
presentan como resultado de la propia actividad. El conocimiento es
resultado de la mediación histórica y cultural. Resulta de cómo las
personas en un momento dado, y en un lugar concreto, construyen,
expresan y presentan cuerpos de conocimiento sobre un saber (o idea)
concreto. Radford, Miranda y Guzmán presentan un marco conceptual
interesante para reflexionar sobre cómo el saber abstracto es objetivado
en procesos concretos, que son los que luego aparecen (y se transmiten)
en el aula.
El segundo artículo que introducimos en este primer número del
segundo volumen de REDIMAT es Agency as Inference: Toward a
Critical Theory ofKnowledge Objectification . En este artículo Gutiérrez
aplica el marco teórico desarrollado por el profesor Radford para
analizar la verosimilitud de sintetizar la teoría del conocimiento
objetivado con una investigación sobre equidad en didáctica de las
matemáticas. El objetivo de Gutiérrez aquí es explorar el concepto de
inferencia matemática como un concepto con un gran potencial para
investigar los diferentes tipos de agencia que desarrollan los y las
estudiantes en el aula de matemáticas. Gutiérrez sitúa su estudio en el
campo del álgebra. A través de la inferencia matemática reflexiona tanto
sobre los procesos de razonamiento de los estudiantes, como sobre su
agencia. Para ello, usa los artefactos matemáticos canónicos como
herramientas semióticas de objetivización a través de las cuales los y las
estudiantes construyen sus propios significados culturales de dichos
artefactos. En este artículo Gutiérrez sigue los razonamientos de Amil,
un maestro que está trabajando sobre un problema que consiste en
averiguar la ecuación de una serie que resulta de construir polígonos a
partir de un triángulo demarcado con tres palillos, a los que se suman
después dos más, para construir un paralelogramo (formado por dos
triángulos unidos por la base), etc. Amil se esfuerza por enseñar a sus
estudiantes cómo averiguar cuál es la expresión algebraica que
4 Javier Díez-Palomar - Editorial

generaliza la secuencia que aparece dibujada en la pizarra, con los


palillos. Para ello diseña un plan de enseñanza (lesson plan),
enfatizando el uso de la modelización. Durante dos días Amil desarrolla
primero una actividad para toda la clase sobre patrones, y luego
actividades en grupo pequeño con la misma orientación instrumental
(trabajo sobre series y patrones). Gutiérrez analiza cómo a lo largo de
las dos sesiones los estudiantes y Amil discuten sobre el problema de los
palillos, mientras él, Amil, se esfuerza por presentar el problema
primero desde un punto de vista contextual, para después pasar al uso
directo de expresiones simbólicas sin conexión directa con el dibujo
realizado en la pizarra, mientras que pide a sus estudiantes que
justifiquen sus inferencias matemáticas. Es muy interesante y revelador
seguir los pasos de Amil, desde el uso de artefactos (mediadores) tales
como las tablas x e y para estimular la intuición de los/as estudiantes,
hasta la presentación de expresiones algebraicas que generalizan las
relaciones encontradas a través del uso de las tablas.
En el tercer artículo, From Human Activity to Conceptual
Understanding of the Chain Rule, Zingiswa M.M. Jojo, Aneshkumar
Maharaj y Deonarain Brijlall nos presentan un estudio sobre la
definición del concepto de la “regla de la cadena” que se utiliza en el
marco del cálculo diferencial en el primer año de los estudios de
ingeniería. En su caso, ellas presentan el caso de los estudios que se
imparten durante el primer año de ingeniería en la Universidad
Tecnológica de Sudáfrica. Usan el modelo APOS citando los trabajos de
Ed Dubinsky para analizar los datos que obtienen en su investigación.
Este enfoque hunde sus raíces en los trabajos de Piaget, para quien el
aprendizaje es el resultado de un proceso de abstracción en el que la
persona es capaz de pasar de la experiencia concreta con los objetos (de
su acción sobre ellos, para ser más exactos) a la generación de esquemas
cognitivos que cristalizan a partir de la inferencia de sus propiedades y/o
sus relaciones con otros objetos. Las autoras usan los conceptos de etapa
intra, inter, y trans como triada para entender cómo funciona el proceso
de aprendizaje resultado de la acomodación de las nuevas inferencias en
los esquemas cognitivos que ya tiene la persona (o la creación de
nuevos esquemas antes inexistentes). Jojo, Maharaj y Brijlall usan la
tipología de 5 tipos de construcción de la abstracción reflexiva
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 5

propuestos por Ed Dubinsky para analizar el caso de la “regla de al


cadena” en la resolución de ecuaciones diferenciales. A lo largo de su
artículo, aportan diferentes ejemplos producidos por estudiantes que
ilustran cómo se enfrentan al uso de la “regla de la cadena”, qué fallos
cometen, y cómo dichos fallos (y aciertos) conducen a esos estudiantes
a abstraer el esquema cognitivo de “la regla de la cadena.” Las autoras
analizan tres formas diferentes de aplicar dicha regla (straigh, right y
Leibniz), y en cuál de los tres elementos de la triada operan los
estudiantes, a la hora de conformar el esquema cognitivo de “la regla de
la cadena.”
El último capítulo, Educación Matemática en Infantil: Investigación,
Currículum, y Práctica Educativa, es un análisis de la literatura
científica española sobre la educación matemática infantil. Àngel Alsina
hace un profundo trabajo de síntesis de decenas de investigaciones
realizadas en el marco de los congresos de la SEIEM, durante los
últimos quince años. A partir de su investigación documental, Alsina
afirma que el vacío teórico y empírico que existía en el ámbito de la
educación matemática infantil está comenzando a llenarse con un
cuerpo de investigación más o menos cohesionado en torno a este tema.
A lo largo de las páginas de este artículo, Alsina utiliza las tablas con
profusión para resumir de manera lo más gráfica posible las diferentes
investigaciones que se han realizado en el ámbito que le interesa
presentar.
De la descripción que hace de los estudios realizados en didáctica de
las matemáticas y educación infantil, Alsina se mueve hacia una
reflexión sobre las orientaciones curriculares vigentes en educación
infantil y matemáticas. Alsina discute que el currículum de infantil
omite ciertas competencias clave como son la comprensión de los
patrones, de las diferentes formas de representación de los números, o
de los cambios de cantidades, que sí aparecen en otros documentos
curriculares internacionales. Alsina mantiene que durante varios años la
Didáctica de las Matemáticas en España no ha sabido conectar con el
diseño del currículum de educación infantil, y por eso se detectan
omisiones flagrantes que poco a poco parece que se están empezando a
rellenar. Alsina acude a los referentes internacionales para contrastar el
currículum de matemáticas de infantil en España, en la búsqueda de
6 Javier Díez-Palomar - Editorial

pistas para orientar futuros desarrollos y diseños curriculares. Por otro


lado, también acude al análisis de prácticas matemáticas que se realizan
en las aulas de educación infantil. Cuando hace eso, Alsina se encuentra
que existen discrepancias entre las prácticas reales que se llevan a cabo
dentro de las aulas de infantil, y lo que establecen las directrices
oficiales. Todo ello le lleva a proponer la necesidad de replantear las
prácticas matemáticas que se llevan en el aula de educación infantil,
propuesta con la que termina el artículo.
Estos cuatro artículos, tan diferentes entre sí, abren líneas de
pensamiento y proponen teorías de trabajo para orientar nuestras
investigaciones en ámbitos tan diferentes como el álgebra, la aritmética,
la geometría y la medida, o el tratamiento de los datos y las
probabilidades, en cualquiera de los niveles educativos que existen. Lo
que necesitamos en nuestro campo son más investigaciones rigurosas y
científicas para poder encontrar evidencias que nos permitan mejorar la
enseñanza y el aprendizaje de las matemáticas. Invito a los lectores y a
las lectoras a leer estos interesantes artículos, y continuar expandiendo
nuestro conocimiento para mejorar nuestras prácticas educativas en el
aula.
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Three Key Concepts of the Theory of Objectification:


Knowledge, Knowing, and Learning
Luis Radford 1

1 ) Université Laurentienne

Date of publication: February 24th, 201 3

To cite this article: Radford, L. (201 3). Three Key Concepts of the Theory of
Objectification: Knowledge, Knowing, and Learning. Journal of Research in
Mathematics Education, 2 (1 ), 7-44. doi:
http://doi.dx.org/1 0.4471 /redimat.201 3.1 9
To link this article: http://dx.doi.org/1 0.4471 /redimat.201 3.1 9

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REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education Vol. 2 No. 1
February 2013 pp. 7-44.

Three Key Concepts of the


Theory of Objectification:
Knowledge, Knowing, and
Learning
Luis Radford
Université Laurentienne

Abstract
In this article I sketch three key concepts of a cultural-historical theory of
mathematics teaching and learning—the theory of objectification. The concepts
are: knowledge, knowing and learning. The philosophical underpinning of the
theory revolves around the work of Georg W. F. Hegel and its further
development in the philosophical works of K. Marx and the dialectic tradition
(including Vygotsky and Leont’ev). Knowledge, I argue, is movement. More
specifically, knowledge is a historically and culturally codified fluid form of
thinking and doing. Knowledge is pure possibility and can only acquire reality
through activity—the activity that mediates knowledge and knowing. The
inherent mediated nature of knowing requires learning, which I theorize as
social, sensuous and material processes of objectification. The ideas are
illustrated through a detailed classroom example with 9–10-year-old students.
Keywords: objectification; knowledge, knowing, learning, consciousness.
2013 Hipatia Press
ISSN 2014-3621
DOI: 10.4471/redimat.2013.19
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education Vol. 2 No. 1
February 2013 pp. 7-44.

Tres Conceptos Clave de la


Teoría de la Objetivación:
Saber, Conocimiento y
Aprendizaje
Luis Radford
Université Laurentienne

Resumen
En este artículo presento tres conceptos claves de un teoría histórico-cultural de
enseñanza-aprendizaje de las matemáticas—la teoría de la objetivación. Los
conceptos en cuestión son: saber, conocimiento y aprendizaje. Las bases
filosóficas de la teoría se encuentran en el trabajo de Georg W. F. Hegel y su
desarrollo posterior en la filosofía de K. Marx y la tradición dialéctica (que
incluye a Vygotsky y a Leont’ev). El saber, sostengo, es movimiento. De
manera más específica, el saber esta constituido de formas siempre en
movimiento de reflexión y acción histórica y culturalmente codificadas. El
saber es pura posibilidad y puede adquirir realidad a través de la actividad
concreta—la actividad que mediatiza el saber y el conocimiento. La naturaleza
inherente mediatizada del conocimiento requiere la intervención del
aprendizaje, que teorizo como procesos sociales, sensibles y materiales de
objetivación. Estas ideas son ilustradas a través de un detallado ejemplo con
Palabras Clave: objetivación, saber, conocimiento, aprendizaje, conciencia.
2013 Hipatia Press
ISSN 2014-3621
DOI: 10.4471/redimat.2013.19
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 8

I n this article I sketch three key concepts of a cultural-historical


theory of mathematics teaching and learning—the theory of
objectification. The concepts are: knowledge, knowing and
learning. The theory rests on the fundamental idea that learning is both
about knowing and becoming. It considers the goal of mathematics
education as a dynamic political, societal, historical, and cultural
endeavour aiming at the dialectical creation of reflexive and ethical
subjects who critically position themselves in historically and culturally
constituted and always evolving mathematical discourses and practices.
The philosophical underpinning of the theory revolves around the work
of the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1977,
2009) and its further development in the philosophical works of Karl
Marx (1973, 1998) and the dialectic tradition—Ilyenkov (1997),
Mikhailov (1980), and Vygotsky (1987-1999), among others.
Most of the article is devoted to the concept of learning. I start,
however, with a discussion about the concepts of knowledge and
knowing. Although a discussion about knowledge and knowing may
seem esoteric and even futile, I claim that if mathematics education
theories want to provide suitable accounts of learning they need to
clarify what they believe constitutes knowledge and knowing in the first
place. Learning is, indeed, always about something (e.g., learning about
probabilities, about geometric properties of figures, etc.). As a result, we
cannot understand learning if we do not provide a satisfactory
explanation of what learning is about. The next section starts with a
discussion of knowledge as construction, followed by a discussion of
knowledge as it is understood in the theory of objectification.
Knowledge
Knowledge as Construction
It is now common in mathematics education discourse to talk about
knowledge as something that you make or something that you construct.
The fundamental metaphor behind this idea is that knowledge is
somehow similar to the concrete objects of the world. You construct,
build or assemble knowledge, as you construct, build or assemble
chairs. This idea of knowledge as construction is relatively recent. It
emerged slowly in the course of the 16th and 17 th centuries, when
9 Radford - Knowledge, Knowing, and Learning

manufacturing and the commercial production of things became the


main form of human production in Europe. Hanna Arendt summarizes
this conception of knowledge as follows: a “I ‘know’ a thing whenever I
understand how it has come into being.” (Arendt, 1958, p. 585) It is
within the general 16th and 17 th centuries’ outlook of a manufactured
world that knowledge is first conceived of as a form of manufacture as
well. A limpid exposition of this view appeared at the end of the 18 th
century in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. In this monumental book
whose influence has not ceased to affect us Kant presents mathematics
as the most achieved way of knowing and tells us that “Mathematics
alone (...) derives its knowledge not from concepts but from the
construction of them” (Kant, 2003, p. 590 [A 734/ B 762]). This
conception of knowledge as construction was featured by Piaget in his
genetic epistemology and was widely adopted in mathematics education
where an emphasis was put on the personal dimension of knowledge
construction: You and only you construct your own knowledge. For, in
this view, knowledge is not something that I can construct and pass on
to you; what you know is what results from your own experience.
As many scholars have pointed out, such a view of knowledge is
problematic on several counts. For instance, it leaves little room to
account for the important role of others and material culture in the way
we come to know, leading to a simplified view of cognition, interaction,
intersubjectivity and the ethical dimension. It removes the crucial role of
social institutions and the values and tensions they convey, and it de-
historicizes knowledge (see, e.g., Campbell, 2002; Lerman, 1996; Otte,
1998; Roth, 2011; Valero, 2004; Zevenbergen, 1996).
As we shall see in the next subsection, there are other ways in which to
consider knowledge and the students’ relationship to it.
Sociocultural Approaches
How do sociocultural approaches conceive of knowledge? We have to
bear in mind that, like constructivist approaches, sociocultural
approaches move away from knowledge transmission as a model for
learning (sociocultural and constructivist approaches diverge widely but
converge certainly on this point). In sociocultural and constructivist
approaches, to conceive of learning as the transmission and reception of
knowledge amounts to a kind of behaviourism. Dogs learn how to
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 10

successfully react to certain stimuli; mice learn how to get out of a maze
through specific inputs. The human mind by contrast is much more
complex; the behaviourist model of stimulus-response is decidedly
insufficient. In a now very famous passage, Vygotsky and Luria argued
that material and spiritual culture mediate human behavior and
suggested replacing the stimulus–response segment (S—R) by a triangle
(Figure 1) that, despite its apparent simplicity, adds an unimaginable
layer of complexity to the study of learning and the human psyche.
Humans carry out operations through signs that alter in a fundamental
way the manner in which we come to think and know. Vygotsky and
Luria said: “With the transition to sign operations we not only proceed
to psychological processes of the highest complexity, but in fact leave
the field of the psyche's natural history and enter the domain of the
historical formation of behavior” (Vygotsky and Luria, 1994, p. 144).

Figure 1 . Vygotsky’s famous triangle. External signs and other components of


material and spiritual culture, X, alter the psyche’s natural history (Vygotsky
and Luria, 1994, p. 144)
Now, if knowledge is neither something that you merely construct nor
something that you transmit, what is it? I would like to develop here a
cultural-historical conception of knowledge. In a nutshell the idea is to
consider knowledge not as an object but as a process.
Knowledge as encoded movement.
Notice that when we say that knowledge is a process, we are saying that
knowledge is movement. This is how Hegel (2009) considered it. Let me
go further and suggest that knowledge is an ensemble of culturally and
historically constituted embodied processes of reflection and action . In
the case of arithmetic, those processes would be processes of
11 Radford - Knowledge, Knowing, and Learning

reflection, expression, and action that arose in Mesopotamia from


specific human activities, such as counting cows or grains, or measuring
fields. In the case of music, knowledge would be processes of aesthetic
and aural expression that arose in ancient civilizations from specific
human activities such as ceremonies to convey bonding, meanings and
intentions.
To develop in some detail the idea of knowledge as an ensemble of
culturally and historically constituted embodied processes of reflection
and action I would like to resort to a simple example: nut-cracking in
chimpanzees.
Nut cracking in chimpanzees is not an obvious process. As
primatologists note, it comprises the following steps: (1) the chimp
picks up a nut; (2) puts it on a particular surface: an anvil stone; (3)
holds another stone (the hammer stone); (4) hits the nut on the anvil
stone with the hammer stone, and (5) eats the kernel of the cracked nut
(see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Yoyo cracking a nut while two young chimps watch her attentively.
(From Matsuzawa, Biro, Humle, Inoue-Nakamura, Tonooka, & Yamakoshi,
2001, p. 570)

Studies in the wild suggest that it takes 3 to 7 years for the chimp
infants to learn the nut-cracking process. Infants do not necessarily start
by using a hammer stone and the anvil. The proper attention to the
objects, their choice (size, hardness, etc.), and subsequently the spatial
and temporal coordination of the three of them (nuts, anvil and
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 12

hammer), is a long process. Often, young chimps of about 0.5 years


manipulate only one object (either a nut or a stone). They may choose a
nut and step on it. As chimps grow older, they may resort to the three
objects, but not in the correct sequence of nut-cracking behavior,
resulting in failed attempts. A key aspect of the process is the
appearance of suitable cracking skills—for example “the action of
hitting as a means to apply sufficient pressure to a nut shell to break it.”
(Hirata, Morimura, & Houki, 2009, p. 98)
Nut-cracking is learned as a social process. The young chimps, who
usually remain with their mother until the age of 4 to 5 years, observe
attentively how the mother cracks nuts and then try to do it by
themselves, even without apparently understanding the goal of the
process at first1 .
Not all chimpanzee groups crack nuts, and those groups where nut-
cracking occurs do not all crack the same variety of nuts. Primatologists
believe that nut-cracking developed somewhere in West Africa and was
subsequently conveyed socially from one generation to the next. The
nut-cracking practice eventually spread out among neighboring groups
as a result of chimps’ immigration (Hirata et al., 2009, p. 88; Matsuzawa
et al., 2001, pp. 569-70).
I would like to suggest that “knowledge”—in this case knowledge of
how to crack nuts—is a culturally codified ensemble of actions. That
knowledge is a cultural codification of ways of acting and doing means
that knowledge is something general: it cannot be equated to this or that
particular sequence of coordinated actions with these or those stones.
Another way to say this is that knowledge is crystillized labour. We can
think of knowledge as an ideal form of actions, as opposed to the
actions themselves. Knowledge as crystillized labour or ideal form goes
beyond each one of its concrete instances or realizations. It is nut-
cracking as an ideal form that lends the generality to each one of its
specific realizations.
Let me notice that knowledge as an ideal form (here, knowledge of
how to crack nuts) does not have anything to do with Platonic forms.
Rather than considering the nut-cracking Seringbara community of
chimps that inhabits the mountain forests of Mt. Nimba in the Republic
of Guinea as resorting to Platonic forms or to Kantian things-in-
13 Radford - Knowledge, Knowing, and Learning

themselves, they would be resorting, I wish to argue, to culturally and


historically constituted embodied processes of reflection and action. The
nut cracking “ideal form” is to be understood as a general prototypical
way of doing things. Rather than sitting in an eternal realm of ideas, this
ideal form is codified in cultural memory as a pattern or sequence of
actions. As opposed to the Platonic forms, which are supposed to exist
regardless of what species do on earth, knowledge as an ideal form
cannot exist if it is not carried out in practice.
I am almost ready to define knowing. But it might be better that I first
give a classroom example. Let me refer to pattern generalization. Like
many of my colleagues, in my classroom research I have resorted to
pattern generalization to introduce students to algebra. The basic idea is
to present the students with simple geometric or numeric sequences
(usually artihmetic sequences that can be expressed in a linear form: y =
ax+b). We give the students a few terms (see Figure 3) and then ask
them to come up with ideas about how to calculate “remote” terms (e.
g., Terms 10, 25, 100, etc.).

Figure 3. The first terms of a sequence that Grade 2 students investigated in an


algebra lesson.
In so doing, we expect the students to enter into a relationship with a
historically constituted form of knowledge about arithmetic sequences.
More specifically, we expect the students to become aware of an
algebraic form of perceiving, reflecting and investigating sequences that
goes back to ancient times. Indeed, the investigation of arithmetic
sequences appeared in ancient civilisations (for instance Mesopotamia)
and was a very popular subject in Late Antiquity in neo-Pythagorean
circles (Lawlor & Lawlor, 1979; Nicomachus of Gerasa, 1938, Tarán,
1969). Neo-Pythagoreans were particularly interested in polygonal
numbers—that is, numbers represented by pebbles arranged in the shape
of a regular polygon. For instance, the first triangular numbers are 1, 3,
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 14

6, 10; the first square numbers are 1, 4, 9, 16; the first pentagonal
number are 1, 5, 12, 22; see Figure 4).

Figure 4. The first triangular, square and pentagonal numbers.


As far as I know, the investigation of theoretical properties of
arithmetic sequences first appeared in Hypsikles’ text known as
Anaphorikos (see Radford, 2006) 2. Proposition 1 is stated as follows:

If any number of terms is considered such that <starting from the


greatest> every two successive ones have the same difference, {the
terms} being even in number, then, the difference between {the
sum of} half the number of terms [starting from the greatest], from
{the sum of} the remaining ones, is equal to the multiple of the
common difference by the square of half the number of terms.
(Manitius, 1888, p. 2)
In modern symbolism, the proposition asserts that if a number of 2n
terms, a1 , a2, . . . , a2n, are such that a1 >a2>. . . >a2n, and ai—a(i+1) =d for i=1,
… , 2n-1 , then:

Hypsikles’ proposition states a property of what we now call an


arithmetic sequence. It is still not a formula to calculate terms in an
arithmetic sequence. Diophantus (ca. 250 AD), in his short text On
polygonal Numbers, offers a formula to calculate any polygonal number,
S n, when the side, n, of the polygonal number and the angle a are
known. The formula is:

Let suppose that we want to calculate the third term of the pentagonal
numbers. In this case, n = 3 and a = 5.
yield S 3 = 12.
15 Radford - Knowledge, Knowing, and Learning

Naturally, Dipohantus did not express this formula through modern


symbolism. What he tells us is this: “Take twice the side of the
polygonal number; from this subtract one unit; multiply the result by the
number of angles minus 2; then add 2 units. Take the square of the
resulting number. From this, subtract the square of the number of angles
minus 4. Divide the result by 8 times the number of angles minus 2
units. This gives us the polygonal number we are looking for” (based on
the translation ofVer Eecke, 1959, pp. 290-291).
Much like nut-cracking in our chimpanzees example, forms of
algebraically reflecting, perceiving, and dealing with sequences are
codified forms of thinking and doing. And as in the case of chimpanzees
and their cultural history, these forms of thinking and doing have been
codified and refined in human cultural history. This refinement entails a
successive determination of knowledge. Drawing on historical records,
historians think that the investigation of sequences was in the beginning
carried out through pebbles (Lefèvre, 1981). From a Hegelian
perspective, the resulting pebble-mediated codified knowledge is
considered to have become subsequently embedded or sublated into
something more specific (e.g., an analytic investigation of theoretical
properties of arithmetic sequences, like Hypsikles’), passing hence from
something abstract into something more determinate or more concrete.
This is what in Hegelian dialectic is called the ascension from the
abstract to the concrete, and it occurs through a process where new
determinations of knowledge do not merely replace new ones, but carry
out, in a condensed manner, the meanings of previous theoretical
formations. As Marx put it, “The concrete is concrete because it is the
concentration of many determinations, hence unity of the diverse. It
appears in the process of thinking, therefore, as a process of
concentration, as a result, not as a point of departure.” (1973, p. 101)
Within the conception of knowledge that I am outlining, the cultural
evolution of knowledge, its rising from the abstract to the concrete,
should by no means be understood as something that occurs as if it is
pushed by an invisible hand or by rational knowledge’s own logic. The
evolution of knowledge is to be understood not as a natural phenomenon
but as a cultural one. Much as capital can only be understood as a
historical concretion of abstract concepts, such as division of labour,
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 16

money, value, etc. mathematical knowledge can only be understood as a


concretion of prior abstract embodied, linguistic, perceptual and
artifactual forms of mathematical thinking and doing.
My example of knowledge about arithmetic sequences does not
contain anything special. Similar examples could be given about any
topic in school mathematics. The point is hence that through a lengthy
process of refinements and concretions, mathematical knowledge has
been expressed in different ways (natural language, alphanumeric
symbolism, graphs, etc.) and codified in cultural memory and practices
and is now present in many educational curricula around the world. It is
this knowledge that the students encounter in the school and that would
lead them to see that Term 100 of the sequence shown in Figure 3, for
example, has 1+ 2 × 100 squares.
Now we are ready to define knowing.
Knowing
Knowledge, I just argued, is crystallized labour—culturally codified
forms of doing, thinking and reflecting. Knowing is, I would like to
suggest, the instantiation or actualization of knowledge.
Now, when we state that knowing is the instantiation or actualization
of something already there, the risk of being misread is certainly high.
Knowing may appear as a simple repetition. Of course, this is not true.
If knowing were a simple repetition, knowledge would be something
statistic. There would not be the slightest chance for knowledge to
evolve. Yet, as our example of Hypsikles and Diophantus shows, the
latter was not simply repeating the former. So when I suggest that
knowing is the instantiation or actualization of knowledge, what has to
be understood is:
(1) the meaning of knowledge as something general;
(2) the process of its actualization, and
(3) the result of its actualization.
In order to understand these three interrelated aspects of knowledge
and knowing, we have to bear in mind that to assert that knowledge is
something general that cannot to be equated with any of its
instantiations or actualizations is to assert that knowledge is mere
possibility: The possibility of cracking this or that nut; the possibility of
17 Radford - Knowledge, Knowing, and Learning

finding out a property of arithmetic sequences or the 100th term in a


given sequence. This possibility qua possibility is simply something
inexistent, mere potentiality that “has not yet emerged into Existence”
(Hegel, 2001, p. 36). In order to emerge into existence and to become
actuality, knowledge has to be instantiated through actualization.
Actualization is a process—what Hegel calls a particular. It is an event
or activity: “activity and relations between people” (Blunden, 2009, p.
103), “the activity of man [sic] in the widest sense” (Hegel, 2001, p.
36). What Hegel means by this is that, in order to be instantiated,
knowledge has to show itself in the activity through which it acquires its
content. “It is only by this activity that … abstract characteristics
generally, are realized, actualized; for of themselves [i.e., as generals]
they are powerless.” (Hegel, 2001, p. 36)
Let me note that the activity of which the particular consists is not a
simple channel through which knowledge makes its appearance. The
particular as activity impresses its mark in knowledge’s instantiation.
This instantiation is what Hegel calls the singular or individual, and
corresponds, in our terminology, to what we have been calling knowing.
Knowing, hence, is the concrete conceptual content through which
knowledge is instantiated. Its concrete conceptual content appears and
can only appear through an activity —the activity that mediates
knowledge and knowing. There is no such a thing as unmediated
knowing. Knowing is indeed the result of a mediation. The meaning of
such mediation is the following: knowing bears the imprint of the
activity that mediates it (Ilyenkov, 1977). In other words, the particular
as activity demarcates the manner in which knowing instantiates
knowledge. In even simpler terms, the manner by which we come to
know something (like how to solve equations) is consubstantial of the
specificities of the process of knowing. The mediating activity does so
through the historical and cultural material forms, means and modes of
active human intercourse that define it (Mikhailov, 1980).
To sum up, the particular is the activity through which the general
appears in the singular —or, on other words, how knowledge is
instantiated in knowing. This activity actualizes knowledge, bringing it
into life.
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 18

We can express the relationship between knowledge and knowing in


the following terms. Knowledge’s mode of existence turns out to be its
practical appearance through one or more of its singulars in the concrete
world —i.e., as knowing. And vice-versa: every instance of knowing
(nut-cracking or sequence generalization; in short, every singular) is
possible insofar as it appears as the manifestation or the incarnation of
knowledge. It is only through this singular developed form that
knowledge can be an object of thought and as such to be modified and
expanded.
Let me give a historical example to illustrate this last idea. Some
Babylonian clay tablets show problems about measuring objects. They
are vestiges of activities at the interior of which codified forms of
measuring became materialized and instantiated. One of the
metrological units of length is the foot. While foot might have been a
useful unit to measure some objects in the world, it might not took long
for the Babylonian scribes to realize that sometimes adding feet was not
enough. Adding feet would end up being a bit shorter or larger than the
measured object. The encoded forms of measuring appeared in the
concrete world and had to be expanded to measure those “difficult”
objects. Subdivisions of the foot (or “fractions” of it) could only be
envisaged in the concrete world through the actualization of knowledge.
The inclusion of fractions gave rise to new forms of measuring, which,
trough activity, became encoded, thereby constituting a modification of
previous knowledge. The new practice of measuring became new
knowledge. Without the possibility of actualization, knowledge would
remain general and hence unable to be modified.
Figure 5 tries to capture the relationship between the general, the
particular, and the singular. The general (knowledge) is pure possibility.
The singular (knowing) is the concrete conceptual content (e.g., the
theoretical reflection on the material circles in Figure 3; the fleshy and
kinesthetic actions of a chimp cracking a concrete nut in Figure 2) that
conveys, in its materiality, the abstract nature of the general. It is the
content of the general that shows up in sensuous theoretical reflection;
the manner in which the general has actuality (Maybee, 2009). As
activity, the particular is the mediation between the general and the
singular. This mediation is fundamental, as it stresses the unmediated
nature of knowing3 .
19 Radford - Knowledge, Knowing, and Learning

Figure 5. The relationship between the general, the particular, and the singular.
Notice, however, that because the actualization of the general is a
singular, the actualization cannot capture the general in its entirety.
Hence, by incarnating the general, the actualization affirms it; and, at
the same time, by being unable to fully capture the general, it negates it.
When my Grade 6 students solve the equation shown in Figure 6, they
actualize a cultural form of action and reflection (a pure possibility)
which becomes materialized in the sensuous theoretical activity
(particularity) of reflecting on what is required to solve the
aforementioned specific equation (this reflection on specific equations is
the singular or individual). They do it within a particular and
unrepeatable classroom activity —a particular, which is the unique
event of solving that equation at a certain moment and place and
through a certain relation between people.

Figure 6. Grade 6 students actualizing an encoded algebraic form of thinking (a


general) through a singular reflection (a singular) on an equation mediated by a
classroom activity (a particular).
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 20

The actualization of the general leads to one of its possible


instantiations from where results the awareness of how to solve a
specific (individual) equation (or a certain finite number of them). As
such, the actualized movement cannot capture the general (how to solve
equations) in its entirety: it cannot because the general can only become
object of consciousness through particulars and singulars. As a result,
the actualization ostensively embodies the general and at the same time
negates it. This is why the actualization (as event) is always deficient.
But its deficiency is the bearer of new possibilities, for it is only through
actualization that something new can arise.
Learning
In the previous section I have dealt with knowledge and knowing as
conceived of in the theory of knowledge objectification. Let me address
now the third chief concept of the theory: learning.
Some sociocultural approaches theorize learning as a form of
participation in a social practice; other sociocultural approaches resort
to the theoretical idea of internalization. The ideas of participation and
internalization are certainly interesting. Yet, they bear intrinsic
difficulties that we have to overcome.
Participation
In sociocultural theories that resort to participation to provide an
account of learning, the basic idea is that individuals come to know as
they participate in social practices. There is an explicit intention to move
beyond the individualist conceptions of mainstream psychology and
philosophy, where the individual is the unit of analysis and the focus of
research. The idea of participation was developed by Rogoff (1990),
Lave (1988), and Lave and Wenger (1991), among others. Rogoff, for
instance, conceives of knowing as apprenticeship in a context of guide
participation. She says: “The concept of guided participation attempts to
keep the roles of the individual and the sociocultural context in focus”
(Rogoff, 1990, p. 18). She goes on to say that she uses the analogy of
apprenticeship “to focus on how the development of skill involves
active learners observing and participating in organized cultural activity
with the guidance and challenge of other people.” (Rogoff, 1990, p. 19)
To account for learning and thinking as apprenticeship, Rogoff shows
21 Radford - Knowledge, Knowing, and Learning

how infants and parents undergo subtle processes of shared attention,


and how through adults’ support, children gain insights into social
referencing, manners to solve problems and to cope with social
demands. Learning, however, remains in the end a process whose goal is
to adapt oneself to social practices. Despite the tremendous array of new
concepts that the participation account brings in, learning appears to be
a kind of adaptation, much as in Piaget’s account. The difference is that
while for Piaget adaptation is carried out through general (universal)
cognitive mechanisms and the environment is seen as something
“natural,” in the participation paradigm learning is the adaptation
through social mechanisms to a cultural world of practices.
Intersubjectivity is no more than a relation founded by communication,
shared meanings and joint attention. In the theory of objectification,
intersubjectivity and learning are deeply related; communication, shared
meanings and joint attention will play a crucial role. But, as we shall see
in a moment, the crucial concept is consciousness in a Hegelian-
Marxist-Vygotskian sense. But before I get there, let me comment on
learning as internalization.
Internalization
The idea of internalization was elaborated by psychologists such as
Pierre Janet (1929) and Vygotsky (1929) in the first part of the 20th
century. It is a theoretical construct to account for the link between the
individual and his or her environment. Janet, for instance, articulated it
in his investigations of personality and argued that all psychological
laws have two aspects—one exterior (dealing with other people) and
one interior (dealing with us). Almost always,” he said, “the latter is
posterior to the former” (Janet, 1929, p. 288).
Internalization constitutes one of the central ideas of Vygotsky’s
cultural-historical theory formulated in the early 1930s – although
implicit versions of it can be found in earlier articles, such as the 1929
article “The cultural development of the child” (Vygotsky, 1929).
Internalization is deeply related to Vygotsky’s own concept of human
development and the role that signs play therein. Internalization makes
operational another key theoretical construct of the cultural-historical
theory, namely the “genetic law of cultural development.” Vygotsky
stated this law as follows: “Every [psychic] function in the child’s
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 22

cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later,
on the individual level” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 57). Internalization as a
process mediated by signs is precisely what ensures the passage from
the social to the individual level: “The internalization of cultural forms
of behavior involves the reconstruction of psychological activity on the
basis of sign operations.” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 57)
The idea of internalization has its own problems. Thus, casting the
relationship between the individual and her context in terms of
internalization can be said to still keep traces of a form of individualistic
thinking that fails to resolve the famous dichotomy between the internal
and the external. As Veresov asks, “Where is the difference or even the
border between external and internal then?” (Veresov, 1999, p. 225)
We need to recall that Vygotsky’s theory was developed as an attempt
to go beyond the reflexologist and idealist research of his time. He often
complained that psychology inspired by reflexology was a psychology
of behaviour without mind, and that psychology inspired by subjective
idealism (introspection, for instance) was a theory of the mind without
behaviour. In the footsteps of Spinoza (1989), he was trying to
overcome dualist theories (theories based on two systems, the internal
and the external) and to formulate a monist theory of consciousness. But
this was not without contradictions. Veresov —considered one of the
greatest contemporary Vygotskian scholars— has this to say:
What essentially does it mean to abandon the postulate of two
system existence and to what conclusions and logical effects does
it lead? This logically leads to a full rejection of the idea of the
existence of the internal and the external and, consequently, to the
radical refusal of the concept of internalization as a mechanism of
the origin of internal structures of consciousness. Actually, the
concept of internalization becomes senseless in this case. (Veresov,
1999, p. 226)
Vygotsky’s last works show his effort to overcome these difficulties (in
particular his search for an encompassing account of meaning). I am not
going to discuss these ideas here, as my intention is only to show that
Vygotsky’s theory, based on the idea of internalization, is not exempt
23 Radford - Knowledge, Knowing, and Learning

from theoretical difficulties that have implications for our conceptions


of learning.
Objectification
If we conceive of knowledge as movement as I suggested previously
—more precisely as a culturally and historicaly codified sequence of
actions that are continuously instantiated in social practice— knowledge
turns out to be neither something to be “possessed” nor to be “attained.”
Knowledge appears rather as something that is not us, something that
we encounter, wherein it objects (i.e., opposes) us. Objectification is
precisely the process of recognition of that which objects us—systems
of ideas, cultural meanings, forms of thinking, etc. 4
Objectification, as we can see, emphasizes the idea of otherness—the
quality of not being us. Contrary to the standard accounts of ideas
according to which they are born in us and are part of our mental life,
for the theory of objectification, ideas and forms of thinking are
considered to exist independently of each one of us. From a philogenetic
viewpoint, “Knowledge, skills and abilities,” Mikhailov notes, “exist
without me” (1980, p. 200). We encounter them in the course of our life
as external objects.
In the Shorter Logic, Hegel says:
It is a mistake to imagine that the objects which form the content
of our mental ideas come first … Rather the notion [i.e., the
concept] is the genuine first; and things are what they are through
the action of the notion, immanent in them, and revealing itself in
them. (Hegel, 2009, p. 329)
The encounter and recognition of systems of thinking, cultural
significations, etc. —in short, their objectification— is not a
straigthforward process. In Figure 2, we see an adult chimpanzee named
Yo cracking Coula nuts. With her right hand Yo places the nut over an
anvil and, in a coordinate manner, she holds the stone hammer with her
left hand, while the young chimps to her left and right watch her
attentively. The young chimps do not yet master the relatively
sophisticated motor and conceptual skills that are required to
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 24

accomplish the cracking of the nut. These skills already exist in their
chimp culture and will become part of the young chimps’ repertoire of
action and reflection after a long period of intense practice and
observation.
Much in the same way, my Grade 2 students do not necessarily master
the relatively sophisticated motor and conceptual skills needed to extend
arithmetic sequences. For example, mathematicians would attend
without difficulty to those aspects of the terms shown in Figure 3 above
that are relevant for the generalizing task: they would, for instance, see
the terms as divided into two rows and notice the immediate relationship
between the number of the term and the number of squares in each one
of the rows. The perception of those variational relationships usually
moves so fast that mathematicians virtually do not even notice the
complex work behind it. They would also extend without difficulty the
noticed property of the rows to other terms that are not present in the
perceptual field, like Term 100, and conclude that this term has100+101
squares, that is 2001 (see Figure 7). Or even better, that the number of
squares in any term, say Term n, is 2n+1 .

Figure 7. A frequently reported quick imagination ofTerm 100 by the trained


eye.
Yet, the novice eye does not necessarily see the sequence in this way.
Figure 8 shows an example of how a Grade 2 students extends the
sequence beyond the four given terms shown in Figure 2.

Figure 8. Terms 5 and 6 as drawn by a Grade 2 student.


25 Radford - Knowledge, Knowing, and Learning

The student focuses on the numerosity of the squares, leaving in the


background the spatiality of the terms (Radford, 2011). We cannot say, I
think, that the student’s answer shown in Figure 8 is wrong. The answer
makes sense for the student, even if it is probably true that by focusing
on the numerosity of the terms of the sequence, it might be difficult later
on to end up with a general formula like 2n+1 . This is in fact what we
have observed again and again in our research with older students (13-
17-year-old students). In the latter case, the students tend to rely on trial-
and-error methods that, as I have argued elsewhere, are not algebraic,
but arithmetic in nature (Radford, 2008, 2010).
The issue is not that the students do not see the two rows of the terms.
In Figure 9, we see a Grade 2 student pointing with his pen to the top
row, then to the bottom row, after moving the pen across the top and
bottom rows to properly distinguish between them. However, when the
student draws Term 5, the spatial dimension of the terms is relegated to
a second plane and does not play an organizing role in the drawing of
the term. He draws a heap of rectangles. The issue is rather about not
realizing yet that the spatiality of the terms provides us with clues that
are interesting from an algebraic viewpoint.

Figure 9. A student pointing to the top row (left) and to the bottom top (right)
ofTerm 2.
The cultural objective encoded forms of action and reflection remain
separated from the students. They are forms of action and reflection “in
itself.” That is to say, they exist but remain unacknowledged and
unnoticed by the students. They remain possibility without actualization.
Learning is the subjective and idiosyncratic transformation of the “in
itself” knowledge into a “for itself” knowledge, that is, a transformation
of cultural objective knowledge into an object of consciousness. This
transformation is what I term objectification.
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 26

Let me dwell upon the meaning of these Hegelian terms. Hegel uses
“in itself” to refer to something merely potential, unreflective. These are
the ideal forms I mentioned previously. They are what they are, mere
possibility of action and reflection at a certain historical and cultural
point. They may be the mathematician’s encoded forms of action and
reflection or the chimps’ encoded forms of cracking nuts. When we
encounter and become conscious of the “in itself” knowledge,
consciousness goes outside itself and captures now the “in itself”
knowledge as something determinate from consciousness’ viewpoint, as
something for us. The “in itself” becomes actuality, a “being-for-
consciousness,” and this is what Hegel calls a “being-for-itself.”
In the course of learning, the ideal form (the “in itself”) is enacted or
actualized, becoming a particular or individual. In learning we have the
merging of the “in itself” and the “for itself.” The “in itself” appears in a
developed form “both at home with itself, and finding itself in the other”
(Gardener, n. d.).
I can now attempt a more operational definition of objectification.
Learning as Objectification
In the theory of objectification, learning is theorized as processes of
objectification , that is to say, those social processes of progressively
becoming critically aware of an encoded form of thinking and
doing—something we gradually take note of and at the same time
endow with meaning. Processes of objectification are those acts of
meaningfully noticing something that unveils itself through our
sensuous activity with material culture. It is the noticing of something
(the “in itself”) that is revealed in the emerging intention projected onto
the signs or in the kinesthetic movement in the course of practical
concrete activity— the disclosing of the “in itself” that becomes “for
itself” in the course of its appearance and is hence transformed into
knowledge for us.
But in the course of this transformation of the “in-itself” into the “for
itself,” consciousness is transformed as well. This is why within the
theory of objectification learning is not simply about knowing, but also
about becoming. Learning is not a mere imitation or participation
consistent with a pre-established practice. Learning is the fusion
27 Radford - Knowledge, Knowing, and Learning

between cultural modes of reflecting and doing and a consciousness


which seeks to perceive them (Radford, 2007, pp. 1790-91). In the
course of this fusion, consciousness emerges and is continuously
transformed. In other terms, processes of objectification are entangled in
processes of subjectification —processes of creation of a particular (and
unique) self.
We see that underneath the concept of learning the theory of
objectification brings in, there is a particular concept of consciousness.
Consciousness is not considered a metaphysical construct hidden
somewhere in an alleged interiority with which we would all have been
born. This metaphor of interiority was invented towards the end of
Antiquity. It was developed by Augustine in a religious context and later
articulated by Descartes and his famous dichotomic view of the world:
the one of interiority (mind, ideas, consciousness, etc.) and the one of
exteriority (the concrete world) (Taylor, 1989). Within the theory of
objectification, consciousness is rather considered as a subjective
reflection of the external world. Consciousness is the subjective process
through which each one of us as individual subjects reflect on, and
orient ourselves in, the world. This reflection is not a contemplative one.
The individual consciousness is a specifically human form of subjective
reflection of concrete reality in the course of which we come to form
cultural sensibilities in order to ponder, reflect, understand, dissent,
object and feel about others, ourselves and our world. Consciousness
can only be understood as the product of historical-cultural and
emergent contingent relations and mediations that, rather than being
given, “arise in the course of the establishment and development of
society.” (Leont’ev, 1978, p. 79) Within this view, consciousness
appears in concrete life, not as its origin, but as its result.
To sum up, in this section I introduced the concept of objectification. I
started by introducing it as a form of recognition of concepts, systems of
thinking, cultural significations, etc. that predate our appearance in the
world. Then, I refined the concept as the transformation of “in itself”
knowledge into “for itself” knowledge, and noted that this
transformation amounts to the creation and continuous growth of the
individual’s consciousness: objectification is a social process of
progressively becoming critically aware of encoded forms of thinking
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 28

and doing in the course of which consciousness is formed and


transformed. In the following section I focus on some aspects of the
practical investigation of objectification.
Investigating Objectification
The investigation of objectification focuses on the manner in which the
historically and culturally encoded forms of thinking and doing become
objects of recognition or objects of consciousness. Given the mediating
role that the particular plays between knowledge and its concrete
individual instantiation, the particular (as the activity through which
knowledge appears in an embodied and sensuous manner) is a key
component in the investigation of processes of objectification. Indeed,
the actualized general, that is the individual or singular, is a bearer of the
general’s conceptuality. Yet, in its materiality, that is, in the concrete
material culture that mediates it, the singular in itself cannot disclose
such conceptuality. This is why in general, concrete materials and
artifacts cannot disclose the conceptuality they are supposed to
individuate. They need to be embedded in an activity (a particular) that
makes apparent the conceptuality they are bearers of.
Here is an example. In a Grade 4, we gave to the students (9–10-year-
old) a problem where they had to deal with an arithmetic sequence. The
context was stated as follows:
For his birthday, Marc receives a piggy bank with one dollar. He
saves two dollars each week. At the end the first week he has three
dollars; at the end of the second week he has five dollars and so on.
We provided the students with bingo chips of two colors (blue and red)
and numbered plastic goblets that stand for the piggy bank at week 1, 2,
etc., so that the students could model the saving process until week 5.
Then, they were required to generalize: they were required to answer
questions so as to find the amount of money saved at the end of weeks
10, 15, and 25.
The students began modeling the saving process in the manner of a
“real situation”: they started placing the bingo chips in the goblets (three
bingo chips in the goblet that corresponded to the piggy bank of week 1,
29 Radford - Knowledge, Knowing, and Learning

etc.). Although it was interesting, the model proved to be of limited use


to answering the questions about the amount of money saved in some
distant weeks (like week 25). Indeed, the bingo chips were piled up
inside the glass, making it hard to discern any structure, let alone a
mathematical one. The students’ attention was directed to the sequential
additive actions (adding two bingo chips) that remained unsynthesized
in a more abstract multiplicative structure. The artifacts were
insufficient to help the students disclose the general’s conceptuality we
aimed for. The artifacts were rather bearers of a conceptual quotidian
content that was distant from the algebraic one. At that time that the
students finished putting the bingo chips in the goblets without noticing
any algebraic structure, the teacher was in the process of talking to
another group at the other end of the class. I removed my earphones, left
the camera with which I was videotaping this group of three students
and went to talk to them. The group was formed by Albert (Fig. 10, to
the right), Krysta (in the middle), and Manuel (to the left). I suggested
putting the bingo chips in front of the goblets. The students accepted the
suggestion and started piling them up without distinguishing between
colors. Then, I proposed to use a blue bingo chip to signify the initial
dollar in the piggy bank. Following this suggestion, the three students
created a model of the saving process (see Figure 10).

Figure 10. The modeling arithmetic sequence through bingo chips.

The new arrangement of concrete materials helped the students to


better understand the saving process. Yet, despite the new bingo chip
arrangement the students were not able to come up with a formula to
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 30

calculate the savings in remote weeks (e.g., week 15, 25) right away
(see Radford & Roth, 2011). The singular’s conceptuality (the algebraic
content it embodies) was not revealed.
The problem is that the encoded forms of movement (in this example,
algebraic encoded forms of thinking related to numerical sequences)
cannot be instantiated directly into singular instances. The actualization
of the general is mediated by a particular activity (this is what the
diagram in Figure 5 asserts). In order for the students to perceive the
general, its content has to be deliberately recognized in accordance with
the structural place it occupies in the students’ activity (Leont’ev, 1978).
This structural place is what the particular offers, for as mentioned
previously, the only way for the conceptual generality to be disclosed is
through the particularity of the particular, that is to say, the activity in
which the general appears in a developed, actual form.
The activity of which the particular consists has to be understood as
entailing much more than people interacting between themselves. It is
more than a milieu of interaction with people and artifacts. It is a form
of life, something organic and systemic, something emergent, driven by
a common search that is at the same time cognitive, emotional and
ethical. For learning to occur, the realm of the possible and the virtual
has to appear in a concrete manifestation in the students’ consciousness.
This in turn requires that the general be mediated by the particular —a
specific activity that makes the general appear in the concrete world, to
become endowed with a particular conceptual content (see Figure 5). If
the general is a form of thinking algebraically about sequences, the
particular is the activity that would require the teacher and the students
to engage in some type of reflection and action that features the target
algebraic conceptual content, so that the general finds itself embodied in
the resulting singular —maybe even in novel ways.
I can now present the structure of the particular as follows.
The Structure of the Particular
The Relation Φ
At the most general level, let us bear in mind, the particular is the way
in which the general shows up. If the general consists of culturally
encoded forms of algebraically thinking about sequences, the particular
31 Radford - Knowledge, Knowing, and Learning

may take a variety of forms: for instance, an activity that feature


thinking of figural or numerical sequences in an algebraic way through
alphanumeric symbolism, or through graphs, or through natural
language, etc. If the general consists of culturally encoded forms of
thinking about motion, the particular may be an activity that features
thinking about space and time in qualitative manners or in a Cartesian
co-variational sense; it can also be thinking through infinitesimals and
derivatives, etc. In all cases, while the general is mere possibility (the
realm of the virtual), the particular is a step forward towards the
concretion of the general. It concretizes the general by particularizing it
(in our second example, through a focus on co-variation, derivatives,
areas, etc.). But the particular is not static: its link to the general is a
morphism , and as such preserves the general’s most basic structure:
movement. This is why the particular is activity —joint activity between
people carried out through material culture.
The particular is hence particularizing activity. This particularization of
the general by the particular considered as activity is what Leont’ev
(1978) calls the object of the activity. The particular as activity moves
towards its object through the identification of goals. These goals can
be, if we continue with our algebra example, to solve problems about
sequences algebraically. To reach the goals of the activity, specific tasks
have in turn to be envisioned. They may appear as a sequence of related
problems of increasing conceptual difficulty.
The object—goal—task structure corresponds to the relation Φ that we
can add to our Figure 5 (see Figure 11). The relation Φ relates to the
pedagogical intention of the classroom activity. In the case of the theory
of objectification it involves an epistemological analysis of the target
mathematical content that we complement with an a priori analysis
(Artigue, 1995, 2009).
Let me note that the relation Φ applied to the general x (e.g.,
algebraically thinking about sequences) may take several “values”
Φ(x)1 ,Φ(x)2,… depending on the implementation of the pedagogical
intention of the activity. In research on early algebra, we find cases
where the values of Φ(x) revolve around: (1) problems that require
expanding figural terms, (2) a functional approach, (3) the use of
symbolism to designate qualitative relationships, etc. (see Cai and
Knuth, 2011).
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 32

The Relation Θ
The Particular as an activity that actualizes the general in the form of an
individual or singular instance is what the relation Θ expresses in Figure
11: activity as actualized concrete movement, leading hence to a
singular instantiation of the general.

Figure 11 . The structure of the particular: The particular as particularizing


activity is made up of two relations, Φ and Θ.
Let us have a more detailed look at the relation Θ. The relation Θ as an
activity that actualizes the general through the particular can be
envisioned in various ways. Within the theory of knowledge
objectification, the actualization of the general is articulated as an
emergent process of instantiation of the general. The adjective
“emergent” means that the classroom is envisioned as a system that
evolves through “states” and that this evolution cannot be determined in
advance. Teachers and researchers may have an idea, but the process is
not a mechanical one. It will depend on how students and teachers
engage in the activity, how they respond to each other, etc.
In the case of the theory of objectification, we usually divide the class
into small groups of two to three or four students. The first state of Θ is
a presentation of the activity by the teacher (see Figure 12). Then, the
students are invited to work in small groups (see “Small Group Work”
in Figure 12). Then, the teacher visits the various groups and asks
questions to the students, gives feedback, etc. (see “Teacher-students
Discussion” in Figure 12). At a certain point, the teacher may invite the
class to a general discussion where the groups can present their ideas
and other groups can challenge them or improve and generalize them
(see “General discussion” in Figure 12). The lesson may end there or
33 Radford - Knowledge, Knowing, and Learning

continue with additional small group, etc.

Figure 12. The relation Θ as classroom activity goes into different states.
The arrow Θ(φ(x)) in Figure 11 goes into those states that are related to
the manner in which the class has been divided and the tasks of the
activity defined.
Objectification occurs when the students and the teacher, through their
joint sensuous and practical activity, make apparent in the singular the
target conceptuality of the general. Here the objectification occurs when
the singular actualizes a form of looking at the saving sequence that is
algebraic in nature. For objectification is that moment of the activity
where the general, mediated by the particular, shows up through the
singular in the students’ consciousness. In our example, after that the
students finished modeling the bingo chips as shown in Figure 10, they
tackled the question of the savings in week 10; they suggested doubling
the savings of week 5 and removing one of the blue bingo chips (see
Figure 13).

Figure 13 . The students strategy to calculate the savings in week 10.


REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 34

So instead of the expected expression 10 × 2 + 1, the students


suggested 11 + 10. When the teacher, Mrs. Giroux, went to see the
group, Manuel was receiving some help from Krysta and was busy
writing on his activity sheet. Mrs. Giroux grabbed the fifth glass (pic 1
in Figure 14; note that the first glass is not shown), and talking to
Albert, said:
1. Mrs Giroux: What did you do here? 5… (Pointing now to the
red bingo chips; see pic 2 in Figure 14) times…?
2. Albert: … 2
3. Mrs. Giroux: (Pointing to the blue bingo chip; Pic. 3 ) Plus?
4. Albert: 1
Then Mrs. Giroux took the glass of week 5, moved it to her left to a
place where one would expect to find week 10 if the sequence would
materially be extended and asked:
Mrs. Giroux: What would you do for week 10, if week 10 was
here? (See Pic 4).
Albert did not utter the expected expression. Both the teacher and the
student were very tense at this point (see Pic 5). She invited Albert to
start anew:
5. Mrs. Giroux: (Grabbing the glass of week 5 again) What did
you do here? (Pic. 6)
6. Albert: (Taking a deep breath and hitting the desk with the
back of the pen, while Mrs. Giroux holds the glass of Week 5;
see Pic. 7) Ok.
7. Mrs. Giroux: (Still holding the glass, she utters softly) 5…
8. Albert: (In synchronization with Mrs. Giroux’ gesture that
points to the side ofthe red bingo chips; Pic. 8) Times 2…
9. Krysta: (Who has been following the discussion for a while)
Times 2 equal…
10. Mrs. Giroux: (Pointing now to the blue bingo chip; Pic. 9) plus
1.
11. Albert: (Almost at the same time) Plus 1.
35 Radford - Knowledge, Knowing, and Learning

12. Mrs. Giroux: (Pointing now to an empty space where Week 10


would hypothetically be; Pic. 10) 10?
13. Albert: (Mrs. Giroux points silently to the place where the red
bingo chips would be; Pic 11 ) Times 2.
14. Krysta: (At the same time) Times 2.
15. Mrs Giroux: (Silently pointing now to where the blue bingo
chip would be; Pic. 12. )
16. Krysta: Plus 1.
17. Albert: (Looking at the teacher) Minus 1? Times 2, minus 1?
Plus 1?
In turn 5 the teacher makes an invitation to Albert to recommence the
search of the formula or sequence of calculation to calculate the savings.
She asks: “What did you do here?” (turn 5, Pic. 6). Albert exhibits
acceptance of the teacher’s invitation with his entire body: He takes a
deep breath and hits the desk with the back of his pen (Pic. 7). The way
the teacher asks the question is encouraging: it conveys the idea that
Albert knows but has not yet sufficiently attended to what is marked in
the bingo chip configuration and what is intended to be remarked —that
is, the mathematical structure from an algebraic viewpoint.
It is implicit that the teacher knows this algebraic structure. But
knowing it is not enough. It is not enough because the teacher cannot
inject such a structure into the student’s consciousness. For the general
to appear in the singular both the student and the teacher have to work
together. The teacher and the student have to engage in a process of
objectification. It will happen when the sought-after general incarnated
into the singular leaves the realm of latent attention, ceases to be “in
itself” knowledge, and crosses the threshold of explicit attention in
Albert’s consciousness to become “for itself” knowledge. But Albert
and the teacher are not there yet. Despite the inconclusive result of
interaction in turns 1-4, in turn 5 the teacher engaged again in joint
action with a soft and inviting word: “Five,” that she uttered while
holding the fifth glass. Without talking, she moved the hand to point to
the red bingo chips (Pic. 8). Albert’s voice filled the space left behind by
the teacher’s silence. He said “Times 2.” The teacher moved the
pointing gesture to the blue bingo chip (Pic. 9) and said, almost at the
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 36

same time as Albert, “plus 1.” She then moved her hand to an empty
space where the model of week 10 would be (Pic. 10) and softly said
“10?” Without speaking she pointed to the imagined position of the red
bingo chips (Pic. 11), while Albert looked at the hand and said “Times
2” (Turn 13). She moved again in silence and made the pointing gesture
toward the imagined position of the blue chip (Pic. 12) and Albert
hesitantly said “Minus 1? Times 2 minus 1? Plus 1?”

Figure 14. Pics. 1-12. Mrs. Giroux and Albert working together.
At this point of the activity, the objectification has almost succeeded.
Albert still has to better secure the various elements of the formula. That
does not take long. A few minutes later, the teacher organized a general
discussion. She invited several students to present their ideas. At a
certain point she asked Albert to explain the calculations to determine
the amount of money at the end of week 2.
18. Albert: It’s 2, the second week, it’s times 2 because you add ...
2 euh, dollars…
19. Mrs. Giroux : Okay . . .
37 Radford - Knowledge, Knowing, and Learning

20. Albert: And one, plus one, like one.


21. Mrs. Giroux : Ok. . .. Do it for [Week] 4. Same idea. 4.
22. Albert: 4 times 2...
23. Mrs. Giroux : 4 times 2 because it’s the double…
24. Albert: Plus one. 4 times 2, plus 1 equals… 9.
The lesson ended at this point. On the following day, the students in
this class worked on an isomorphic problem. This time the piggy bank
had $6 when Marianne received it and she saved $3 per week, so that at
the end of the first week she had $9, at the end of the second week she
had $12, and so on. Talking to his group-mates about how to calculate
the savings at the end of week 10, Albert said: “She adds 3 dollars each
week. So I will do it like this, ’kay, 3 times 10 is 30 [plus 6] it’s 36.
Okay, it’s 36.”
Through a lengthy process of objectification, Albert progressively
grasped the general mathematical structure behind the saving process.
Albert was able to extend the culturally encoded form of knowledge
that was the target of these lessons to new situations during a test that
the class had to write more than one week after we finished the algebra
lessons. In the test there was a question about finding an expression for
Term 25 of the sequence shown in Figure 15.

Figure 15. A sequence featured in a test that the students wrote more than one
week later.
Albert’s answer was: 25 × 4 + 1 He went even further and suggested
the following formula for whatever term of the sequence:
___× 4 + 1 = _____
The first line, he explains, “is to put the number of the term.” The
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 38

number 4 means “the number of squares that you add each time. The
number 1 is the first [square] you started with.” The second line “is the
answer.”
Learning has occurred. The “in itself” cultural knowledge has been
transformed into knowledge “for itself” and transformed into knowledge
for Albert. This transformation results in a new form of perceiving,
talking, and conceptually dealing with sequences —a new form of
consciousness whose emotional content appears clearly in the hesitation
that Albert displays in turn 17 and which is subsequently replaced by an
assured way of calculating things. Objectification, or the transformation
of the “in itself” knowledge into an object of consciousness, is not the
result of solitary deeds, nor is it the result of contemplation. The
transformation is the result of sensuous joint material activity —an
activity where Albert and Mrs. Giroux put themselves at risk. Learning,
indeed, is always a risky endeavour. It is risky in that it requires that we
leave the comfort of our own solipsistic niche to go towards something
that is not us, an unknown region where we can nonetheless make
ourselves at home.
Of course, there are still many things to learn, for learning is not a
state; learning is a process. This is why we talk about objectification as a
moment in the constitution of consciousness, not as a “stage.”
Synthesis
In this article I presented three key concepts of the theory of
objectification, namely knowledge, knowing, and learning. I suggested
that knowledge is a culturally and historically encoded form of
reflecting. These encoded forms present us with mere potentiality.
Through actualization, they acquire a conceptual content. This
actualized or instantiated conceptual content is what knowing consists
of. But the conceptual content is not something that is unmediated. To
acquire actuality, to be real, the conceptual content can only appear
through activity. In other words, how we come to know is shaped by,
and consubstantial with, the activity through which knowledge is
instantiated. This consubstantiality of knowing and activity is reflected
in the manner in which the historical and cultural material and ideal
forms and modes of social intercourse that underpin the activity impress
their mark in the instantiated conceptual content. This is one of the
39 Radford - Knowledge, Knowing, and Learning

central ideas exposed here and one that makes activity theory in general
(Leont’ev, 1978) and the theory of objectification in particular
distinctive.
But because of the inherent mediated nature of knowing, knowing is
not a straightforward process. It is here that learning enters the scene.
Knowing requires learning. In the theory of objectification, learning is
thematized as the conscious and deliberate encounter with historically
and culturally encoded forms of thinking and doing. More precisely,
learning is accounted for in terms of processes of objectification. The
latter we defined as activity-bound processes through which the “in
itself” knowledge becomes an object of consciousness, and hence
knowledge for us, or “for itself” knowledge (knowledge for
consciousness).
The example discussed in the previous section illustrates the previous
ideas. We presented a Grade 4 class with a series of tasks (here piggy
bank problems) of increasing difficulty whose goal was to instantiate or
actualize an encoded form of thinking that we recognize as algebraic.
This form of thinking is mere potentiality. It cannot simply appear out of
the blue. It can only be instantiated, that is, filled with theoretical
content, through an activity that particularizes it. Our didactic design
favoured a theoretical content where a generalized formula was targeted
through the mediation of goblets, bingo chips, paper, pencil, and
elaborated forms of social interaction —our relationships Φ and Θ (see
Figure 11). The excerpts presented here show that the encoded form of
thinking remained in the beginning unnoticed by the students, who
resorted rather to arithmetic forms of generalization. To notice the
algebraic forms of thinking the classroom activity had to evolve in such
a way that the algebraic forms of thinking become objects of
consciousness, that is to say recognized. First, it entails the recognizance
of a difference between “I” and “It.” Then, it entails the overcoming of
the difference in the coming together of the “I” and the “It.”
“Recognition,” Heidegger says, is “to re-cognize = to differentiate, that
is, something as that and that, and thus to grasp it as ‘ itself’”
(Heidegger, 2004, p. 16; italics in the original).
This “It” that is-not-us-yet appears faintheartedly in turns 5 and 6,
where Albert starts noticing that there might be a different manner in
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 40

which to see the bingo chips. The subsequent intense joint endeavour of
Mrs. Giroux and Albert, where they truly work together, leads to the an
instantiation of the encoded form of thinking. Through a joint process of
objectification, where the teacher’s gestures and Albert’s words come
together and form a single unity, the encoded form of algebraic thinking
appears now in consciousness endowed with a specific theoretical
content. This singular theoretical content does not apply to this or that
piggy bank question or problem only. Albert is capable of applying it to
other problems as well, as the one referred to in the test that does not
have anything to do with savings. The singular that incarnates the
general is indeed a totality. And it is when it is a totality that learning
occurs.
Acknowledgment
This article is a result of a research programs funded by the Social
Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC/CRSH).
Notes
1 For instance, they play with the stones; see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v
=bpRu1Zg-128.
2 Hypsikles lived in Alexandria. Historians are uncertain about much of his life, which
they think occurred between the 2nd century BC and the 2nd century AD.
3 I would like to take advantage of this discussion to point out the theoretical differences
between activity theories that draw from Hegel and the ensuing dialectical tradition (the
theory of objectification is an example) and some contemporary theories of action. As
Figure 5 shows, the particular is a joint activity framed by material and spiritual
historical and cultural forms of production and modes of social interaction. It is not just
a sequence of individuals’ actions occurring in interaction.
4 I offer a more operational definition of objectification later on, once the key required
concepts are introduced.
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Luis Radford is full professor at the Université Laurentienne,


Canada, and 2011 ICMI Hans Freudenthal Medal.
Contact Address: Direct correspondence concerning this article
should be addressed to the author at Laurentian University,
Sudbury Campus 935 Ramsey Lake Rd, Sudbury ON P3E 2C6,
705.675.1151; 1.800.461.4030; E-mail: lradford@laurentian.ca.
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Agency as Inference: Toward a Critical Theory of Knowledge


Objectification
José Francisco Gutiérrez1

1 ) University of California at Berkeley

Date of publication: February 24th, 201 3

To cite this article: Gutiérrez, J.F. (201 3). Agency as Inference: Toward a
Critical Theory of Knowledge Objectification. Journal of Research in
Mathematics Education, 2 (1 ), 45-76. doi:
http://doi.dx.org/1 0.4471 /redimat.201 3.20
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REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education Vol. 2 No. 1
February 2013 pp. 45-76.

Agency as Inference: Toward a


Critical Theory of Knowledge
Objectification
José Francisco Gutiérrez
University ofCalifornia at Berkeley

Abstract
This article evaluates the plausibility of synthesizing theory of knowledge
objectification (Radford, 2003) with equity research on mathematics education.
I suggest the cognitive phenomenon of mathematical inference as a promising
locus for investigating the types of agency that equity-driven scholars often
care for. In particular, I conceptualize students’ appropriation of semiotic-
cultural artifacts (e.g., algebraic symbols and forms) to objectify their pre-
symbolic inferences as conditional on their agency to carefully and
incrementally construct personal meaning for these artifacts. To empirically
ground this emerging approach, this study focuses on algebraic generalization
(as a type of mathematical inference) and applies Radford’s framework to video
data of two iterations of an instructional intervention conducted in a high
school program for academically at-risk youth. I analyze and compare students’
acts of appropriation/objectification during whole-class conversations centered
on pattern-finding tasks, in relation to the instructional mode adopted for each
of the iterations—“direct instruction” vs. “inquiry-based.” The analysis shows
that the implementation involving inquiry-based instruction enabled more
equitable access to opportunities for agency-as-mathematical inference,
whereas the implementation involving direct-instruction was ostensibly more
productive. Implications for future equity research involving cognition-and-
instruction analyses are discussed.
Keywords: algebraic reasoning, agency, equity, generalization, inference.
2013 Hipatia Press
ISSN 2014-3621
DOI: 10.4471/redimat.2013.20
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education Vol. 2 No. 1
February 2013 pp. 45-76.

La Agencia como Inferencia:


Hacia una Teoría Crítica sobre
la Objetivización del
Conocimiento
José Francisco Gutiérrez
University ofCalifornia at Berkeley
Resumen
Este artículo evalúa la verosimilitud de sintetizar la teoría del conocimiento
objetivado (Radford, 2003) con investigación sobre equidad en didáctica de las
matemáticas. Propongo el fenómeno cognitivo de inferencia matemática como
un concepto prometedor para la investigación de los tipos de agencia de la
equidad impulsadas por los estudiantes. Conceptualizo la apropiación de los
estudiantes de los artefactos semióticos-culturales (p.e. símbolos y formas
algebraicas) como medios para objetivar sus inferencias pre-simbólicas como
condiciones de su agencia para construir cuidadosamente el significado de esos
artefactos. A fin de basar empíricamente este enfoque emergente, este estudio
se centra en la generalización algebraica (como un típo de inferencia
matemática) y aplica el marco desarrollado por Radford a los datos de vídeo de
dos iteraciones de una intervención educativa llevada a cabo en una escuela
secundaria con jóvenes en riesgo. Se analizan y comparan las conversaciones
de los estudiantes sobre la apropiación / obetivación, centradas en el patrón de
enseñanza adoptado por cada una de las iteraciones ("instrucción directa"
versus "basada en la investigación.") El análisis muestra que la ejecución que
implica instrucción basada en la investigación permitió un acceso más
equitativo a las oportunidades de inferencia agencia-como-matemática,
mientras que la aplicación directa de la participación de la instrucción era
aparentemente más productiva. Implicaciones para la investigación de acciones
futuras que incluyan análisis de la cognición y la instrucción se discuten.
Palabras Clave: razonamiento algebraico, agencia, generalización,
inferencia
2013 Hipatia Press
ISSN 2014-3621
DOI: 10.4471/redimat.2013.20
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 46

A thematic objective of mathematics education researchers


focusing on algebra content is to develop theoretical
frameworks that account for students’ difficulty with problem
solving. Yet while these frameworks are being developed, the national
achievement gap persists, even amidcalls for equity in mathematics
education (DiME, 2007; R. Gutiérrez, 2002) and, in particular, to
improve the accessibility of algebra content for students from
underrepresented minority groups and economically disadvantaged
backgrounds (Moses & Cobb, 2001; Oakes, Joseph, & Muir, 2004).
Notwithstanding, I propose that recent theoretical work on algebraic
reasoning has the potential to illuminate new directions for broadening
diverse passage through this “gatekeeper” content. The objective of this
paper is to provide theoretical rationale and build upon some
preliminary empirical data so as to illustrate what we may need to attend
to as we pave these new directions.
Central to the theoretical argument of this article is Luis Radford’s
(2003, 2006, 2008) theory of knowledge objectification and, in
particular, his semiotic–cultural framework for the study of students’
algebraic reasoning. Taken together, this powerful approach views
learning as an evolving process co-constrained by both cognitive and
socio-cultural factors. Specifically, mathematics learning is
conceptualized as constructing personal meaning for semiotic-cultural
artifacts (e.g., algebraic symbols such as the variable x). In this article I
attempt to synthesize Radford’s approach with equity research on
mathematics education. To support this synthesis, I suggest the
phenomenon of mathematical inference, which is central to cognitivist
analyses of learning, as a promising locus for investigating the types of
agency that equity-driven scholars have deemed as vital for student
identity and, in turn, participation and learning (Boaler & Greeno, 2000;
Gresalfi, Martin, Hand, & Greeno, 2009; Wagner, 2004).
Equity studies on mathematics education are framed primarily in terms
of access to opportunities to learn (see DiME, 2007). At the classroom
or interactional level, for example, opportunities to learn are understood
and analyzed in terms of access to mathematics content and discourse
practices, as well as access to constructive mathematical identities that
are congruous with students’ sociocultural identities (Boaler, 2008;
47 Gutiérrez - Agency as Inference

Cobb & Hodge, 2002; Esmonde, 2009). Inherent to mathematical


content/discourse and identity is the notion of agency, that is, “who is
said to be making things happen” (Pickering, 1995; Wagner, 2004). In
this article, I view the study of mathematical inference as revealing both
of students’ reasoning processes and, simultaneously, of their agency. In
particular, I conceptualize students’ appropriation of canonical
mathematical artifacts as semiotic means of objectifying their budding
(pre-symbolic) inferences as conditional on their agency to carefully
and incrementally construct personal meaning for these cultural
artifacts.
To support this claim, I first propose a qualification to theory of
knowledge objectification that, in contrast to its extant formulation, does
not assume classroom homogeneity in opportunities to appropriate
mathematical semiotic artifacts. Next, to empirically ground this
emerging approach, this study focuses on algebraic generalization —as
a specific genre of mathematical inference— and applies Radford’s
framework to video data of a teacher’s classroom orchestration around
pattern-finding tasks.
The empirical context for this study is a participatory instructional
design intervention conducted in a high school mathematics program for
academically at-risk youth. The intervention was intended to implement
a classroom participation structure that would facilitate a particular
desirable interaction among students and ultimately give rise to
authentic engagement and deep learning. The intervention was also an
opportunity for the teacher to reflect critically on issues germane to
equitable mathematics education, such that he continue to engage with
these issues in his own practice. For this article I focus on two iterations
of a whole-class problem solving activity, Group A and Group B, and
conduct my data analysis through the semiotic-cultural perspective. The
main questions that guide my analysis are the following:
• Are whole-class conversations that are ostensibly
productive also necessarily equitable?
• How can we distinguish between “equity” and
“productivity” in classroom mathematical discourse?
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 48

To address these questions, I analyzed and compared students’ acts of


appropriation/objectification during whole-class conversations centered
on pattern-finding tasks, in relation to the instructional mode adopted
for each of the iterations. Group A used “inquiry-based” instructional
techniques, whereas Group B was implemented using mostly “direct
instruction.” Consequently, the analysis shows that Group A’s
implementation enabled more equitable access to opportunities for
agency-as-mathematical inference, whereas Group B’s implementation
was ostensibly more productive.
Prior Research & Theoretical Background—Toward A Critical
Semiotic–Cultural Perspective
It has been well documented that historically marginalized groups, such
as African American, Latino/a, and economically disadvantaged
students, are under-represented in higher education and, in particular, in
the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)
(NSB, 2008). The research further implicates high-school mathematics
as the de facto “gatekeeper” into academic and technological
communities of practice (RAND, 2003; Ladson-Billings, 1998).
Namely, access to and completion of rigorous high-school mathematics
courses has been shown to be among the strongest predictors of student
success in higher education (Oakes, et al., 2004). Therefore, improving
access to high-school mathematics education is an important goal
toward bridging the academic achievement gap. A central focus of this
effort should be on algebra content, because high-stakes exams define
“success in school” directly in terms of success in algebra (Moses &
Cobb, 2001).
In this section I review the literature on student algebraic reasoning. So
doing, I introduce the cultural–semiotic perspective as a means of
illuminating affective and not just cognitive factors that are critical for
mathematics students from marginalized communities specifically.
Empirical Studies on Student Algebraic Reasoning
Modeling situations and manipulating symbols in Algebra
problem solving.
Algebra, viewed as a human practice, can be characterized broadly as
involving complex sense-making processes (Kaput, 2007; Schoenfeld,
49 Gutiérrez - Agency as Inference

2007). These processes are often further described as demanding two


general capacities that both characterize algebraic problem-solving
activity and constitute common goals and objectives of curricular design
that inform classroom instruction:
1. Modeling – actions for making initial sense of a given
problem situation, such as creating and expressing
generalizations to model the source situation using
increasingly formal representational forms (e.g.,
symbolic expressions, graphs, tables, verbal descriptions,
or some combinations thereof).
2. Solving – reflecting and operating on those mathematical
representations using conventional manipulation
procedures to support reasoning about the source
situation being modeled.
Distinguishing between these two core capacities has illuminated the
challenges faced by my target population. Specifically, my previous
studies suggest that discourse plays a more critical role in the
development of (1) than (2) for struggling students from historically
marginalized groups (Gutierrez, 2010). Before I unpack the details of
this assertion, first it is necessary to review the literature on algebra
learning challenges that are presumably faced by all learners. So doing
will enable me to later leverage a critique of and propose a qualification
to the predominant theoretical models pertaining to student algebraic
reasoning.
Algebra learning challenges: focus on the semiotic–cultural
perspective.
Learning algebra has historically been fraught with conceptual
challenges (for a recent review, see Kieran, 2007). In particular, the
literature has documented cognitive “gaps” that students must traverse
as they transition from arithmetic to algebraic forms of reasoning. For
example, Luis Radford (2003) applies semiotic analysis to implicate
discontinuation in students’ spatial–temporal embodied mathematical
experience, as they appropriate symbolic notation to express algebraic
generalization of non-symbolic situations. This “rupture” designates a
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 50

conceptually critical shift in the semiotic role of an inscription, such as


x, from indexing a specific actual aspect of the problem space, such as
the number of “toothpicks” in a geometric construction (see Figure 1,
below) to meaning any element within the plurality or even infinity of
imagined situated extensions of the problem. The x, in this case, has to
be liberated, so to speak, from the grounding situation from which it
emerged, so that the problem solver can manipulate the algebraic
expressions unconstrained by a constant need to evoke the situated
meaning of x. Consider the “toothpicks” problem (see Figure 1, below),
a situation involving an initially unknown general principle governing
the relation between a numerical and a geometric sequence.

Figure 1 . “Toothpicks”— a paradigmatic algebra generalization problem. The


task objective is to express Ux the total number of toothpicks in the xth figural
extension. For example, “Fig. 1” consists of three toothpicks, “Fig. 2” consists
of five, “Fig. 3” consists of seven, etc., so that “Fig. x” consists of 2x+1
toothpicks.
Whereas Radford’s rupture lives in the realm of (1) Modeling,
researchers have also identified other gaps that live in the realm of (2)
Solving. For instance, Filloy and Rojano (1989) identify a stark
demarcation, which they call a didactic cut, between arithmetic and
algebraic forms of reasoning in the context of solving first-degree
equations with a single unknown. Equations such as Ax+B=C can be
solved using arithmetic means such as counting or inverse operations,
whereas equations with unknowns on both sides of the equal sign, such
as Ax+B=Cx+D, require “operations drawn from outside the domain of
arithmetic —that is, operations on the unknown” (Filloy and Rojano, p.
19). These scholars conclude that focused instructional intervention is
required at such didactic cut points. Note that whereas Filloy and
Rojano characterize the arithmetic–algebraic gap in terms of specific
mathematical forms (Ax+B=C vs Ax+B=Cx+D) and strategies to deal
appropriately with such forms, other researchers would characterize the
51 Gutiérrez - Agency as Inference

same gap in more fundamental terms. In particular, Herscovics and


Linchevski (1994) maintain that students’ difficulty with equations
involving double occurrence (e.g., x+5=2x-1 ) is not so much a
didactical issue but rather suggests a deeper, underlying “cognitive gap”
that can be characterized as a fundamental inability to operate
spontaneously with or on unknown quantities.
Finally, research findings indicate that the capacities to model and
solve algebraic problems do not necessarily develop at the same rate,
and the research implicates traditional instruction as determining this
developmental differential. Namely, curricular material and teacher
practice tend to value symbol manipulation at the expense of creating
opportunities for students to practice initially generating these symbols
from problem situations (cf. Arcavi, 1994; see also The Alegebra
Problem by Kaput, 2007). Thus the crux of algebra instruction is not
only to support the development of both types of capacity but also to
teach students to shift flexibly back and forth between them.
My earlier studies (Gutiérrez, 2010) support the implication of gaps
inherent to algebraic problem solving as foci for productive research. I
propose that discourse plays a greater role than has been theorized in
explicating these gaps and how they may be forded. In particular, I
submit, a critical examination of the role of discourse in algebraic
learning reveals that these gaps present affective and not just cognitive
challenges. Furthermore, for struggling students from historically
marginalized groups, issues of discourse and identity may play a more
critical and more nuanced role in the development of the core capacities
than has been previously surmised and particularly more so in (1)
modeling as compared to (2) solving. I elaborate on this last point in the
next section, below.
A Critical Conceptual Analysis of the Semiotic-Cultural Approach
Building on Lev Vygotsky’s cultural-historical psychology and Edmund
Husserl’s phenomenological philosophy, Luis Radford’s (2003)
semiotic–cultural approach views learning as an evolving process
reflexively co-constrained by cognitive and socio-cultural factors.
Specifically, mathematics learning is conceptualized as constructing
personal meaning for canonical semiotic artifacts (e.g., algebraic
symbols such as the variable x). Through consolidation and iteration of
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 52

these constructions, students appropriate the mathematical semiotic


artifacts and, reciprocally, build personal meaning for mathematical
content as well as fluency with the disciplinary procedures.
Radford’s approach takes into account a vast arsenal of personal and
interpersonal resources that students bring to bear in solving
mathematical situations, including linguistic devices and mathematical
tools. A key construct in Radford’s framework is knowledge
objectification , which is defined as the process of making the objects of
knowledge apparent (Radford, 2003). For example, a mathematics
learner, in an attempt to convey a certain aspect of a concrete object,
such as its shape or size, will make recourse to a variety of semiotic
artifacts such as mathematical symbols and inscriptions, words,
gestures, calculators, and so forth. In patterning activity, however, some
of the objects of knowledge are general and therefore “cannot be fully
exhibited in the concrete world” (Radford, 2008, p. 87). More broadly,
knowledge objects in mathematics are not too cognitively accessible,
because they do not exist in the world for empirical investigation
(Duval, 2006), that is, these objects are never apparent to perception.
Therefore, in order to instantiate (objectify) these ephemeral objects,
students must resort instead to personally and culturally available forms
such as linguistic, diagrammatic, symbolic, and substantive artifacts as
well as the body, which Radford (2003, 2008) collectively terms
semiotic means ofobjectification (see also Abrahamson, 2009).
The power of the semiotic–cultural approach is that critical steps
within individual learning trajectories can be explained by noting subtle
shifts in the subjective function and status of the semiotic artifacts
(Duval, 2006; Sfard, 2007). In particular, mathematics learning in the
context of algebraic generalizations can be monitored as subjective
transitions along a desired chain of signification, from factual, to
contextual, to symbolic modes of reasoning (Gutiérrez, 2010; Radford,
2010) (see Figure 2, below).
From this perspective, conceptual understanding is viewed as the
capacity to flexibly shift across the three semiotic modes, which
consequently requires that students assume agency in making these
shifts so as to carefully and incrementally construct personal meaning
for conventional semiotic artifacts (e.g., the variable x). Students’
personal acts of generalization —which are a specific type of
53 Gutiérrez - Agency as Inference

Figure 2. “F-C-S” framework (applied to the “Toothpicks” problem; see Figure


1, above): mathematics learning is conceptualized as shifts in semiotic modes.
mathematical inference— from one semiotic mode to the next mark
both their conceptual understanding and their mathematical agency.
That is, agency and conceptual understanding can be co-investigated by
interrogating the process and content of students’ mathematical
inferences (generalizations) within and across the three semiotic modes.
I conjecture that the development of agency-as-mathematical inference
bears implications for students’ nascent mathematical and social
identities.
To operate in the symbolic mode is predicated on a tacit (if not
explicit) alignment with the mainstream classroom discourse (Sfard,
2007). Many students may not experience tension due to shifts in
discursive alignment, perhaps because their social identities remain
intact and unthreatened by these public acts. However, for students
whose mathematical understandings are not couched in the mainstream
classroom discourse, these discursive shifts could threaten their social
identities and loyalty to their communities, because they perceive the
more “mathy” (symbolic) language as indexing the hegemonic cultural
values and ideologies1 .
Furthermore, returning to Radford’s construct of a rupture, note that he
describes it as largely a sensuous–cognitive phenomenon. What I
identify here is perhaps a different kind of rupture that is under-
researched, a rupture that is still sensuous yet affective in nature and,
through discourse, becomes imbricated with sociopolitical narratives of
power, individual agency, and identity.
The theoretical work detailed above has enabled me to articulate a
content-based definition of equity. Building on Esmonde’s (2009) notion
of “fair distribution of opportunities to learn,” I define equity as the fair
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 54

distribution of opportunities for agency-as-mathematical inference. I


posit agency-as-mathematical inference is central in (1) developing both
conceptual understanding and the institutionally sanctioned mathema-
tical register, and (2) developing a constructive mathematical identity
(cf. "dominant" versus "critical" mathematics, Gutiérrez, 2002;
Veeragoudar-Harrell, 2009). This definition of equity implies that
algebraic generalization activity is not merely to create opportunities for
students to unreflectingly appropriate mathematical symbols and forms
—to operate merely in the symbolic mode without having generalized to
that mode (Gutiérrez, 2010) for the sake of classroom "productivity."
Rather, generalization activity is to enable student agency to produce
semiotically grounded inferences so as to progress along the desired
chain of signification from the factual through to the symbolic mode.
Having presented a critical semiotic–cultural framework and a content-
based definition of equity, I restate my research questions in light of
both of these. Namely,
• What are the conditions that support equitable access to
opportunities to produce semiotically grounded
generalizations and progress along the F-C-S trajectory?
• How do instructional modes affect these classroom
opportunities?
Next I describe the methods used to address these questions.
Methods
For this preliminary empirical study, I conducted a two-phase
collaboration with a high-school mathematics teacher from the San
Francisco Bay Area. In the first phase, I conducted an ethnography of
the teacher’s routine instruction, including videography, field-notes, and
interviews. Based on this ethnographic data and the teacher’s input, we
co-designed a non-routine instructional intervention focusing on
algebraic generalization; specifically, we implemented and
videographed two iterations (Group A & Group B) of an instructional
sequence using the “toothpicks” problem. The goals of this study were:
(1) to empirically examine the challenges and opportunities that
struggling students from diverse cultural and academic backgrounds,
55 Gutiérrez - Agency as Inference

specifically, manifest with respect to reform and traditional algebra


curricula; and then (2) to articulate appropriate responses to these
challenges by identifying leverage points for effective pedagogy.
For this article I analyze and compare Group A with Group B, and
conduct my data analysis from a critical semiotic–cultural perspective.
To address my research questions, I examined students speech acts,
gestures, and artifact production during whole-class collaborative
engagement with algebraic generalization problems. I analyzed students’
collective reasoning processes during whole-class conversations, in
terms of whether and how their mathematical inferences were
semiotically grounded across the three modes. Furthermore, I also
analyzed students’ reasoning processes in relation to the specific
instructional mode adopted for each implementation. This cognition-
and-instruction analysis reveals that specific design decisions backing
the facilitation of each iteration resulted in differential access to
opportunities for student agency-cum-mathematical inference.
Data Sources
The entire data corpus includes students’ original work, a total of 10
hours of video footage, a total of two hours of audio recordings of
conversations between the researcher and teacher, and a project wiki
(online archive) that I used to store resources, document field-notes and
meeting minutes, and upload ongoing reflections. However, for this
article I focus on: a single 23-minute span of video footage from Group
A, in which the “toothpicks” problem was implemented; a total of 14.5
minutes of video footage from Group B, in which an x-y-table exercise
was implemented (Day 1), followed by the “toothpicks” problem (Day
2).
Analytic Techniques
I produced and analyzed transcriptions of Group A and Group B
teaching episodes, which capture all verbal, gestural, inscriptional, and
other semiotic actions that were clearly observable in the video.
Similarly, I also produced and analyzed transcriptions of the interviews
and design meetings conducted with the teacher, Amil (pseudonym). For
this study, I focus only on student utterances involving mathematical
propositions, for which two main analytic questions were asked
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 56

pertaining to (1) its semiotic nature and (2) the instructional mode
surrounding its manifestation:
1. Generalization Type (semiotically grounded versus
ungrounded):
1a. Is the proposition a mathematical inference based
on a process of generalizing?
1b. [If so,] Is the proposition an arithmetic (recursive) or
algebraic (explicit) generalization?
1c. [If so,] Is the proposition a factual, contextual, or
symbolic generalization?
2. Instructional Mode:
2a. Is the proposition —whether grounded or not— the
result of a discernable feature of the instructional mode
used to facilitate the activity?
Working with both the video/audio footage and the transcriptions, a
first pass of the data involving Group A and Group B’s implementations
was done using analytic questions 1a-1c. I initially evaluated whether or
not each utterance reflected a semiotically grounded mathematical
generalization. This evaluation was based on a qualitative microgenetic
analysis (Schoenfeld, Smith, & Arcavi, 1993) of students’ behaviors
during their whole-class discussions. I determined whether the students
engaged in authentic generalizing acts (i.e., producing inferences based
on grasping and objectifying recurrent x-to-Ux relations and providing a
direct expression for any term along the sequence) or resorted instead to
other less-sophisticated strategies such as “guess and check” (see
“generalizing” versus “naïve induction,” Radford, 2008). Following this
in-depth qualitative analysis, a second pass through the data was done
using analytic question 2a, whereby students’ mathematical propositions
were analyzed vis-à-vis the active instructional mode. So doing, I traced
students (un)grounded generalization acts to specific design decisions
that were made prior to each implementation. Combined, questions 1 &
2 have enabled me to draw conclusions regarding the quality of learning
underlying students discursive productions, as well as the equitable
distribution of opportunities to learn in this local instructional context.
57 Gutiérrez - Agency as Inference

Results and Discussion


The goal of this article is to examine and compare two iterations of an
instructional sequence involving the same algebraic generalization
problem to understand how variations in instructional mode could affect
equity in opportunities to gain deep conceptual understanding of
algebra. In this section, I first present a brief overview of both
implementations, including descriptions of the researcher and teacher’s
initial goals and objectives for instructional design, as well as
descriptions of the students’ behaviors during whole-class discussions.
With this overview, it is my intention to help prepare the reader for a
deeper analysis of the data that will be reported upon in the sections that
follow.
Overview of Participatory Design Project
Researcher and teacher’s initial goals and objectives for
instructional design.
The goals of the project wherein the data for this study were collected
were to occasionally observe Amil’s classroom practice and provide him
with ongoing feedback to foster critical reflection on learning issues that
struggling mathematics students from historically marginalized
communities face with respect to traditional and reform algebra
curricula. In particular, Amil’s routine teaching practice could be
characterized as “teacher-centered” and we discussed the possibility of
designing and implementing a student-centered instructional
intervention involving algebra content and concepts.
Amil acknowledged that his practice was routinely teacher-centered
and attributes the difficulty of implementing student-centered
instruction to lack of resources and support at his school for facilitating
such activities. Yet Amil recognized the benefits of student-centered
inquiry-based instruction and was open to co-designing and
implementing a non-routine mathematics activity.
We set out to design a student-centered inquiry-based activity for
algebra that would be implemented in his two math classes. We engaged
in a four-week long process of discussing and designing an activity
involving a family of algebraic pattern-finding tasks. We reviewed
relevant findings from recent mathematics educational research
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 58

pertaining to algebraic generalization (e.g., Radford, 2003, 2008) and


designed an instructional sequence based on the semiotic–cultural
approach. We paid particular attention to scaffolding techniques; for
example, we planned and rehearsed scripts for scaffolding students from
the factual to the contextual mode, and from the contextual to the
symbolic mode, and back again.
The final lesson plan for Group A, which emphasized “Modeling” (see
section 2.1.1, above), involved three main components that would occur
over the course of two days. The first half of Day 1 involved an
introduction to patterning activity via a whole-class problem-solving
session centered on the “toothpicks” problem (see Figure 1, above). The
second half of Day 1 involved small-group work on worksheets of a set
of similar pattern-finding tasks. Day 2 continued this small-group work
and wrapped up with a final whole-class debrief.
For this study, I have elected to focus only on the teacher’s classroom
facilitation of the “toothpicks” problem (i.e., first half of Day 1). It’s
important to look at the very beginning of each of the implementations
because these activities frame this genre of mathematical activity for the
students for the first time. The students’ encounter with the “toothpicks”
problems sets up their expectations and elicits their resources for
engaging with novel problem-situations, which offers a unique
empirical context for classroom research.
Overview of Group A.
The Group A teaching episode begins when Amil drew the first three
figural cues of the “toothpicks” sequence on the whiteboard. No specific
instructions were provided; Amil simply used an open-ended prompt
—“What comes next?”— to begin the problem-solving activity.
At the onset, some students immediately noticed that the figural
sequence could be construed as a succession of accruing triangles.
Whereas the students all agreed that the sequence could be extended by
“adding another triangle,” they disagreed, quite vehemently, over the
type of growth the sequence was exhibiting. For example, some students
argued that the sequence exhibits linear growth, whereby all figural cues
are unique (e.g., Fig. 3 and only Fig. 3 consists of three triangles),
extensions to the sequence are produced horizontally, and thus the
sequence grows indefinitely (see Figure 3a, below). On the contrary, a
59 Gutiérrez - Agency as Inference

student argued that the initial figural cues exhibit the growth of a single
“hexagon” that terminates at Fig. 6 (see Figure 3b, below). Other
students proposed that the sequence could be a repeating “hexagon”
pattern, whereby Fig. 6 is a hexagon consisting of six triangles, Fig. 7
duplicates Fig. 1, Fig. 8 duplicates Fig. 2, and so forth.

Figure 3 .Student in the left image argues that the sequence of figural cues
constitutes a linear progression and thus articulates a recursive relationship,
whereas the student in the right image questions the apparent linearity of the
sequence and instead considers a cyclic or repeating “hexagon” pattern.
For the first several minutes of the problem-solving activity, Group A
students debated over the apparent linearity (or lack thereof) of the
sequence. Realizing that the class had reached an impasse, Amil settled
the argument by asserting that the sequence was linear; he then guided
further exploration of the source situation with a series of questions
(e.g., “How many toothpicks are in figure one? Figure two? Three?”).
The students noticed that the number of toothpicks required to construct
each consecutive figure always increases by a summand of two with
respect to the previous figure; the students co-constructed an arithmetic
generalization in the form of Ux+1 =Ux+2. Furthermore, a key design
feature for implementing the “toothpicks” problem was to substitute
increasingly larger numbers (e.g., “Fig. 100”) as a way to impress upon
students that ultimately the arithmetic/recursive strategy is inefficient,
thus motivating the need for more powerful tools and strategies such as
algebraic generalizing and the use of explicit formulas.
For the remainder of the activity, most students were engaged in a
process of authentic generalizing. For example, some students
articulated an algebraic generalization in the form (x+x)+1 , which
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 60

directly calculates the number of toothpicks for a given figure. The


students checked their formula with a few cases and, upon confirming
its accuracy, successfully applied it to Fig. 100, concluding that it would
consist of 201 toothpicks.
At the end of the activity, Amil reformulated the students’ explicit
formula, which was originally articulated in the contextual mode (i.e.,
St. utterance: “you add the figure number to itself, plus one”), as the
symbolic expression 2x+1 . However, as my forthcoming analysis will
demonstrate, despite the teacher having provided the symbolic version
of the correct formula, by and large the instructional mode used during
Group A’s implementation enabled strong opportunities for student
agency-as-mathematical inference.
In sum, Amil and I co-designed a facilitation strategy for Group A’s
implementation of the “toothpicks” problem, which utilized a student-
centered inquiry-based instructional mode that, in turn, was generative
of students’ mathematical inference and spontaneous debate.
Throughout, Group A students articulated and vigorously defended
opposing arguments related to a complex mathematical topic (linear
progression) and the entire class engaged in highly charged debates
—mathematical discussions the likes of which I had not witnessed
before in this particular classroom setting. These behaviors —proposing,
questioning, and justifying mathematical inferences— are characteristic
of expert mathematicians (see e.g., Rivera, 2008); Group B’s
implementation of similar pattern-finding problems, which used teacher-
centered direct instruction, enabled much weaker opportunities for these
same “expert” behaviors.
Overview of Group B.
Based on Amil’s input after the first implementation, we modified the
instructional sequence for Group B. Primarily, Amil had a deep concern
for classroom efficiency and productivity, and he requested that Group
B’s implementation have greater continuity with mainstream curricular
topics. In particular, he viewed the overall project as an opportunity for
his students for review and enrichment of basic skills. As such, the
intervention should foster the development of these basic skills as much
as possible, which is something that Amil perceived was lacking in
Group A’s implementation. For example Amil expressly stated that he
61 Gutiérrez - Agency as Inference

wanted students to develop fluency with basic procedural skills such as


“going from a table to an equation.” Moreover, he stated that he wanted
to teach specific strategies for dealing with pattern-finding tasks, to
instruct students directly on “how to recognize the equation in a
procedural way.” This “procedural way” was tantamount to drawing
students’ attention to possible relations between a figure’s ordinal
position (x) and a quantity related to its constituent elements (e.g., Ux)
via direct instruction (as opposed to letting them “discover” this strategy
on their own). The lesson plan for the second iteration thus resulted as
an attempt to strike a balance between a radical constructivist approach
and a more “traditional” approach that often relies too heavily on direct-
instruction.
We modified the lesson plan such that it emphasized “Solving” over
“Modeling” (see section 2.1.1, above). On Day 1, the lesson would
begin with a short (5 min.) exercise involving a table of x and y values
(x = {0, 1, 2, 3, 4, … , 50}, and y = {3, 5, 7, 9, 11, … , 103}), which can
be modeled with the function y=2x+3 . On Day 2, just before Amil
introduced the “toothpicks” problem, he started off with a refresher of
the table of values, its solution procedure and its symbolic
reformulation, 2x+3 . The intent was for students to first familiarize
themselves with the numerical values inherent to the “toothpicks”
sequence and its algebraic solution, so that later they could retroactively
appropriate this solution as means of accomplishing contextual goals
(i.e., calculating Ux). Furthermore, Amil wanted to present this
particular patterning task in a way that highlighted the y-intercept of an
algebraic equation. We modified the figures’ ordinal positions, so that
sequences began with “Fig. 0” instead of “Fig. 1,” thus explicitly
linking the sequence of figural cues and its graphical representation
(e.g., when x=0, y-intercept=3).
Next I briefly describe each of the two days of Group B’s
implementation.
Group B-day 1 .
This first teaching episode begins when Amil presented an x-y table to
the class as a “warm-up” exercise. Amil instructed the class to fill in the
missing values by using the data provided in the table. Students noticed
that the x values were increasing by a summand of 1 and the y values
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 62

were increasing by a summand of 2; thus they were able to produce


extensions to the table of values. Similar to Group A’s implementation, a
key design feature for presenting the table of values was to substitute
increasingly larger numbers (e.g., “when x equals fifty, what does y
equal?”) as a way to render students’ arithmetic strategies as insufficient
and thus motivate them to search for explicit formulas. However, during
this short exercise most students employed naïve induction and not
generalizing as a means of dealing with the two numerical sequences.
After about four minutes of whole-class exploration, and with no clear
solution procedure yet articulated, Amil verbally explained the
limitations of an arithmetic strategy, emphasizing the need to find an
explicit formula for calculating y’s from large x’s without having to
perform many iterations of repeated addition.
Amil also explained a strategy for “finding the rule” by drawing the
students’ attention away from the difference between consecutive y
values, and having them focus instead on finding a relationship structure
within x-y pairs. Upon this direct instruction, a student immediately
articulated an explicit rule for the problem at hand: “n times two plus
three.”
Group B-day 2.
This teaching episode begun with a review of the previous day’s table
exercise, which then led to the introduction of the “toothpicks” problem.
Responding to the same open-ended prompt —“What comes next?”—
the students immediately noticed that the figural sequence forms a
succession of accruing triangles. They co-constructed an arithmetic
generalization in the form of Ux+1 =Ux+2. Using the same tactics as
before, Amil extended the conceptual problem-space to include figural
extensions that are further along the sequence, and wrote “Fig. 50” on
the board. As expected, students immediately calculated that Fig. 50
would have 103 toothpicks. However, the evidence suggests that
although students verbalized the correct solution for Fig. 50, their
behaviors did not indicate generalizing as their main strategy. It is
conceivable that students merely associated “Fig. 50” with “103” from
their experience with the x-y table exercise, and thus assumed that it was
the correct answer without actually verifying it.
63 Gutiérrez - Agency as Inference

In-Depth Look at Students’ Mathematical Inferences Bearing


Generalization
I here present qualitative data analysis of a series of selected transcript
segments from both implementations. By conducting detailed and
sequential analyses of students’ contributions during both of the
implementations, I aim to show that: (1) the instructional mode adopted
for Sequence A enabled stronger opportunities for student agency-as-
mathematical inference; whereas (2) the instructional mode adopted for
Sequence B enabled greater classroom productivity from the perspective
of “traditional” assessment. Specifically, I diagnose Group A’s “F-C-S”
trajectory as partially grounded and Group B’s as ungrounded; yet I also
determine that Group A was less productive than Group B, in terms of
time spent on task and the amount of material covered.
Table 1
Contrasting profiles of two instructional sequences of the same
“toothpicks” problem: “student-centered inquiry-based” (SCIB) versus
“teacher-centered direct instruction” (TCDI).
Opprotunities to Learn Classes
Agency-as-Mathematical Inference Group A Group B
(SCIB) > (TCDI)
Productivity Group A < Group B
(SCIB) (TCDI)

Group A – Creating Opportunities for Students’ Spontaneous


Appropriation of Cultural Artifacts.
The transcript below begins just after Group A students articulate a
recursive strategy, that “it goes up by two.” Amil instructed them
explicitly not to manually produce all the intermediate figural
extensions between the initial set of cues (Fig.’s 1-6) and those that are
further along the sequence (Fig. 100).
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 64

Amil: You know it's going up by two each time. Ok. What
would—let's say—let's skip a little bit [writes "Figure
100" on the far right side of the board].
Sts.: One hundred! Figure one hundred! Oh my god! Why
you skip so far?
Ami: Who thinks they can figure how many toothpicks go
in figure one hundred?
St-T: Me! [jumps from his seat toward Amil, grabbing the
marker from his hand]
Amil: How?
St-R: Don’t draw it!
St-T: I’m gonna draw it!
Amil: The rule is, you can’t drawit. Youcan’t—you
can’t—you don’t want to draw ninety-six figures!
Amil’s edict of “you can’t draw it” implicitly suggests to students that
their recursive strategy is insufficient, and the instructional mode
enabled them to explore other strategies for dealing with Fig.100. The
students first express a solution procedure that relates the number of
toothpicks to it’s ordinal position, in the form Ux=x+2, but they soon
realize that this strategy does not obtain for known cases. St-M then
proposes a recursive strategy whereby two toothpicks are added to the
last figural extension in order to produce the next one, that is,
Ux+1 =Ux+2. Although useful for producing extensions to the sequence,
St-M articulates exactly why this strategy is insufficient as a closed-
explicit formula and thus cannot be used to calculate the number of
toothpicks in Fig. 100, stating: “No, because you don’t know the figure
before.” (During the class discussions, St-M referred to Ux as “the
figure,” which Amil later rectifies, see below.)
Realizing the limitations of their recursive/additive strategies, St-M
then spontaneously proposes the use of the variable x as a placeholder
for the figure number.
St-M: You have to do x instead of a number
Amil: Ok, so you have to do x instead of a number. What do
you mean?
St-M: Because if you use x then it could be any number.
65 Gutiérrez - Agency as Inference

Amil: Ok so you have to use x—we gotta use x. So what is x


gonna be?
St-M: x is the amount of triangles.

Implicit in St-M’s proposition is the understanding that x could serve


as an indeterminate quantity, thus enabling operation on the figure
numbers (ordinal positions) independent of the previous figures in the
sequence. St-M guides her peers to look for patterned relations within
and not just across the figures. So doing, St-M leads the class to a
closed-explicit solution procedure in the form Ux=2x+1, as a contextual
generalization (Radford, 2003, 2008):
St-M: I found something. Ok so if you add the figure
number to itself plus one, it will equal the amount of
toothpicks.
Amil then prompts St-M to verify the accuracy of her procedure by
checking it on known cases; once they verify that it is correct, St-M then
successfully applies her procedure to Fig. 100.
Amil: Ok figure number to itself. So [indicates Fig. 1] one
plus one...plus one more? Equals three. So [indicates
Fig. 2] two plus two—
St-M: Four, plus one is five.
Amil: Plus one equals five. [Indicates Fig. 3].
St-M: And then three plus three is six plus one, seven. Four
plus four, eight, plus one, nine. Five plus five, ten,
plus one, eleven.
Amil: Ok how about figure onehundred?Howmany
[toothpicks] would it have?
St-M: A hundred plus a hundred, two hundred, two hundred
minus—I mean two hundred plus one, two-o-one.
St-K: [inaudible] Two-o-one.
It is important to note that Amil did not explicitly instruct Group A to
look for these within relationship structures. St-M, having realized the
limitations of their previous recursive strategies, spontaneously searched
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 66

for x-to-Ux relations. It appears that the instructional mode for Group A
enabled an opportunity for St-M to spontaneously operate with
unknown quantities, which in turn, constituted an opportunity for the
teacher to assess this particular student as having mediated the
“cognitive gap” (Herscovics & Linchevski, 1994).
St-M further elaborates on her (generalizing) search process:
St-M: [addressing the class] The thing—see the thing that I
did though, I was just looking for things that they all
had in common. And they had the figure number plus
another one.
Such a contextual generalization was missing from Group B’s
implementation of the same “toothpicks” problem (see below).
Contextual generalization is vital for grounded appropriation of
mathematical semiotic artifacts such as the variable x (Gutiérrez, 2010;
Radford, 2003). However, accomplishing this necessary cognitive
milestone enroute to a canonical symbolic reformulation does not
guarantee one will actually arrive there. That is, contextual
generalization is necessary but not sufficient for semiotically grounded
F-C-S trajectories. Ultimately, based on my analysis of Group A’s
implementation, I diagnose student utterances as having generalized to
the symbolic mode yet partially grounded, because it is Amil and not a
student who verbalizes the final contextual generalization in symbolic
form.
Amil: Ok so you said the figure number...one...plus the
figure number again, right? What's another way of
saying that? Instead of saying the figure number plus
the figure number again...
St-M: I don’t know.
Amil: Ok Uhh let’s see. [referring to Figure 2] Two plus two
plus one. What’s another way of saying two plus two?
Or [indicating Fig. 3] three plus three? [No response
from class] How about two times the figure number,
plus one? Right?
St-M: Yeah umm oh yeah.
67 Gutiérrez - Agency as Inference

Amil: Ok so that is... [writes “2n+1” on the board] so that's


our—
St-M: So it could still be—it could still be x! So it'll be two
x plus one.
Amil: Or two x plus one. You can put any letter there.
St-M: Ok.
Although St-M did not objectify the symbolic version herself, I
maintain there was enough conceptual substrate —at the cognitive-
semiotic level— for St-M to appropriate Amil’s reformulation in a way
that bore personal meaning. Taken together, these excerpts above
suggest that St-M’s articulation of the solution was partially grounded
across the F-C-S trajectory.
Group B – Classroom Productivity at the Expense of Students’
Grounded Appropriation of Cultural Artifacts.
On Day 1, Group B was also instructed explicitly not to draw or count
between the initial set of figural cues and those that are further along the
sequence. However, unlike Group A, Group B gave no indication that
they recognized the limitations of their arithmetic strategies and/or fully
appreciated the power of algebraic formulas. Instead, Amil flatly stated
that their emerging strategies were insufficient.
For instance, during the table exercise, the students articulated a
recursive functional relationship between the x and y table values, in the
form f(x+1)=f(x)+2. The students employed naïve induction to guess y-
values when x=50; Amil responds to their propositions with a mini
lecture wherein he gives the strategy to look within x-y pair values and
not just across the y-values.
Amil: Here’s the deal, alright. So in order to figure out—it
seems to me when you guys were figuring out what
[figure] five and [figure] six were, you just were
adding two to these [gestures across entries from the
y-row], right? But it gets more tricky when you go
further down the line [makes a sweeping gesture
across the intermediate space where Fig.’s 6-49 would
be] and say you want—when x equals fifty what does
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 69

y equal? You can’t just add two that many times,


right? The thing is, the way to figure this out, there’s a
rule. Ok there’s a relationship between this number
[indicates x=0] and that number [indicates y=3]. Ok
so you guys were just looking at these numbers
[gestures across the y-row] just the bottom numbers.
But there’s a relationship between this number [x=0]
and that number [y=0] and you have to figure that out.
Recall that Group A generated their own strategies and explored their
utility in the context of a student-centered, inquiry-based whole-class
discussion. In contrast, Group B was explicitly told what to do and what
to look for, instead of providing an opportunity for them to discover
strategies and the limitations and affordances of these strategies for
themselves.
On Day 2, Group B articulates a recursive strategy for the “toothpicks”
problem, Ux+1 =Ux+2, and use it to produce extensions to the sequence.
Fig. 50 is introduced into the problem space and the students
immediately calculate its number of toothpicks.
Amil: Five right? This one’s got how many [indicates Fig.
2]?
St-L: Seven.
St-P: Nine [referring to Fig. 3].
St-L: It goes up by two! It goes up by two.
St-P: The other one is eleven [referring to Fig. 4].
St-B: Twelve. I mean eleven [referring to Fig. 4]!
Amil: [Writes “11” under Fig. 4] Ok so then [writes “Fig.
50” on the board].
St-N: It’s going to be one hundred and two!
Amil: Figure fifty, how many toothpicks is it gonna be?
St-L: A hundred and three!
Amil: A hundred and three? Why a hundred and three? What
rule are you using?
St-B: It's the same thing! The same one as the other one
[referring to the solution to the table exercise].
70 Gutiérrez - Agency as Inference

Although the students immediately and correctly calculated the number


of toothpicks in Fig. 50, the evidence suggests that their mathematically
correct propositions nevertheless constitute a conditional appropriation
(of a previous solution procedure) and thus remained semiotically
ungrounded. Right after St-B proclaims that it’s the “same one as the
other one,” Amil asks for the specific rule governing the number of
toothpicks for any figure, to which the St-B reproduces the symbolic
formula as before, but was left confused as to its relevance to the actual
figural cues.
Amil: What rule was that?
St-B: x times two plus three. But I didn't know you added
three! I thought you only added two!
Amil: Huh?
Sts.: [Inaudible classroom chatter]
Amil: Yes, that right. It's going to be one hundred and three.
Remember, the key is figuring out the rule. The rule is
going to tell you how to figure out how many
toothpicks are in any number, in any number figure,
right? [Erases all the work from the board, thus
ending the problem-solving session for Day 2].
Based on St-B’s behaviors —first correctly stating the number of
toothpicks for Fig. 50, then articulating the symbolic version of the
solution procedure, but then ultimately questioning the operations in
that solution procedure and their relation to the growth of the actual
figural sequence— I argue that the solution procedure was merely
transferred from a previous context (the x-y table) to a new situation that
involved similar quantities. That is, Group B objectified the symbolic
formula during the table-of-values exercise on Day 1, and later
appropriated this formula as the solution procedure to the toothpicks
problem without grounding it in the actual problem space. Therefore, I
diagnose Group B’s symbolic formula as the final product of an
ungrounded F-C-S trajectory. The formula they verbalized and
successfully applied to the toothpicks was arguably semiotically
grounded to the numerical quantities inherent to the toothpicks sequence
but was derived and appropriated in isolation of the figural cues. That is,
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 71

their solution procedure was semiotically grounded back in the x-y


values of the table, not in actual constituent elements of the source
situation.
Implications and Future Directions
The goals of this article were to consider two iterations of an
instructional sequence involving patterning activity to explore how
variations in instructional mode impact student learning. I proposed the
cognitive phenomenon of mathematical inference as an analytic focus
for synthesizing equity-driven and more “classical” research on
mathematics education. Critical qualitative analysis of a teacher’s
classroom orchestration around a particular pattern-finding problem
revealed differential —and therefore inequitable— opportunities for
agency-as-mathematical inference across two instructional modes
—“teacher-centered inquiry-based” versus “teacher-centered direct
instruction.” The iteration involving student-centered inquiry-based
instruction provided stronger opportunities for students to assume
agency during the patterning activity; thus, students were able to
produce semiotically grounded mathematical inferences. In contrast, the
iteration involving teacher-centered direct instruction created a
participation structure that sanctioned mere participation in the symbolic
mode at the cost of student agency, thus disenfranchising students from
opportunities to build deep personal meaning for the content
(generalizing). At the same time, however, the patterning activity
facilitated using direct instruction was ostensibly more productive in
terms of time spent on task and the amount of material covered.
Lastly, the emerging approach presented in this article relaxes tension
in the “where’s the math?” debate (Heid, 2010; Martin, Gholson, &
Leonard, 2010). I maintain that by looking at agency-as-mathematical
inference, researchers can contribute to both “classical” mathematics
education research, which is typically framed and analyzed in terms of
cognitive or conceptual challenges, and equity-driven research that
attempts to theorize teaching and learning as socio-political acts and
accounts for issues related to power, access, and identity (Ball, Battista,
Harel, Thompson, & Confrey, 2010; Confrey, 2010). The study
presented here represents first-steps in a longer research agenda that
seeks to understand how organizational–hierarchical power structures
72 Gutiérrez - Agency as Inference

shape local instructional contexts that, in turn, enable or constrain


opportunities to learn.
Notes
1 Broadly, from a sociological perspective, there are mainly two competing
interpretations of students’ apparent “oppositional” behavior in schools serving
historically under-served communities. One perspective is that students are
unequivocally rejecting schooling practices because these practices represent dominant,
hegemonic cultural norms and values (e.g., Willis, 1977). Contrary to this perspective,
Sánchez-Jankowski (2008) concludes that students’ actions primarily affirm their own
local culture, values, and knowledge and are not their effort to resist the conventional
cultural norms of broader society. In this way, students’ could experience tension in
adopting a formal mathematical register not because they seek to flatly reject all things
representing broader society, but because it is not immediately clear whether and how
the new register is relevant to or affirms their local culture and norms (see also Cultural
Modeling Framework, Lee, 2006).
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José Francisco Gutiérrez is PhD candidate in the University of


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Contact Address: Direct correspondence concerning this article
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From Human Activity to Conceptual Understanding of the Chain


Rule
Zingiswa Mybert Monica Jojo1 , Aneshkumar Maharaj 2, and
Deonarain Brijlall 2

1 ) University of South Africa


2) University of KwaZulu-Natal

Date of publication: February 24th, 201 3


To cite this article: Jojo, Z.M.M., Maharaj, A., and Brijlall, D. (201 3). From
Human Activity to Conceptual Understanding of the Chain Rule. Journal of
Research in Mathematics Education, 2 (1 ), 77-99. doi:
http://doi.dx.org/1 0.4471 /redimat.201 3.21
To link this article: http://dx.doi.org/1 0.4471 /redimat.201 3.21

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and to Creative Commons Non-Commercial and Non-Derivative License.
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education Vol. 2 No. 1
February 2013 pp. 77-99.

From Human Activity to


Conceptual Understanding of
the Chain Rule
Zingiswa Mybert Aneshkumar Maharaj Deonarain Brijlall
Monica Jojo University of University of
University ofSouth KwaZulu-Natal KwaZulu-Natal
Africa

Abstract
This article reports on a study which investigated first year university
engineering students’ construction of the definition of the concept of the chain
rule in differential calculus at a University of Technology in South Africa. An
APOS (Action-Process-Objects-Schema) approach was used to explore
conceptual understanding displayed by students in learning the chain rule in
calculus. Structured worksheets based on instruction designed to induce
construction of conceptual understanding of the chain rule were used. A number
of students used the straight form technique in differentiating complicated tasks
while very few used either the link and Leibniz form techniques. In this manner
differentiation of each function within the composite function was
accomplished. Students either operated in the Inter- or Trans stages of the
Triad. It was found that even students who had inadequate understanding of
composition of functions, performed well in the application of the chain rule.
Keywords: calculus, chain rule, APOS, genetic decomposition.

2013 Hipatia Press


ISSN 2014-3621
DOI: 10.4471/redimat.2013.21
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education Vol. 2 No. 1
February 2013 pp. 77-99.

De la Actividad Humana a la
Comprensión Conceptual de la
Regla de la Cadena
Zingiswa Mybert Aneshkumar Maharaj Deonarain Brijlall
Monica Jojo University of University of
Mangosuthu University KwaZulu Natal KwaZulu Natal
ofTechnology
Resumen
Este artículo presenta un estudio sobre la construcción de la definición del
concepto de regla de la cadena en el cálculo diferencial en el marco de
estudiantes de primer año de ingeniería, en la Universidad Tecnológica de
Sudáfrica. Se utiliza el enfoque APOS (Acción-Proceso-Objeto-Esquema) para
explorar la comprensión conceptual que los estudiantes muestran en el
aprendizaje de la regla de la cadena en cálculo. Se utilizaron fichas de trabajo
estructuradas basadas en una instrucción diseñada para inducir la construcción
de la comprensión conceptual de la regla de la cadena. Una parte de los
estudiantes usaron utilizaron la técnica "directa" para diferenciar tareas
complicadas, mientras que muy pocos de ellos utilizaron o bien el método de la
conexión, o bien el enfoque de Leibniz, como técnicas de resolución. De esta
manera se logró diferenciar cada una de las funciones simples en las funciones
compuestas presentadas. Los estudiantes operaron tanto en las etapas inter,
como intra, de la triada. Se encontró que incluso aquellos estudiantes con una
comprensión no adecuada de las funciones compuestas, aplicaron la regla de la
cadena correctamente.
Palabras Clave: cálculo, regla de la cadena, APOS, descomposición
genética.
2013 Hipatia Press
ISSN 2014-3621
DOI: 10.4471/redimat.2013.21
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 78

I nformal discussions held with other lecturers, revealed that the


chain rule is one of the most complicated calculus tools, despite
being one of the basic tools for a mathematician. Calculus is
one of the topics introduced to matric learners at high school, yet a large
number of them receive inadequate mathematics education and join the
university mostly under-prepared for the study of differential calculus.
Furthermore the chain rule is not part of the South African school
syllabus. In our experience many first year university students have
difficulty in understanding the chain rule in differentiation. This
phenomenon was also observed by Orton (1983) who indicated that
students: (1) had problems in the understanding of the meaning of the
derivative when it appeared as a fraction or the sum of two parts and
application of the chain rule for differentiation, and (2) had little
intuitive understanding of solving differentiation problems as well as
fundamental misconceptions about the derivative. He further asserts that
some students are introduced to differentiation as a rule to be applied
without much attempt to reveal the reasons for and justifications of the
procedure. When asked about the chain rule, most students will simply
provide an example of what it is rather than explain how it works (Clark
et al., 1997; Cottrill, 1999). The literature related to studies in calculus
provides evidence that students develop more procedural understanding
rather than conceptual understanding in differentiation. However, very
few studies investigate the characteristics of student’s understanding of
composition of functions and the chain rule.
Also in our experience some teachers at high school are less
comfortable with calculus and its applications. This indicated that there
was a need to engage with a study on students’ understanding of the
concept of the chain rule. The chain rule states that if g(x) is a function
differentiable at c and f is a function differentiable at g(c) , then, the
composite function fog given by (fog)(x)=f(g(x)) is differentiable at c
and that (fog)'(c)=f'(g(c)) × g(c) . This paper reports on the last part of a
study conducted with first year engineering students exploring APOS in
the conceptual understanding of the chain rule where questionnaires
were used to explore the mental constructions formed by students in
understanding the chain rule.
79 Jojo, Maharaj, & Brijlall - The Chain Rule

Research Questions
The research questions for this study were:
• How do students construct various structures to recognize
and apply the chain rule to functions in the context of
calculus?
• How should the teaching of the concept of the chain rule in
differential calculus be approached?
• What insights would an APOS analysis of students’
understanding of the chain rule in differential calculus
reveal?
Theoretical Framework
This study was conducted according to a specific framework for
research and curriculum development in mathematics education, which
guided the systematic enquiry of how students acquire mathematical
knowledge and what instructional interventions contribute to student
learning. The framework consists of three components: theoretical
analysis, instructional treatment, and collection and analysis of data
observed when students learn as proposed by Asiala et al (2004). This is
also well illustrated in other papers (Maharaj, 2010; Jojo et al 2011).
Theoretical Analysis
The study is based on APOS theory –Actions, Processes, Objects and
Schema– (Dubinsky & McDonald, 2001). This approach starts with a
statement of an overall perspective of what it means to learn and know
something in mathematics as prescribed by Asiala et al:
An individual’s mathematical knowledge is his tendency to
respond to perceived mathematical problem situations by reflecting
on problems and their solutions in a social context and by
constructing and reconstructing mathematical actions, processes
and objects and organizing these in schemas to use in dealing with
the situations. (Asiala et al, 2004, p. 7)
They further believe that understanding a mathematical concept begins
with manipulating previously constructed mental or physical objects to
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 80

form actions; actions are then interiorised to form processes which are
then encapsulated to form objects. They say that these objects could be
de-encapsulated back to the processes from which they are formed,
which would be finally organized in schemas. For an elaboration of
these concepts refer to Maharaj (2010, p. 43).
Construction of knowledge in this study was analysed through
reflective abstraction at the heart of which is APOS (Dubinsky, 1991b)
which then incorporates Piaget’s Triad mechanism. The Triad
mechanism occurring in three stages explained other constructions in
the mind implicating mental representations and transformations in the
analysis of schema formations. These stages are: The Intra stage fo-
cuses on "a single entity", followed by Inter– which is "study of trans-
formations between objects" and Trans– noted as "schema development
connecting actions, processes and objects."
Reflective abstraction has two components: (a) a projection of existing
knowledge onto a higher plane of thought and (b) the reorganization of
existing knowledge structures (Dubinsky, 1991a). Reflective abstraction
is therefore a process of construction and Dubinsky outlines five kinds
of construction in reflective abstraction:
Interiorisation : Actions conceived structurally as objects are
interio-rised into a system of operations.
Co-ordination : Two or more processes are co-ordinated in order
to form a new process, e.g. the chain rule for differentiation
requires the co-ordination of composition of functions with
derivatives.
Encapsulation : This is where the construction of mathematical
understanding extends from one level to the other, where new
forms of the process are built drawing from the previous ones to
form an object.
Generalisation : An existing schema is applied to a wide range
of contexts. This would happen for example when the student is
able to see that after finding the derivatives of the various
functions in a composition, they now have to be multiplied to
put the chain rule into application.
Reversal: A new process can be constructed by means of
reversing the existing one.
81 Jojo, Maharaj, & Brijlall - The Chain Rule

In extension of this theory, Dubinsky et al (1991) isolated


someessential features of reflective abstractions reorganized and re-
constructed them to form a coherent theory of mathematical knowledge
and its construction, APOS. Jojo (2011) used the flow diagram (see
Figure 2) to explain the activities involved in construction of the chain
rule concept and illustrate APOS extended.

Figure 1 . APOS theory extended


REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 82

A structured set of mental constructs which might describe how the


concept can develop in the mind of an individual is called the genetic
decomposition of that particular concept. Based on the above
discussion, the researchers arrived at the following genetic decom-
position:
For a student to have his or her function schema, he or she:
(i) has developed a process or object conception of a
function and
(ii) has developed a process or object conception of a
composition of functions.

Figure 2. Initial genetic decomposition of the chain rule.

For a derivative schema,


(iii) has developed a process conception of
differentiation;
(iv) the student then uses the previously constructed schemas of
functions, composition of functions and derivative to
83 Jojo, Maharaj, & Brijlall - The Chain Rule

define the chain rule. In this process the student


recognizes a given function as the composition of two
functions, takes their derivatives separately, and then
multiplies them.
(v) The student recognizes and applied the chain rule to
specific situations. The initial genetic decomposition is
modeled in figure 2.
Literature Review
The chain rule is used to find the derivatives of composite functions.
Kaplan (1984) referred to the chain rule as a function of functions. A
composite function is a function that is composed of two or more
functions. For the two functions f and g, the composite function or the
composition of f and g, is defined by (f×g)(x)=f(g(x)) . Despite the
importance of the chain rule in differential calculus and its difficulty for
students, the chain rule has been studied in mathematics educational
research (Clark et al, 1997; Gordon, 2005; Uygur & Ozdas, 2007;
Webster, 1978). Students’ difficulties included the inability to apply the
chain rule to functions and also with composing and decomposing
functions (Clark et al, 1997; Cottrill, 1999, Hassani, 1998). In our
experience the University of Technology students experience most
problems in differential calculus.
Burke, Erickson, Lott & Obert (2001) assert that there is growing
research support for designing classroom instruction that focuses on
developing deep knowledge about mathematics procedures. When
instruction is focused only on skillful execution, students develop
automated procedural knowledge that is not strongly connected to any
conceptual knowledge network (Star, 2000). This instruction resulted in
procedures not executed “intelligently” and systematically. Under-
standing could be achieved, however, if students were given
opportunities to develop a framework for understanding appropriate
relationships, extended and applied what they knew, reflected on their
experiences, and made mathematical knowledge their own (Carpenter &
Lehrer, 1999). Further (1) when mathematical knowledge is understood,
that knowledge is more easily remembered and more readily applied in
a variety of situations (Hiebert & Carpenter, 1992; Kieran, 1992), (2)
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 84

when a unit of knowledge is part of a well-connected network of


mathematical understandings, parts of the network can facilitate recall
(and even recreation) of other parts, and (3) when knowledge is
understood it becomes easier to incorporate new knowledge into
existing networks, so that current understanding facilitates future
learning (Hiebert & Carpenter, 1992). It is therefore important to
develop teaching methods that help students develop mathematical
understanding.
Brijlall & Maharaj (2009) used the APOS theory in a study where they
investigated fourth-year undergraduate teacher trainee students’
understanding of the two fundamental concepts monotonicity and
boundedness of infinite real sequences. They found that: (1) the
structured worksheets encouraged group work and fostered an
environment conducive to reflective abstraction, (2) the students
demonstrated the ability to apply symbols, language, and mental images
to construct internal processes as a way of making sense of the concepts
of monotonocity and boundedness of sequences, (3) the students could
apply actions on objects (sequences) which were interiorized into a
system of operations, and (4) the conceptualization of the concept of
boundedness of sequences and monotonocity enabled the formulation of
new schema which could be applied in various contexts.
It can be agreed (Dubinsky & McDonald, 2001) that mathematical
ideas begin with human activity and then proceed to be abstract
concepts. It is therefore important for us to understand how the
construction of concepts in the mind, lead to abstraction of
mathematical knowledge. This interpretation of the relevant knowledge
construction processes is essential since it points to the contributions we
get from APOS analysis. These include (1) understanding the
importance of human thought, and (2) pointing to effective pedagogy
for a particular concept. An experimental, constructivist approach, was
explored in teaching differentiation in calculus. Classroom activities
used included working in teams, individual work, class discussions,
sometimes, a mini-lecture summarizing the results of students’ work,
and providing examples on the use of chain rule in differentiation.
It is evident from the above discussion that, many well-known
functions have simple expressions for their derivatives while composite
85 Jojo, Maharaj, & Brijlall - The Chain Rule

functions require the use of the chain rule for differentiation. Functions
having fairly complicated expressions have explicit formulas for
derivatives. It was the development of formulas and rules such as the
chain rule enabling mathematicians to calculate derivative that
motivated the use of the name calculus for this mathematical discipline.
Participants, Instructional Design and Methodology
A qualitative study where worksheets were used to collect data from 12
groups of 76 first year civil engineering students was conducted. There
were twelve groups, eight of which had six members and the other four
had seven members. Instruction was designed using worksheets with
four tasks on the use of the chain rule. There was space provided below
each task in the worksheet for students’ responses. This was done to
reinforce the learning that took place in three sequential lesson
components based on the proposed genetic decomposition of the
concept of the chain rule. The aim was to provide students with
opportunities to make applications of the chain rule they learnt and
prepare them for the mathematics in which chain rule would be applied.
Discussions would ensue between students working on each of the four
problems, after which an agreed upon answer would be documented on
the worksheet. Selected students from the groups were then interviewed
and responded in explanations regarding their corresponding group
presentations and responses.
The instructional design based on APOS theory included Activities,
Classroom discussions and Exercises done outside of the classroom. The
activities which form the first step of the ACE teaching cycle were
designed to foster the students development of mental structures called
for by APOS analysis. Students were requested to reflect on chosen
activities on the use of the chain rule in differentiating composite
trigonometric functions collaboratively. Classroom discussions ensued
in each of the 12 groups and they listened to others’ explanations and
agreed upon a mathematical meaning to be presented in the worksheet.
Exercises in the form of homework were then given to re-enforce the
knowledge obtained in the activities and classroom discussions.
Whilst working in groups students discussed their results and listened
to explanations given by fellow students. The students worked
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 86

collaboratively on mathematics tasks designed to help them use the


mental structures that they had built during instructional design. In some
cases, students worked on a task as a group, whilst in other cases they
worked as individuals and then compared notes, and then negotiated a
group solution to the problem. They then wrote their agreed upon
solution on the spaces provided in the worksheets. During this process,
the emphasis was on: (1) discussions, (2) reflection on explanations by
the researchers where appropriate, (3) completion of the tasks by the
students, and (4) understanding the use and application of the chain rule.
The comparisons between three different techniques were made in chain
rule differentiation. The first technique was the one using Leibniz form
technique. The second one was the one where we differentiate from the
innermost function and move outwards. We shall henceforth refer to this
method of chain rule differentiation as a link form technique of the chain
rule. The third one involves straight application of the chain rule in
differentiation. We shall refer to this method of differentiation as a
straight form technique. In this technique students used the chain rule
mechanically by finding the derivatives of all the functions starting with
the function on the outside of the given problem and multiplying out.
For example, consider differentiating y= lnsinx3. We have characterized
the three forms of the chain rule:
(1) Leibniz form technique gives, we let y=lnu; then dy/du = 1/u; where
u=sinv; and v=x3 so that dv/dx=3 x2; and du/dv=cos u, and dy/dx=dy/du×
du/dv×dv/dx=1/u×cosu×3 x2. This would give 3 x2cosx3 /sinx3 . (2) Link
form technique gives, we get 3 x2×cosx3 ×1/sinx3 . (3) Using the Straight
form technique we get, 1/sinx3 ×cosx3 ×3x2. Answers using the three
techniques were simplified to see if they were the same.
As the researchers moved from group to group, she noticed that some
students used a lead pencil to record their responses on the worksheet.
They were trying to avoid mistakes and allow correction of an incorrect
response without spoiling the worksheet. In some groups, after
transcriptions of agreed responses, all the members of the group
satisfied themselves that the submitted response was appropriate. They
argued from time to time of the positions where brackets should be
inserted. Even after submissions of completed worksheets, other
students continued convincing and teaching the inquisitive students on
how the chain rule works.
87 Jojo, Maharaj, & Brijlall - The Chain Rule

Analysis and Discussion


The worksheets were analyzed for meaning which is one of the
mechanisms necessary for understsnding a concept. These included
detecting (1) the connections made by students to other concepts, (2)
calculations made using the chain rule, (3) the chain rule technique
used, and (4) mental images on which the chain rule was based. In what
follows each of the four group tasks are first presented, and group
responses are discussed. Where relevant interview extracts are also
included to support the discussions. The task analysis indicating
mechanisms used and percentage (correct to one decimal place) for each
of the four tasks are illustrated in Tables 1 to 4 below.

Figure 3 . Task 1.
Table 1 summarizes the analysis of task 1 using the responses presented
by the groups in this task.
Table 1
Analysis oftask 1
Incorrect Partially Completely Chain rule Connection to
responses correct correct preference other concepts
Number 6 4 2 12 7
of
groups
% 50 33,3 16,7 100 58,3
groups

All the groups applied the chain rule to the first task y=tan2 (3 x + e )
correctly using the straight form technique although only 16,7% of the
groups presented a solution with brackets, when they differentiated the
composite function inside the brackets in the given task. One of the
groups who left out the bracket then went on to detach the derivative 3
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 88

of 3 x from the + sign. This 3 now multiplied the first two functions (see
Figure 3).

Figure 3 . One group’s presentation of task 1

This mistake was not detected by any of the other members of the
same group. Those students struggled with the connection of previously
learnt algebraic skills like use of brackets where appropriate and
manipulation of algebraic terms in a function. The calculations
presented after differentiating using the chain rule successfully were
therefore not correct for 58,3% responses received. When one
representative was interviewed and asked to state the chain rule, he

Figure 4. Chain rule in human terms


This student thought of differentiation in human terms. He had a
mental picture of an onion being peeled from the outer layer (power in
his terms), to the innermost layer. He pictured the straight form
technique in human terms.
Also the given function was represented as equal to its derivative. The
derivative should have been indicated as y’. The mental images
constructed by the 58,3% in using the chain rule were incomplete.
Although the actions were interiorized into processes, the processes
were not encapsulated to objects. This could partly be attributed to
previous knowledge of algebraic skills which were just actions and
never interiorized. According to the Triad students in the said groups
89 Jojo, Maharaj, & Brijlall - The Chain Rule

saw the chain rule as a procedure of differentiation which could not be


connected or related to other processes applied to functions. Thus most
students operated in the Intra- stage regarding task 1. According to
APOS, we observed that most students could only go as far as the
interiorizing the action to a process stage.

Figure 5. Task 2.
Table 2 summarizes the analysis of task 2 using the responses
presented by the groups in this task.
Table 2
Analysis oftask 2
Incorrect Partially Completely Chain rule Connection to
responses correct correct preference other concepts
Number 2 4 6 11 1
of
groups
% 16,7 33,3 50 91,7 8,3
groups
The solution to second differentiation problem y=(cos2x+esinx)2 was
presented correctly by 50% of the groups. Only one group avoided the
use of the chain rule by squaring the given function and then
differentiating. This was a brilliant idea but still required them to apply
chain rule on the individual terms, cos4x, 2cos2x×esinx and e2sinx. They
then used straight form technique to differentiate (see Figure 6). Those
students were connecting the given function to a square of a binomial.
Thus a part of understanding the concept of the chain rule is a mental
process involving sorting out the given function, dealing with its
composition, and connecting the two to find the derivative. They
indicated a process construction of mental images since they
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 90

transformed the given function to a trinomial which was operated on by


repeating the actions of differentiation.

Figure 6. Chain rule application after squaring a binomial


Also the group did not completely apply the chain rule to the function
e2sinx. Not all the layers were peeled and all the group members did not
detect this. They therefore were in the Intra- stage of the Triad since
they focused on the function as a single entity.

Figure 7. Task 3.

Table 3 summarizes the analysis of task 3 using the responses


presented by the groups in this task.
Table 3
Analysis oftask 3
Incorrect Partially Completely Chain rule Connection to
responses correct correct preference other concepts
Number 6 1 3 7 5
of
groups
% 50 8,3 25 35 41,7
groups
91 Jojo, Maharaj, & Brijlall - The Chain Rule

The third task required students to differentiate sin(x+y)=ey^2+2x


implicitly using the chain rule. 41,7% of the groups introduced natural
logarithms on both sides of the equation before differentiating. They
explained that they connected the relationships of exponentials in the
right hand side function with logarithms which would get rid of the
exponent. In this way they ended up with simple expressions on both
sides and thus allowed them, to use the straight form technique of chain
rule differentiation (see Figure 8).

Figure 8. Differentiation using natural logarithms

Their calculations indicated a full understanding of the use of the chain


rule except for omitting dx in the second step from the bottom of the
solution. They operated in the Trans- stage of the triad since they could
reflect on relationships between various objects from previous stages.
They displayed coherence of understanding of differentiation rules and
composition of functions.
25% of the groups presented responses of full construction of mental
images of the chain rule and a connection between The other 35% of the
groups applied the chain rule directly using the straight form technique
and then processed the resulting function to get the derivative. Two of
the responses indicated a transition from an operational to a structural
mode of thinking since they brought the concept of the chain rule into
existence and used it with caution, and preferred it over other methods
of differentiation (see Figure 9).
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 92

Figure 9. Straight form technique used in differentiation

Figure 10. Task 4.

Table 4 summarizes the analysis of task 4 using the responses


presented by the groups in this task.
Table 4
Analysis oftask 4
Incorrect Partially Completely Chain rule Connection to
responses correct correct preference other concepts
Number 3 4 2 1 8
of
groups
% 25 33,3 16,7 100 66,7
groups
93 Jojo, Maharaj, & Brijlall - The Chain Rule

Generally, one of two strategies was employed by students. The first


form technique called for a specific connection between application of
natural logarithms and differentiation.

Figure 11 . Group 3’s response on logarithmic differentiation


16,7% of the groups displayed a coherent collection of the logarithmic
rules and differentiation. Those groups were operating in the Trans-
stage since they reflected on the explicit structure of the chain rule and
were also able to operate on the mental constructions which made up
their collection. Those students presented responses showing internal
processes for manipulating logarithmic objects. Their schema enabled
them to understand, organize, deal with and make sense out of
application of the product rule, quotient, logarithmic rules and the chain
rule. The other three groups could not apply logarithmic rules correctly
and as such could not process the differentiation of the given task. This
is illustrated in Figure 11 where students resolved the surd form of the
function correctly and took natural logarithms both sides of the
equation. The interpretation of logarithms was then incorrect since a
bracket was left out in step three of the response. Thus the function
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 94

differentiated was not the originally given one. Even in their process of
differentiation some brackets were still left out when they should have
been there.
The response illustrated in Figure 12 indicates that the derivative of
the last term, -ln(x2+1) in step four was recorded as 1/(x2+1)×2
instead of 1/(x2+1)×2x. In the next step the subtraction sign had been
left out and then restored back again in the following one. The students
in this group’s actions indicated that they knew which steps to follow
when differentiating. Their mental manipulations did not react to
external cues of basic algebraic manipulations and as such
transformation was not complete and their actions were not interiorized.
Those students did not recognize the relationships between application
of natural logarithms and algebraic manipulations resulting in
multiplications when they were due and subtractions where appropriate.
They perceived differentiation as a separate entities and even the rules
applied were not remembered correctly. These were operating in the
Intra- stage of the Triad.

Figure 12. Incorrect application of chain rule in differentiation


The other group employed the straight form technique after converting
the surd form to its exponential form. However, they did not then utilize
the product and quotient rules appropriately. Their actions were not
interiorized with regards to logarithms and this had an impact on
95 Jojo, Maharaj, & Brijlall - The Chain Rule

applying the chain rule in the given task. Their mental images could not
be related to the string of symbols forming the expression, since they
could not interpret both the symbols and or manipulations. Since
calculations reflect the active part of mental constructions, the
differentiation rules for these students were not perceived as entities on
which actions could be made. Dubinsky (2010) asserts that in such cases
the difficulty does not depend on the nature of the formal expressions,
but rather in the loss of the connections between the expressions and the
situation instructions.
Conclusion
The researchers noticed that students in some groups would first copy a
task in the worksheet onto their books. They would then work on it as
individuals after which they compared their answers. Students argued
and agreed upon certain responses. Individuals justified how they
arrived at their responses. This way they taught each other and gave
verbal descriptions of actions taken in their own words. They then
repeated the actions many times with different tasks in their books and
in the worksheet. Thus the worksheet helped the students interiorise the
actions.
All groups did not use the Leibniz technique when differentiating the
loaded trigonometric functions in all four tasks. Explanations given
from interviewed group representatives indicated that this technique was
complicated and would involve a long series of multiplication and
substitutions of functions before and after differentiation.
A common error where students recorded the derivative of cos x
correctly as –sin x but left out the brackets to end up with a different
function from the one that was given for differentiation, was observed.
Such students’ actions of differentiation are detached from the basic
algebraic operational signs. The multiplication sign left out indicates the
absence of links between actions and procedures. Knowing the
derivative of a particular function is not an indication of conceptual
understanding since the relationships constructed internally were not
connected to existing ideas. This understanding should also involve the
knowledge and application of mathematical ideas and procedures
related to basic arithmetic facts.
It was also noticed that most students in different groups were
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 96

operating in the Intra- stage of the Triad. They had a collection of rules
of differentiation with no recognition of relationships between them.
Those students were helped by others who reflected on using the chain
rule by applying the input by other students to group dynamics. The
latter group had created an object of the chain rule. At the same time
they applied actions on differentiation and as such the process of
differentiating using the chain rule was encapsulated to form an object.
A possible modification to the proposed genetic decomposition was
made. The student recognizes and applies the chain rule to specific
situations using either the straight, link or Leibniz form techniques. This
would then help the student to think of an interiorised process of
differentiation in reverse and to construct a new process by reversing the
existing one. Instruction on the conceptual understanding of the chain
rule should incorporate all three different techniques.
References
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Thomas, K. (2004). A Framework for Research and Curriculum
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Behavior, 16, 345–364. doi: 10.1016/S0732-3123(97)90012-2


Cottrill, J. (1999). Students’ understanding of the concept ofchain rule
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Thinking. In David O. Tall (Ed.), Advanced Mathematical
Thinking (pp. 95–123). Kluwer: Dordrecht.
Dubinsky, E., (1991b). Constructive aspects of Reflective Abstraction in
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Foundation of Mathematical Experience (pp. 160-187). New
York: Springer Verlag.
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annual meeting of the SAARMSTE: School of Science,
Mathematics and Technology Education, University of KwaZulu
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in Mathematics: An Introductory Analysis. In D. Hiebert (Ed.)
Conceptual and procedural Knowledge: The Case for
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understanding of the chain rule in calculus by first year
engineering students. Unpublished doctoral dissertation,
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University of KwaZulu-Natal, SouthAfrica.


Kaplan, W. (1984). Derivatives and differentials of composite functions’
and ‘the general chain rule’ in advanced calculus. (3 rd Ed.)
Reading. MA: ADISON Wesley.
Maharaj, A. (2010). An APOS Analysis of Students’ understanding of
the Concept of a Limit function. Pythagoras, 71 , 41-51.
doi:10.4102/pythagoras.v0i71.6
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How can we characterize it and how can we represent it?
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from: http://link.springer.com/journal/10649/26/2/page/1#page-1
Orton, A. (1983). Students’ Understanding of Differentiation,
Educational Studies in Mathematics, 14, 235-250. Retrieved
from: http://link.springer.com/journal/10649/14/3/page/1#page-1
Star, J. R. (2000). On the Relationship between Knowing and Doing in
Procedural Learning. In B. Fishman & S. O'Connor-Divelbiss
(Eds.), Proceedings of fourth international conference of the
Learning Sciences (pp. 80-86). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Uygur,T., & Ozdas,A. (2007). The effect of arrow diagrams on
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Tallahassee.
99 Jojo, Maharaj, & Brijlall - The Chain Rule

Zingiswa Mybert Monica Jojo is senior lecturer at the


University of South Africa (UNISA), South Africa.
Aneshkumar Maharaj is lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-
Natal, South Africa.
Deonarain Brijlall is senior lecturer at the University of
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Contact Address: Direct correspondence concerning this article
should be addressed to the author at Department of Mathematics
Education, College of Education, AJH Building, UNISA, Box
557, Uvongo, 4270, South Africa. . E-mail address:
jojozmm@unisa.ac.za.
Instructions for authors, subscriptions and further details:
http://redimat.hipatiapress.com

Early Childhood Mathematics Education: Research, Curriculum,


and Educational Practice
Angel Alsina1
1 ) Departamento de Didácticas Específicas, Universidad de Girona, Spain.

Date of publication: February 24th, 201 3

To cite this article: Alsina, A. (201 3). Early Childhood Mathematics


Education: Research, Curriculum, and Educational Practice. Journal of
Research in Mathematics Education, 2 (1 ), 1 00-1 53. doi:
http://doi.dx.org/1 0.4471 /redimat.201 3.22
To link this article: http://dx.doi.org/1 0.4471 /redimat.201 3.22

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and to Creative Commons Non-Commercial and Non-Derivative License.
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education Vol. 2 No. 1
February 2013 pp. 100-153.

Early Childhood Mathematics


Education: Research,
Curriculum, and Educational
Practice
Angel Alsina
Universidad de Girona

Abstract
This article reviews data obtained through research into early childhood
mathematics education in Spain. It analyses the current curricular directions in
mathematics education with early learners. It also provides an overview of
mathematical practices in early childhood education classrooms to analyse the
commonalities and differences between research, curriculum and educational
practice. A review of the research presented at SEIEM symposia from 1997
until 2012 demonstrates: a) very little research has been done, a trend that is
repeated in other areas, such as the JCR-Social Sciences Edition or the PME; b)
the first steps have been taken to create a more and more cohesive body of
research, although until now there has not been enough data to outline the
curricular directions; and c) some discrepancies still exist between the
mathematical practices in early childhood education classrooms and the official
guidelines.
Keywords: research in early childhood mathematics education, mathematics
curriculum, mathematical practice.
2013 Hipatia Press
ISSN 2014-3621
DOI: 10.4471/redimat.2013.22
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education Vol. 2 No. 1
February 2013 pp. 100-153.

Educación Matemática en
Infantil: Investigación,
Currículum, y Práctica
Educativa
Angel Alsina
Universidad de Girona

Resumen
En este artículo se revisan los datos aportados por la investigación en Didáctica
de las Matemáticas en Educación Infantil en España; se analizan las
orientaciones curriculares vigentes en relación a la enseñanza de las
matemáticas en la primeras edades; y se presenta el panorama de las prácticas
matemáticas en las aulas de Educación Infantil para analizar los encuentros y
desencuentros entre investigación, currículum y práctica educativa. La revisión
de las investigaciones presentadas en la SEIEM desde 1997 hasta 2012 mues-
tra: a) una escasa producción de investigaciones, tendencia que se repite en
otros ámbitos como el JCR-Social Sciences o el PME; b) el inicio de la
creación de un cuerpo de investigaciones cada vez más cohesionado, aunque
hasta el momento no se han aportado suficientes datos para diseñar las
orientaciones curriculares; c) algunas discrepancias entre las prácticas mate-
máticas en las aulas de Educación Infantil y las directrices oficiales.
Palabras Clave: investigación en Didáctica de las Matemáticas en
Educación Infantil, currículum de matemáticas, práctica matemática.

2013 Hipatia Press


ISSN 2014-3621
DOI: 10.4471/redimat.2013.22
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 101

R ico, Sierra y Castro (2000) distinguen la Didáctica de las


Matemáticas de la Educación Matemática. Para estos autores la
Didáctica de las Matemáticas es la disciplina que estudia e
investiga los problemas que surgen en educación matemática y propone
actuaciones fundadas para su transformación, mientras que la Educación
Matemática se refiere a todo el sistema de conocimientos, instituciones,
planes de formación y finalidades formativas que conforman una
actividad social compleja y diversificada relativa a la enseñanza y
aprendizaje de las matemáticas. En el mundo anglosajón, en cambio, se
usa la expresión Mathematics Education para referirse al área de
conocimiento que en Francia, Alemania, España, etc. se denomina
Didáctica de las Matemáticas (Godino, 2010). En este trabajo se asume
esta acepción, y se focaliza en la etapa de Educación Infantil (0-6 años)
al tratarse de un periodo educativo de enorme importancia para el
desarrollo del pensamiento matemático (Alsina, 2006, 2011a).
Llinares (2008) identifica cuatro ámbitos de investigación para esta
área de conocimiento, y diversas agendas para cada uno de estos
ámbitos:
Tabla 1
Ámbitos temáticos y agendas de investigación (Llinares, 2008)
A. Análisis didáctico y A.1. Perspectivas teóricas, componentes
organización del contenido del análisis didáctico y organización del
matemático. contenido.
A.2. Análisis de libros de texto.
B. Estudiante para profesor, B.1. Aprender el conocimiento y
profesor y el formador de destrezas útiles para enseñar
profesores: aprendizaje y matemáticas y desarrollo profesional.
desarrollo profesional. Variables y factores que influyen.
B.2. Relación entre la teoría y la práctica
como elemento para el desarrollo
profesional del formador e investigador.
102 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

C. La construcción del C.1. Propuesta de modelos teóricos para


conocimiento y procesos describir y explicar
matemáticos. C.2. Lo que influye en el desarrollo de
los procesos matemáticos: RP,
generalización, y prueba.
C.3. Diseño de la enseñanza y su
influencia en el desarrollo de la
comprensión.
C.4. Comprensión de tópicos
específicos.
C.5. Creencias y dominio afectivo:
actitudes y cognición.
D. Interacción, contexto y D.1. Interacción, participación y
práctica del profesor. comunicación en el aula.
D.2. Práctica del profesor.
D.3. Conocimiento, concepciones
profesor.
Considerando estos diferentes ámbitos y agendas de investigación, en
los que se incluyen aspectos como la organización del contenido, el
diseño de la enseñanza o las destrezas útiles para enseñar matemáticas,
en mi opinión una de las finalidades de la investigación en Didáctica de
las Matemáticas debería ser aportar datos válidos y fiables para que los
Ministerios de Educación de los diferentes países pudieran elaborar
orientaciones curriculares que facilitaran el desarrollo social a través de
prácticas educativas ajustadas a las necesidades de los aprendices. Este
planteamiento conduce de forma inmediata a plantear diversos interro-
gantes: ¿cuál es el estado actual de la investigación en Didáctica de las
Matemáticas en las primeras edades?; ¿los gobiernos parten de los datos
que aporta la investigación en Didáctica de las Matemáticas para diseñar
las orientaciones curriculares de la etapa de Educación Infantil?; o bien
¿la práctica educativa se lleva a cabo a partir de estas orientaciones
curriculares?
Desde este marco, en este artículo se revisan en primer lugar los datos
aportados por la investigación en Didáctica de las Matemáticas en
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 103

Educación Infantil en España; en segundo lugar se analizan las


orientaciones curriculares vigentes; y finalmente se expone el panorama
de las prácticas matemáticas que se llevan a cabo en las aulas de
Educación Infantil en nuestro país, para indagar en qué medida se
fundamentan en los datos aportados por la investigación en Educación
Matemática y/o en las orientaciones curriculares vigentes. En otras
palabras, este trabajo trata de analizar los encuentros y desencuentros
entre investigación, currículum y práctica educativa en relación a la
Didáctica de las Matemáticas en Educación Infantil en España.
Estado de la Investigación en Didáctica de las Matemáticas en
Educación Infantil en España
En términos generales, la investigación en Didáctica de las Matemáticas
es relativamente reciente en nuestro país. Blanco (2011), por ejemplo,
señala que la década de los 70 del S. XX marca el inicio de la
investigación en este campo en España, y que ha recibido un fuerte
impulso sobre todo en los últimos veinte años. Este impulso ha
permitido realizar ya algunos estudios bibliométricos que revisan
algunas de las investigaciones más relevantes en Didáctica de las
Matemáticas en las primeras edades (Sierra y Gascón, 2011); los
métodos de investigación usados (Godino et al., 2011); los temas
investigados (Gómez, Cañadas, Bracho, Respreto y Aristizábal, 2011);
la producción científica en referencia a la elaboración de tesis doctorales
(Vallejo, Fernández, Torralbo y Maz, 2007); o bien el impacto
internacional de nuestras publicaciones (Llinares, 2008), entre otros
aspectos.
El marco de referencia que se usa en este trabajo para analizar el
estado actual de la investigación en Didáctica de las Matemáticas en
Educación Infantil en España son las investigaciones presentadas en los
diferentes Simposios de la Sociedad Española de Investigación en
Educación Matemática (SEIEM). Para realizar dicho estudio se parte del
trabajo realizado por Sierra y Gascón (2011) que en su momento
aportaron datos sobre las investigaciones en Didáctica de las
Matemáticas en Educación Infantil y Educación Primaria presentadas en
las SEIEM desde el año 1997 hasta 2010, atendiendo al contenido
matemático tratado. En las tablas 2 y 3 se incluyen, además, las
investigaciones correspondientes a las ediciones de 2011 y 2012,
104 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

considerando que en el año 2011 se creó el Grupo de Investigación en


Educación Matemática Infantil (IEMI) en el marco de la SEIEM:
Tabla 2
Investigaciones en Didáctica de las Matemáticas en Educación Infantil
en España desde 1997 hasta 2012 en las Actas de la SEIEM.
Autores/año Contenido Resultados / Conclusiones
matemático
Fernández (2002) Conocimiento Se categoriza a los niños de 3
lógico-ordinal de a 6 años en seis niveles
la secuencia evolutivos de competencias
numérica en niños ordinales que van desde el
de 3 a 6 años. etiquetaje a las relaciones
lógicas ordinales entre los
términos de la secuencia
numérica.
Estos niveles pueden ser
usados para que el maestro
pueda conocer el nivel real
de sus alumnos.
Que un niño sepa contar no
es garantía de que se
encuentre en los últimos
niveles, por lo que se debe
ser cauto al presentar
conocimientos numéricos a
los niños.
Ruesga, Giménez Tareas de Los operadores lógicos
y Orozco (2003) transformación inversos conllevan acciones
(operadores y observaciones diferentes a
lógicos directos e las de modo directo.
inversos) en niños Las diferencias significativas
de 3 a 6 años. entre modo directo e inverso
muestran que no se produce
total equilibración en el
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 105

Autores/año Contenido Resultados / Conclusiones


matemático
sentido piagetiano (en 4 y 5
años las diferencias son
mínimas).
Wilhelmi y Formación de La formación matemática y
Lacasta (2007) maestros de didáctica de las futuras
Educación maestras de Educación
Infantil Infantil debe partir del
modelo epistemológico (ME)
que éstas tienen de las
matemáticas, puesto que este
modelo restringe el tipo de
tareas que se plantean
realizar en su futura actividad
docente.
La experiencia personal
(afectiva y psicológica) debe
ser afrontada antes de la
determinación de un modelo
docente. Este modelo se
constituye entorno al ME
como instrumento integrador
en una perspectiva de
desarrollo global del niño.
Esta función integradora de
las matemáticas puede
manifestarse en situaciones
de enseñanza de
comunicación entre niños.
Lacasta y Propuestas de Persiste la huella conjuntista
Wilhelmi (2008) enseñanza- (por ejemplo, empezar a
aprendizaje del contar a partir de 0).
número en Permanece la reducción del
106 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

Autores/año Contenido Resultados / Conclusiones


matemático
Educación campo numérico (0-9).
Infantil durante Una enseñanza basada en las
las últimas cuatro fichas corre el riesgo de que
décadas. los niños no comprendan la
utilidad y el sentido de los
aprendizajes.
Salgado y Salinas Actividades sobre En general en una misma
(2009) el número en editorial se observa la misma
libros de texto de línea metodológica y las
tres editoriales en mismas actividades de
Educación números en los tres niveles
Infantil. (3-6 años), aumentando
progresivamente el grado de
dificultad.
A medida que avanza el
nivel, se aprecian más
actividades de evaluación de
conocimientos.
Núñez, de Castro, Evolución de las Se presentan los datos de la
del Pozo, competencias fase inicial del estudio: se
Mendoza y Pastor numéricas en detectan rendimientos
(2010) niños de 4-5 años. medios semejantes en el
Elaboración y grupo experimental y en el
progresivo grupo normativo a partir de
refinamiento de la aplicación del TEMA-3,
un producto aunque ciertos aspectos
curricular (taller muestran demoras en su
de problemas). adquisición.
Después del taller de
problemas volverá a
administrarse el TEMA-3
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 107

Autores/año Contenido Resultados / Conclusiones


matemático
para conocer el progreso
natural de los alumnos y la
eficacia del taller.
Alsina (2011b) Proceso de Se establecen tres niveles: a)
adquisición de la ausencia de código
notación simbólico, con notaciones
numérica en concretas (dibujos, etc.);
Educación aparición de código
Infantil. simbólico, con notaciones
pictóricas (cruces, etc.);
consolidación del código
simbólico (alfabetización),
con números en su notación
convencional, aunque con
múltiples inversiones.
La práctica docente basada
en dedicar buena parte del
tiempo a copiar, seguir el
trazo o dibujar números en
Educación Infantil repercute
negativamente en la
alfabetización de los alumnos
por tres motivos: a) se
propicia que se aprendan a
escribir números sin haber
garantizado su comprensión;
b) conlleva habilidad motriz,
lo que consume mucho
tiempo dado que los niños de
estas edades todavía no
tienen la suficiente madurez;
c) tendencia a invertir los
números.
108 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

Autores/año Contenido Resultados / Conclusiones


matemático
Sierra y Gascón Investigación en Las investigaciones relativas
(2011) Didáctica de las a la Educación Elemental son
Matemáticas en escasas y, especialmente
Educación escasas las de Infantil tanto
Infantil y dentro de la SEIEM, como
Primaria dentro del Enfoque
Ontosemiótico (EOS) y la
Teoría Antropológica de la
Didáctico (TAD).
Son numerosos los trabajos
de esta temática en el ámbito
de PME entre los años 1976
y 1986, y asimismo se
encuentra una amplia
investigación didáctica sobre
las matemáticas en infantil y
primaria en el marco de la
Teoría de Situaciones
Didácticas (TSD).
Gutiérrez y Formación de Los resultados muestran que,
Berciano (2012a) maestros de a través del aprendizaje
Educación basado en problemas (ABP),
Infantil el aprendizaje colaborativo y
el uso de plataformas
virtuales (Moodle), los
estudiantes mejoran la
percepción respecto a la
enseñanza-aprendizaje de la
matemática e integran sus
conocimientos matemáticos y
sobre la enseñanza de las
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 109

Autores/año Contenido Resultados / Conclusiones


matemático
matemáticas en la búsqueda
de soluciones a un problema
profesional.
Lacasta, Lasa y Actividad lógica Las actividades de tipo
Wilhelmi (2012) y relacional en lógico y relacional deben ser
Educación apreciadas por sus
Infantil finalidades propias y no por
su supuesto carácter
prenumérico.
Los niños presentan grandes
dificultades en la realización
de actividades abundantes en
las colecciones de fichas,
tales como seriación, tablas
de doble entrada y códigos
de representación.
En las fichas predomina la
reducción del envite
epistemológico (series), la
intervención de la maestra
(tablas), y los códigos de
representación (que
condicionan la interpretación
de las situaciones).

Además de las investigaciones recogidas en las diferentes Actas de los


Simposios de la SEIEM, se han analizado también los trabajos
presentados en los diferentes grupos de investigación de la SEIEM
desde 2005 hasta 2012, ya que en el marco de estos diferentes grupos
también hay algunas investigaciones centradas en la etapa de Educación
Infantil, sobre todo a partir de la creación del Grupo de Investigación
IEMI:
110 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

Tabla 3
Comunicaciones sobre Didáctica de las Matemáticas en Educación
Infantil en España desde 2005 hasta 2012 en los grupos de
investigación de la SEIEM.

Autores/año Grupo Contenido Resultados / Conclusiones


de investigación matemático
Bosch, Castro y Desarrollo del Se presentan resultados
Segovia (2005)/ pensamiento parciales de una tesis
Pensamiento multiplicativo en doctoral:
numérico y niños de 5 años. La mayoría de niños
algebraico subitizan al saltar de 2 en 2 y
de 3 en 3; en cambio,
necesitan contar a partir de 4.
Más de 2/3 de los alumnos
son capaces de detectar el
multiplicando, en cambio les
es mucho más difícil
encontrar el multiplicador.
Hay una gran disparidad en
las tareas de pensamiento
relacional.
No desean ni necesitan
representaciones gráficas.
Salgado y Salinas Competencias Los niños llegan a la
(2011) / numéricas de los Educación Infantil con
Pensamiento niños de 3 años. conocimientos sobre los
numérico y números, pero no saben para
algebraico qué son, ni cómo son, ni
cómo se pueden y deben
usar.
Identifican grafías pero
desconocen cómo
representarlas.
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 111

Autores/año Grupo Contenido Resultados / Conclusiones


de investigación matemático
No dominan la posición
ordinal de los números en la
serie numérica.
Alsina, A. Formación de Se plantea una posible
(2012a)/ maestros de manera de desarrollar el
Investigación en Educación pensamiento matemático de
Educación Infantil. los niños a través de
Matemática situaciones de aprendizaje en
Infantil contextos de vida cotidiana,
siguiendo el modelo de la
Educación Matemática
Realista (EMR) de
Freudenthal.
Se presentan actividades
implementadas en diferentes
centros escolares de la
geografía española, que
parten de este modelo.
Edo, M. (2012)/ Formación de Se presenta una asignatura de
Investigación en maestros de didáctica de las matemáticas
Educación Educación de los nuevos planes de
Matemática Infantil. estudio de la formación de
Infantil maestros de Educación
Infantil, y se describe una
unidad docente para trabajar
la competencia “conocer,
analizar y diseñar situaciones
didácticas interdisciplinarias,
identificando los contenidos
matemáticos y los de otras
áreas”.
112 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

Autores/año Grupo Contenido Resultados / Conclusiones


de investigación matemático

de Castro y Desarrollo del Se analiza el tipo de trabajo


Flecha (2012)/ currículo que se puede desarrollar en el
Investigación en geométrico en aula de infantil, de juego de
Educación Educación construcción con piezas de
Matemática Infantil madera, para abordar el
Infantil estudio de los sólidos (en el
ámbito de la geometría
tridimensional). El objetivo
es detectar indicadores del
desarrollo del juego de
construcción infantil, que
sean alternativos y
complementarios a los que
aparecen en la literatura, y
sirvan para describir con
detalle la evolución de este
tipo de juego. Para ello, se
realiza un estudio
longitudinal con un grupo de
alumnos de 2-3 años que se
centra en cuatro posibles
indicadores: repetición,
equivalencia, posición
relativa de los bloques, y
forma global de la
construcción. En cuanto a las
acciones de los niños, se
centra la atención en
indicadores verbales y de
cooperación.
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 113

Autores/año Grupo Contenido Resultados / Conclusiones


de investigación matemático
Fernández (2012)/ Evolución del El objetivo general es dar a
Investigación en pensamiento conocer una nueva
Educación matemático en herramienta para
Matemática niños de 3 a 7 profesionales de la educación
Infantil años y de la psicología del
aprendizaje que facilite la
evaluación del pensamiento
matemático en escolares de
Educación Infantil.
Se presentan datos de una
investigación en curso para
obtener nuevos
conocimientos sobre la
evolución del pensamiento
matemático en escolares de 3
a 7 años, y, por otra,
confeccionar un material
informático de fácil manejo
para diagnosticar el
pensamiento matemático
tanto a nivel de individuos
concretos como a nivel de
pequeñas y grandes muestras
de población.
Gutiérrez y Formación de Se expone una experiencia
Berciano (2012b)/ maestros de didáctica llevada a cabo en la
Educación Educación asignatura Desarrollo del
Matemática Infantil. pensamiento Matemático y
Infantil su didáctica de la
Diplomatura de Magisterio
en Educación Infantil. En
114 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

Autores/año Grupo Contenido Resultados / Conclusiones


de investigación matemático
dicha experiencia se detallan
las principales actividades
que se han llevado a cabo,
basándose principalmente en
el aprendizaje reflexivo y en
el uso de la plataforma
Moodle. Tras el balance de
las ventajas y de los puntos
débiles detectados, se
plantean las bases de mejora
para el desarrollo de la
misma asignatura en formato
b-learning en el Grado de
Educación Infantil.
Salgado y Salinas Resolución de Se presenta un estudio en el
(2012)/ problemas que se describe el grado de
Educación numéricos. abstracción en estrategias
Matemática matemáticas utilizadas en la
Infantil resolución de problemas
numéricos de sumar y restar
en Educación Infantil. Las
tareas empíricas consisten en
resolver cuestiones con
fichas y cuestiones verbales,
descritas todas ellas en el test
de competencia matemática
básica (TEMA-3). Los
resultados muestran la
diversidad de respuestas en
un grupo de iguales,
conviene destacar la excesiva
utilización de estrategias
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 115

Autores/año Grupo Contenido Resultados / Conclusiones


de investigación matemático
sociales para la resolución de
las tareas. Finalmente, se
señalan algunas aplicaciones
educativas a partir de los
resultados de este estudio.
Bosch, Castro y Conocimiento del En tareas de conteo, se
Segovia (2012)/ pensamiento mul- constata que los niños tienen
Pensamiento tiplicativo y rela- mayor dificultad para contar
numérico y cional en niños de saltos (de 2 en 2, etc.) que no
algebraico 4 a 6 años. contar objetos (piedras). En
los problemas de división
más de la mitad de los
alumnos han sido capaces de
resolverlos correctamente.
En relación al pensamiento
relacional, se presentan
algunos de los razonamientos
más habituales de los niños.

En la Tabla anterior no figuran los trabajos presentados por los


diferentes Grupos de Investigación en el último Simposio de la SEIEM,
celebrado en Baeza en Septiembre de 2012 (cuatro en el caso del Grupo
de Investigación IEMI), ni tampoco los trabajos presentados en
seminarios intermedios organizados durante el año 2012, puesto que las
distintas investigaciones se encuentran en vías de publicación (en el
caso del grupo IEMI, cabe destacar que en marzo de 2012 se celebró en
Madrid el “I Seminario de Investigación en Educación Matemática
Infantil” en el que se presentaron quince trabajos que publicarán
próximamente en la revista “Edma 0-6: Educación matemática en la
infancia” o en la plataforma http://www.edma0-6.es/OCS).
Los datos expuestos ponen en evidencia dos aspectos: a) la escasa
producción de investigaciones sobre Didáctica de las Matemáticas en
116 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

Educación Infantil en la SEIEM desde 1997 hasta 2010, y el cambio de


tendencia que se ha producido a partir de 2011; b) el inicio, en mi
opinión, de un cuerpo de investigaciones sobre Didáctica de las
Matemáticas en Educación Infantil cada vez más cohesionado.
La escasa producción de investigaciones es un dato de tipo
cuantitativo, que ya se puso de manifiesto en los resultados del estudio
comparativo realizado por Gómez, Cañadas, Bracho, Restrepo y
Aristizábal (2011), en el que señalan la importancia de los trabajos que
se refieren a la Educación Secundaria. En este mismo estudio se
concluye que la Educación Primaria, la Formación Profesional y el
título de Grado Universitario aparecen en segundo lugar de importancia,
y destacan la reducida proporción de documentos que se refieren a la
Educación Infantil. La proporción de trabajos que no se refieren a
ningún nivel educativo específico representan también una proporción
importante de la totalidad de trabajos (ver Figura 1):

Figura 1 . Porcentaje de trabajos por niveles educativos en la SEIEM entre 1997


y 2008 (Gómez, Cañadas, Bracho, Restrepo y Aristizábal, 2011)
También Sierra y Gascón (2011), a partir de la revisión de algunas de
las más relevantes investigaciones en Didáctica de las Matemáticas de la
Educación Infantil y Primaria concluyen que las relativas a la Educación
Elemental son escasas, y especialmente escasas las de Educación
Infantil dentro de la SEIEM. Sin embargo, esta tendencia se ha
empezado a modificar a partir del año 2011, en el que se ha producido
un punto de inflexión al aumentar considerablemente la cantidad de
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 117

trabajos presentados como consecuencia, sobre todo, de la creación del


Grupo de Investigación IEMI.
La progresiva creación de un cuerpo cada vez más cohesionado de
investigaciones sobre Didáctica de las Matemáticas en Educación
Infantil, en cambio, es un dato de tipo más cualitativo, que se sustenta
en el análisis del contenido matemático que aparece en los trabajos
revisados. Desde este criterio de interpretación se aprecia que hasta el
momento los trabajos se centran sobretodo en tres temas:
- La formación inicial de maestros de Educación Infantil: este campo
de investigación se trata, en algunas ocasiones, desde un enfoque
didáctico concreto como por ejemplo la Teoría de Situaciones
Didácticas (TSD), la Teoría Antropológica de lo Didáctico (TAD) o
la Educación Matemática Realista (EMR); en otros trabajos se
aportan datos a partir de diferentes métodos de formación activa,
como por ejemplo el Aprendizaje Basado en Problemas (ABP) o el
Aprendizaje Colaborativo; se analizan también los referentes
internacionales a nivel curricular (NCTM, 2003); etc.
- La adquisición y el desarrollo del pensamiento matemático infantil:
la mayoría de los estudios se centran, hasta el momento, en el
numeración y el cálculo, lo cual tiene su explicación ya que, de
acuerdo con la NCTM (2003), es uno de los bloques con mayor
peso en esta etapa educativa (ver Figura 2):

Figura 2. Nivel de atención que deberían recibir los diferentes estándares de


contenidos (NCTM 2003)
118 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

Cabe destacar que algunos de los trabajos clasificados dentro de este


bloque se fundamentan ya en un enfoque didáctico concreto, como
por ejemplo los realizados desde la perspectica de la Teoría
Antropológica de lo Didáctico (TAD) o bien la Educación
Matemática Realista (EMR).
- Existe un tercer grupo de trabajos, con menor peso hasta el mo-
mento, que analizan algunos recursos o contextos de aprendizaje
para favorecer el desarrollo del pensamiento matemático como los
contextos de vida cotidiana, los juegos, los cuentos, los gráficos,
etc.
Como puede apreciarse a partir de este criterio formal de clasificación
de trabajos según su contenido, en mi opinión estamos ante el inicio de
la creación progresiva de un cuerpo cohesionado de investigaciones
sobre Didáctica de las Matemáticas en Educación Infantil en nuestro
país. Para seguir avanzando será necesario ir dando mayor coherencia a
este campo de investigación a partir de los postulados expuestos por
Sierra y Gascón:
Si pretendemos tomar en consideración el contenido de los trabajos
y, en especial, el tipo y la naturaleza de los problemas didácticos
que éstos formulan y abordan, entonces deberemos situarnos
necesariamente en un enfoque didáctico concreto y elaborar
criterios con ayuda de las herramientas teóricas y metodológicas
que dicho enfoque nos proporciona. Creemos que sólo así será
posible valorar y comparar adecuadamente el alcance y las
limitaciones de los diferentes trabajos de investigación y potenciar
el necesario diálogo y desarrollo mútuo, que no necesariamente
integración, de los enfoques teóricos en didáctica de las
matemáticas que sustentan los trabajos en cuestión. (Sierra y
Gascón, 2011, pág. 153)
Es desde este punto de vista que puede hablarse del inicio de la
creación en España de un campo de investigación en Didáctica de las
Matemáticas en Educación Infantil que debe ir cohesionándose
progresivamente realizando investigaciones que se sustenten en un
determinado enfoque teórico, una metodología de investigación
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 119

concreta, y un contenido claro que se aborde desde un enfoque didáctico


concreto.
La Didáctica de las Matemáticas en las Orientaciones Curriculares
Vigentes en España
El Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia en general, y las Consejerías de
Educación de cada Comunidad Autónoma en particular, son los
organismos públicos responsables de legislar en nuestro país los
contenidos a trabajar en las aulas de Educación Infantil. Desde este
marco, los documentos legislativos vigentes en España son actualmente
la Ley Orgánica 2/2006, de 3 de mayo, de Educación y, más
concretamente, la Orden ECI/3960/2007, de 19 de diciembre, por la que
se establece el currículo y se regula la ordenación de la Educación
Infantil. En esta Orden Ministerial se presentan los contenidos
organizados en dos ciclos: primer ciclo (0-3 años) y segundo ciclo (3-6
años); y en tres áreas de conocimiento: “Conocimiento de sí mismo y
Autonomía Personal”; “Conocimiento del Entorno; y “Lenguajes:
Comunicación y Representación”.
Para identificar los contenidos matemáticos que se establecen en el
currículum español vigente se ha analizado en profundidad esta Orden,
y se han organizado dichos contenidos en cinco bloques (Tablas 2 a 6)
que mantienen un paralelismo con los estándares de contenido de la
NCTM (2003): cualidades sensoriales; números; geometría, medición; y
estadística y probabilidad. Una vez expuestos los contenidos del
curriculum oficial en las diversas Tablas, se realiza un análisis de dichos
contenidos y se contrastan con los principales referentes a nivel
internacional: los estándares de contenido (NCTM, 2003) y los
estándares comunes para las matemáticas (CCSSI, 2010).
En la tabla 4 se presenta el extracto de los contenidos de cualidades
sensoriales identificados:
Tabla 4
Contenidos de cualidades sensoriales en la Orden ECI/3960/2007.
Área 1. Conocimiento de sí mismo y autonomía personal
Primer ciclo (0-3 años) Segundo ciclo (3-6 años)
Percepciones sensoriales Percepción de los cambios físicos
diversas: visuales, táctiles, propios y de su relación con el
120 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

Área 1. Conocimiento de sí mismo y autonomía personal


Primer ciclo (0-3 años) Segundo ciclo (3-6 años)
auditivas, etc., en situaciones paso del tiempo.
educativas cotidianas como Identificación y utilización de los
juegos, corros, comidas o aseos. sentidos, expresión verbal de
Expresión de preferencias. sensaciones y percepciones.
Gusto e interés por la exploración
sensoriomotriz para el
conocimiento personal, el de los
demás y la relación con los
objetos en situaciones de aula
que favorezcan la actividad
espontánea.
Exploración y valoración de las
posibilidades y limitaciones
perceptivas, motrices y
expresivas propias y de los
demás.
Juegos motores, sensoriales,
simbólicos y de reglas.
Área 2. Conocimiento del entorno
Primer ciclo (0-3 años) Segundo ciclo (3-6 años)
Exploración y observación de Percepción de semejanzas y
objetos y materiales presentes en diferencias entre los objetos.
el medio a través de la Discriminación de algunos
realización de acciones como atributos de objetos y materias.
acariciar, golpear, recoger, Interés por la clasificación de
arrastrar, enroscar, abrir, elementos. Relaciones de
soplar…, verbalizando los pertenencia y no pertenencia.
procesos al descubrir Identificación de cualidades y sus
sensaciones, características y grados. Ordenación gradual de
utilidades. elementos.
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 121

Área 2. Conocimiento del entorno


Primer ciclo (0-3 años) Segundo ciclo (3-6 años)
Interés por la indagación sobre Relaciones de pertenencia y no
elementos y materias (agua, pertenencia.
arena, ...), descubriendo algunos Identificación de cualidades y sus
de sus atributos y cualidades grados. Ordenación gradual de
como frío, caliente, seco, elementos.
mojado, grande o pequeño. Detección de algunas carac-
Establecimiento de algunas terísticas, comportamientos,
semejanzas y diferencias. funciones y cambios en los seres
Clasificaciones atendiendo a un vivos.
criterio y ordenaciones de dos o Observación, discriminación y
tres elementos por tamaño. clasificación de animales y
Interés por observar los plantas.
elementos de la naturaleza (tierra, Observación de los fenómenos
agua, nubes, etc.) y animales y del medio natural (alternancia de
plantas, y descubrir algunas de día y noches, lluvia…) y
sus características. valoración de la influencia que
Identificación de algunos ejercen en la vida humana.
fenómenos del medio natural (día
y noche, sol, lluvia…) y
establecimiento de algunas
relaciones con actividades y
situaciones habituales.
Área 3. Lenguajes: comunicación y representación
Primer ciclo (0-3 años) Segundo ciclo (3-6 años)
Percepción y exploración, Exploración de las propias
mediante la manipulación, de las posibilidades expresivas y
características de materiales comunicativas en relación con
diversos (ceras, agua, arena, objetos y materiales.
masas, arcilla, …), utilización de Ajuste corporal y motor ante
diferentes instrumentos (pinceles, objetos de diferentes
esponjas, rodillos, …) y características con finalidad
122 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

Área 3. Lenguajes: comunicación y representación


Primer ciclo (0-3 años) Segundo ciclo (3-6 años)
descubrimiento de texturas, expresiva o comunicativa.
colores, olores, en la realización
de producciones plásticas.
Identificación e imitación de
sonidos cotidianos y
discriminación de sus rasgos
distintivos y de algunos
contrastes básicos (ruido-
silencio, largo-corto, fuerte-
suave), disfrutando con las
realizaciones propias o de sus
compañeros.
A partir del análisis de la tabla 4 se aprecia que dichos contenidos
hacen referencia básicamente a tres aspectos: la identificación de las
características sensoriales de los objetos a partir de su exploración con
los diferentes sentidos; la comparación de estas características
sensoriales a partir de dos tipos de relaciones básicas: clasificaciones y
ordenaciones; y la observación de los cambios que se producen en los
objetos y en el entorno inmediato. Sin embargo, se omiten algunos
aspectos importantes que se mencionan en las orientaciones
internacionales referentes a la comprensión de los patrones (CCSSI,
2010; NCTM, 2003). Más concretamente, no se hace referencia al
reconocimiento, descripción y ampliación de patrones tales como
secuencias de sonidos y formas o sencillos patrones numéricos, y pasar
de una representación a otra; así como analizar cómo se generan
patrones de repetición y de crecimiento. El trabajo de estos contenidos
en Educación Infantil es de enorme importancia para favorecer el
desarrollo progresivo del pensamiento algebraico, y ayudar a que
progresivamente los alumnos entiendan, por ejemplo, la noción de
función.
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 123

Tabla 5
Contenidos de números en la Orden ECI/3960/2007
Área 1. Conocimiento de sí mismo y autonomía personal
Primer ciclo (0-3 años) Segundo ciclo (3-6 años)
Exploración e identificación de Exploración y reconocimiento
algunas partes del propio cuerpo del propio cuerpo. Identificación,
y del de los demás, señalándolas valoración y aceptación
y nombrándolas en juegos y progresiva de las características
actividades cotidianas como propias.
vestirse, desvestirse, aseo
personal, reconociendo algunas
características propias y
consiguiendo progresiva
competencia.
Área 2. Conocimiento del entorno
Primer ciclo (0-3 años) Segundo ciclo (3-6 años)
Realización de acciones sobre Cuantificación no numérica de
elementos y colecciones como colecciones (muchos, pocos).
juntar, distribuir, hacer Comparación cuantitativa entre
correspondencias y contar colecciones de objetos.
elementos, aproximándose a la Relaciones de igualdad y de
cuantificación no numérica desigualdad (igual que, más que,
(muchos, pocos, algunos) y menos que).
numérica (uno, dos y tres), Estimación cuantitativa exacta de
manifestando satisfacción por los colecciones y uso de números
logros conseguidos. cardinales referidos a cantidades
manejables.
Utilización oral de la serie
numérica para contar.
Observación y toma de
conciencia del valor funcional de
los números y de su utilidad en la
vida cotidiana.
124 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

Área 3. Lenguajes: comunicación y representación


Primer ciclo (0-3 años) Segundo ciclo (3-6 años)
Gusto e interés por manipular Diferenciación entre las formas
textos escritos en diferentes escritas y otras formas de
soportes (libros, revistas, expresión gráfica.
periódicos, carteles o etiquetas), Iniciación en el uso de la
participando en la interpretación escritura para cumplir finalidades
de imágenes e iniciándose en la reales. Interés y disposición para
diferenciación entre las distintas comunicarse por escrito y por el
formas de expresión gráfica uso de algunas convenciones del
(dibujos, números, lengua sistema de la lengua escrita como
escrita). linealidad, orientación y
organización del espacio, y gusto
por producir mensajes con trazos
cada vez más precisos y legibles.
En la tabla 5 se observa que el tipo de sustantivos usados para expresar
los contenidos de números son: exploración, identificación, realización
de acciones, comparaciones, relaciones, estimación, observación,
utilización, etc. De ello se desprende una visión del aprendizaje de
contenidos numéricos que tiene en cuenta las necesidades de los
alumnos de las primeras edades para aprender: observar los números del
entorno y comprender su utilidad; realizar acciones con cantidades para
favorecer su comprensión e interiorización; etc.
En el documento legislativo español se hace hincapié en la
representación de las cantidades, aunque se obvian algunas fases
imprescindibles. Mientras que en las orientaciones internacionales
(CCSSI, 2010, NCTM, 2003) se manifiesta la necesidad de comprender
las diferentes formas de representar los números, en el currículum
español se menciona únicamente la iniciación en el uso de la escritura
para cumplir finalidades reales, sin subrayar en ningún momento que la
evolución de la representación de cantidades discretas debería
contemplar diferentes fases o niveles: 1) ausencia de código simbólico,
en el que los niños usan dibujos para representar cantidades. En sus
representaciones, que son concretas, realizan una correspondencia
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 125

término a término; 2) aparición de código simbólico, en el que los niños


usan cruces, círculos, palitos, etc., para representar cantidades. En sus
representaciones, que son pictóricas, todavía mantienen la
correspondencia término a término; 3) consolidación del código
simbólico (alfabetización), en que los niños usan códigos simbólicos,
transmitidos culturalmente, para representar cantidades discretas. Estos
símbolos tienen una particularidad muy abstracta, y es que un solo
símbolo permite representar muchos objetos (Alsina, 2011b).
Otro aspecto especialmente controvertido es que en las orientaciones
curriculares españolas no se hace referencia a los cambios de
cantidades, es decir, las operaciones aritméticas elementales de suma y
resta. Si tenemos en cuenta las orientaciones internacionales, en las que
se destaca la necesidad de comprender los significados de las
operaciones y cómo se relacionan unas con otras, o bien calcular con
fluidez y hacer estimaciones razonables, entonces las orientaciones
españolas relativas al cálculo en las primeras edades son, sin duda,
deficientes.
Tabla 6
Contenidos de geometría en la Orden ECI/3960/2007
Área 1
Primer ciclo (0-3 años) Segundo ciclo (3-6 años)
Exploración y toma de Percepción y estructuración de
conciencia de sus posibilidades, espacios interpersonales y entre
intereses y limitaciones motrices objetos, reales e imaginarios, en
en actividades como gatear, experiencias vitales que permitan
andar, subir y bajar, saltar, sentir, manipular y transformar
deslizarse o rodar, disfrutando dichos espacios. Establecimiento
con sus logros. de las referencias espaciales en
Adaptación progresiva del tono, relación con el propio cuerpo.
equilibrio y coordinación de Gusto e interés por la exploración
movimientos a las características sensoriomotriz para el
de los objetos que se le ofrecen y conocimiento personal, el de los
a diferentes acciones como demás y la relación con los
chupar, golpear, apretar, enroscar, objetos en situaciones de aula
encajar, juntar o pedalear, que favorezcan la actividad
126 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

Área 1
Primer ciclo (0-3 años) Segundo ciclo (3-6 años)
mostrando iniciativa y curiosidad espontánea.
por aprender nuevas habilidades. Exploración y valoración de las
posibilidades y limitaciones
perceptivas, motrices y
expresivas propias y de los
demás. Iniciativa para aprender
habilidades nuevas y deseo de
superación personal.
Exploración y progresivo control
de las habilidades motrices
básicas más habituales como la
marcha, la carrera, el salto y los
lanzamientos.
Juegos motores, sensoriales,
simbólicos y de reglas.
Nociones básicas de orientación
(hacia, hasta, desde…) y
coordinación de movimientos.
Área 2
Primer ciclo (0-3 años) Segundo ciclo (3-6 años)
Reconocimiento y verbalización Situación de sí mismo y de los
de algunas nociones espaciales objetos en el espacio.
básicas como abierto, cerrado, Posiciones relativas.
dentro, fuera, arriba, abajo, Identificación de formas planas y
interior y exterior. tridimensionales en elementos
del entorno. Exploración de
algunos cuerpos geométricos
elementales. Nociones
topológicas básicas (abierto,
cerrado, dentro, fuera, cerca,
lejos, interior, exterior…) y
realización de desplazamientos
orientados.
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 127

Área 3
Primer ciclo (0-3 años) Segundo ciclo (3-6 años)
Descubrimiento y Descubrimiento y
experimentación de las experimentación de gestos y
posibilidades expresivas y movimientos como recursos
comunicativas del propio cuerpo corporales para la expresión y la
(gestos, movimientos, miradas, comunicación.
llanto, sonrisa…), en actividades Utilización, con intención
individuales y de grupo. comunicativa y expresiva, de las
Representación de personajes, posibilidades motrices del propio
hechos y situaciones mediante cuerpo con relación al espacio y
juegos simbólicos, disfrutando al tiempo.
en las actividades de Ajuste corporal y motor ante
dramatización, imitación, danza y objetos de diferentes
en otros juegos de expresión características con finalidad
corporal. expresiva o comunicativa.
Participación en actividades de
dramatización, danzas, juego
simbólico y otros juegos de
expresión corporal.
Exploración del teclado y el ratón
del ordenador y experimentación
de su uso para realizar
actividades apropiadas como
escribir su nombre, rellenar
calendarios, agendas, mensajes,
carteles, dibujar, transformar
imágenes o jugar.
Asociación de gestos y
movimientos cotidianos a
expresiones lingüísticas en
lengua extranjera para favorecer
la adquisición de léxico y la
comunicación.
128 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

Al analizar con detalle la tabla 6, se aprecia que la mayor parte de


contenidos hacen referencia a la posición en el espacio (orientación y
estructuración espacial). Se hace referencia, por ejemplo, a la
“coordinación de movimientos” o “nociones topológicas básicas
(abierto, cerrado, dentro, fuera, cerca, lejos, interior, exterior, ...) y
realización de desplazamientos orientados”. Una primera apreciación a
partir del análisis de los contenidos relativos a la posición en el espacio
es que en el segundo ciclo, a diferencia del primer ciclo, aparece la
expresión “nociones topológicas básicas”. Como ya se menciona en
Alsina (2006), este término se arrastra desde que, en el contexto de la
Matemática Moderna, se adoptó la clasificación de Klein (1849-1925)
para clasificar los diferentes tipos de geometría a través de la teoría de
grupos. La idea fundamental de este autor era clasificar las distintas
geometrías según las propiedades geométricas que se mantienen
invariantes respecto de un grupo de transformaciones, lo que le llevó a
establecer tres grupos: geometría topológica, geometría proyectiva y
geometría métrica. Si se mantiene el uso de esta terminología kleiniana
en las orientaciones curriculares vigentes, entonces debería haberse
hecho referencia, también, a las nociones proyectivas y métricas. Dado
que no realiza este paralelismo a nivel terminológico en ambos ciclos,
probablemente hubiese sido mejor obviar la expresión “nociones
topológicas básicas” para no confundir al profesorado, y referirse a
“nociones espaciales básicas”, tal como se hace ya en el primer ciclo de
Educación Infantil.
Al margen de este matiz, nos parece interesante destacar que en la
Orden ECI/3960/2007 se enfatice la importancia que tiene el desarrollo
motriz –y lógicamente, psicomotriz– para que los alumnos puedan
aprender paulatinamente a orientarse en el espacio que les rodea y a
organizarlo. Así, se hace referencia por ejemplo a “las posibilidades y
limitaciones motrices”; “exploración sensoriomotriz”; o “habilidades
motrices básicas”. Además, se incide también en algunos recursos para
llevar a cabo este desarrollo: “juegos motores”; “movimiento”; “danza y
otros juegos de expresión corporal”; etc. De todo ello se deduce que la
psicomotricidad es una actividad esencial en el aprendizaje de la
geometría en estas primeras edades.
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 129

En relación a las formas, únicamente se menciona un contenido


relativo a este aspecto: “identificación de formas planas y
tridimensionales en elementos del entorno. Exploración de algunos
cuerpos geométricos elementales”. Tomando como referencia las
orientaciones internacionales (CCSI, 2010; NCTM, 2003) se omiten las
transformaciones geométricas, es decir, el conjunto de operaciones
geométricas que permiten cambiar la posición (giros, simetrías,
translaciones) o la forma (deformaciones, composición y
descomposición de formas).
Tabla 7
Contenidos de medición en la Orden ECI/3960/2007
Área 1
Primer ciclo (0-3 años) Segundo ciclo (3-6 años)
Percepciones sensoriales Percepción de los cambios físicos
diversas: visuales, táctiles, propios y de su relación con el
auditivas..., en situaciones paso del tiempo. Apreciación
educativas cotidianas como inicial del tiempo cronológico y
juegos, corros, comidas o aseos. del tiempo subjetivo a partir de
Adaptación progresiva de los vivencias.
ritmos biológicos propios a las
rutinas socialmente establecidas,
anticipándose y colaborando en
las actividades de la vida diaria.
Área 2
Primer ciclo (0-3 años) Segundo ciclo (3-6 años)
Interés por la indagación sobre Los objetos y materias presentes
elementos y materias (agua, en el medio, sus funciones y usos
arena...), descubriendo algunos cotidianos. Interés por su
de sus atributos y cualidades exploración y actitud de respeto y
como frío, caliente, seco, cuidado hacia objetos propios y
mojado, grande o pequeño. ajenos y cuidado de los mismos.
Establecimiento de algunas Percepción de semejanzas y
semejanzas y diferencias. diferencias entre los objetos.
130 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

Área 2
Primer ciclo (0-3 años) Segundo ciclo (3-6 años)
Clasificaciones atendiendo a un Discriminación de algunos
criterio y ordenaciones de dos o atributos de objetos y materias.
tres elementos por tamaño. Interés por la clasificación de
Realización de acciones sobre elementos. Relaciones de
elementos y colecciones como pertenencia y no pertenencia.
juntar, distribuir, hacer Identificación de cualidades y sus
correspondencias y contar grados. Ordenación gradual de
elementos, aproximándose a la elementos. Uso contextualizado
cuantificación no numérica de los primeros números
(muchos, pocos, algunos) y ordinales.
numérica (uno, dos y tres), Observación y toma de
manifestando satisfacción por los conciencia del valor funcional de
logros conseguidos. los números y de su utilidad en la
Anticipación de algunas rutinas o vida cotidiana.
actividades diarias Exploración e identificación de
experimentando las primeras situaciones en que se hace
vivencias del tiempo (como hora necesario medir. Algunas
de comer o del patio) y unidades convencionales y no
estimación intuitiva de su convencionales e instrumentos de
duración. medida. Aproximación a su uso.
Interés por observar los Interés y curiosidad por los
elementos de la naturaleza (tierra, instrumentos de medida.
agua, nubes, etc.) y animales y Estimación intuitiva y medida del
plantas, y descubrir algunas de tiempo. Ubicación temporal de
sus características. actividades de la vida cotidiana.
Adaptación de los ritmos Detección de regularidades
biológicos propios a las temporales, como ciclo o
secuencias de la vida cotidiana, frecuencia.
ajustando su comportamiento a Observación de algunas
dichas situaciones y modificaciones ocasionadas por
desarrollando actitudes de ayuda el paso del tiempo en los
y colaboración. elementos del entorno.
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 131

Área 3
Primer ciclo (0-3 años) Segundo ciclo (3-6 años)
Utilización progresivamente Uso progresivo, acorde con la
ajustada de la lengua oral en edad, de léxico variado y con
situaciones de comunicación creciente precisión,
habituales para denominar la estructuración apropiada de
realidad. frases, entonación adecuada y
pronunciación clara.

El análisis de los contenidos de la tabla 7 pone de manifiesto que en el


documento legislativo vigente en España se enfatiza la exploración
física de los atributos de los objetos: “discriminación de algunos
atributos de objetos y materias”; “identificaciones de cualidades”; etc.,
son algunas de las propuestas que van apareciendo para ayudar a los
alumnos a comprender los atributos en general y los atributos
mesurables en particular.
Su comprensión se consigue a partir de experiencias directas de
comparación de objetos, contar unidades y realizar conexiones entre
conceptos espaciales y el número (Alsina 2006). Algunos contenidos de
la tabla 7 mencionan estos aspectos, como por ejemplo: “percepción de
semejanzas y diferencias entre los objetos”; “interés por la clasificación
de elementos”; “ordenación gradual de elementos”; etc. De todas
formas, estos contenidos se refieren mayoritariamente a relaciones
cualitativas entre objetos, pero no hacen referencia directa a las
magnitudes. Únicamente aparece un contenido en el 2º ciclo que se
refiere explícitamente a este bloque de contenidos matemáticos:
“Exploración e identificación de situaciones en que se hace necesario
medir. Algunas unidades convencionales y no convencionales e
instrumentos de medida. Aproximación a su uso. Interés y curiosidad
por los instrumentos de medida”, además de otro contenido que hace
referencia a la medida del tiempo: “estimación intuitiva y medida del
tiempo”. En términos generales, pues, las orientaciones curriculares
recogen los principales aspectos a considerar en el trabajo de la medida
en las primeras edades, aunque hacen poco hincapié en el proceso de
medición.
132 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

Tabla 8
Contenidos de estadística y probabilidad en la Orden ECI/3960/2007
Área 1
Primer ciclo (0-3 años) Segundo ciclo (3-6 años)

Área 2
Primer ciclo (0-3 años) Segundo ciclo (3-6 años)
Cuantificación no numérica de
colecciones (muchos, pocos).
Comparación cuantitativa entre
colecciones de objetos.
Relaciones de igualdad y de
desigualdad (igual que, más que,
menos que).
Estimación cuantitativa exacta de
colecciones y uso de números
cardinales referidos a cantidades
manejables.
Utilización oral de la serie
numérica para contar.
Observación y toma de
conciencia del valor funcional de
los números y de su utilidad en la
vida cotidiana.
Área 3
Primer ciclo (0-3 años) Segundo ciclo (3-6 años)

A partir del análisis realizado se evidencia que todavía hay una escasa
presencia de contenidos de estadística y probabilidad en las
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 133

orientaciones curriculares nacionales. Aunque se empiezan a señalar


algunos contenidos muy relacionados con el conocimiento numérico,
como por ejemplo la comparación cuantitativa entre colecciones de
objetos, o el uso de la serie numérica para contar, todavía no se
explicitan contenidos relacionados con la organización de datos, su su
representación a través de gráficos sencillos y su posterior
interpretación, como se señala en Alsina (2013).
Las Prácticas Matemáticas en las Aulas de Educación Infantil
En España, las orientaciones curriculares vigentes que se han analizado
en el apartado anterior abogan por trabajar con los niños de las primeras
edades desde un enfoque interdisciplinar y globalizado:
El currículo se estructura en tres áreas diferenciadas, describiendo
para cada una de ellas los objetivos y criterios de evaluación para
el conjunto de la etapa y los contenidos para cada uno de los dos
ciclos; no obstante, buena parte de los contenidos de un área
adquieren sentido desde la perspectiva de las otras dos, con las que
están en estrecha relación, dado el carácter globalizador de la
etapa. (BOE, 2008, pág. 1016)
Se trata, como indica Fourez (2008), de partir de un enfoque
interdisciplinar que permita construir saberes adecuados para una
situación, utilizar diferentes disciplinas con esta finalidad y que no
implique la desvalorización de conocimientos de las disciplinas usadas
ni de las personas que los aplican.
En estas mismas instrucciones se ofrecen pautas metodológicas para
que los profesionales de esta etapa educativa planifiquen su actividad
docente en base a las necesidades de los alumnos:
Los métodos de trabajo en ambos ciclos se basarán en las
experiencias, en la actividad infantil y en el juego, y se aplicarán
en un ambiente de seguridad, afecto y confianza para potenciar la
autoestima y la integración social”; “los contenidos de la
Educación infantil se abordarán por medio de propuestas
integradas que tengan interés y sean significativas. (Fourez, 2008,
pág. 1017)
134 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

Se defiende, pues, la implementación de prácticas educativas que


consideren las formas de adquisición de conocimiento de los niños de
las primeras edades -situaciones de aprendizaje significativas centradas
en la acción- con el propósito de favorecer en niños y niñas el proceso
de descubrimiento y representación de los diferentes contextos que
componen el entorno infantil, así como facilitar progresivamente su
inserción y participación en ellos. Desde este marco curricular, se
aprecia que la finalidad de la Educación Infantil es favorecer el
desarrollo integral y armónico de los niños para que progresivamente
adquieran las competencias necesarias que les permitan desenvolverse
mejor en su contexto inmediato, entendiendo por contexto la realidad
en la que se aprende y sobre la que se aprende.
Desde el ámbito de la Educación Matemática, Lacasta y Wilhelmi
(2008) señalan que este principio de globalización de la enseñanza
-junto con el carácter elemental de los conocimientos logico-
matemáticos, la atención a la diversidad y el respeto al proceso
cognitivo individual- puede dificultar la determinación de propuestas de
enseñanza para Educación Infantil puesto que, en muchas ocasiones,
según estos autores desemboca en una utilización empirista de los
recursos disponibles (temporales, materiales y personales) que producen
situaciones de riesgo, donde la actividad de los niños es sólo una
caricatura de nociones, procesos y significados pretendidos (o
potencialmente admisibles) en la etapa. Ello conlleva la necesidad de
replantear las prácticas matemáticas que se llevan a cabo en las aulas de
Educación Infantil. En Alsina (2010) se postulan los principales
contextos de aprendizaje que se usan en las aulas para desarrollar el
pensamiento matemático, y se realiza una propuesta para establecer su
frecuencia de uso más recomendable.
En esta propuesta no se descarta ningún contexto, sólo se informa
sobre la conveniencia de restringir algunos contextos de aprendizaje a
un uso ocasional durante las primeras edades de escolarización y, por
eso, se plantea como una herramienta que puede ser útil para el
profesorado preocupado por hacer de su metodología una garantía de
educación matemática.
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 135

Figura 3 . Pirámide de la Educación Matemática (Alsina, 2010)

En la base de este diagrama piramidal están los contextos que


necesitan todos los niños para aprender y que, por lo tanto, se podrían y
deberían “consumir” diariamente para desarrollar el pensamiento
matemático. Ahí están actividades que se fundamentan en la EMR de
Freudenthal (1991), como por ejemplo las situaciones problemáticas que
surgen en la vida cotidiana de cada día; la observación y el análisis de
los elementos matemáticos de nuestro contexto, etc. Después aparece la
manipulación con materiales diversos, dado que la acción sobre los
objetos posibilita que los alumnos puedan elaborar esquemas mentales
de conocimiento, en la línea planteada por Piaget (1950), o
posteriormente por autores como Canals (2001) o Berdonneau (2008),
entre otros; o bien el uso de juegos, entendidos como la resolución de
situaciones problemáticas. Después aparecen los recursos que deben
“consumirse” alternativamente varias veces a la semana, como las
situaciones de aprendizaje mediante recursos literarios con un contenido
matemático: cuentos populares, narraciones, novelas, canciones,
adivinanzas, etc. (Whitin, 1994; Torra, 1997a); o los recursos
tecnológicos como el ordenador y la calculadora. Por último, en la
cúspide, se encuentran los contextos de aprendizaje que deberían usarse
de forma ocasional: los libros o cuadernos de actividades, que han sido
analizados por múltiples autores (Salgado y Salinas, 2009, Ferreira y
136 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

Mayorga, 2010). Alsina (2010) y Olmos y Alsina (2010) señalan que en


la práctica diaria de muchos profesionales este organigrama piramidal
está invertido en el sentido que en la base están los cuadernos de
actividades, mientras que la matematización del entorno, el uso de
materiales manipulables, juegos, etc. “se consumen muy poco”, a la vez
que plantean que la inversión de este organigrama piramidal conlleva
dificultades como por ejemplo aprendizajes poco significativos,
desmotivación, falta de comprensión, etc., que han dado lugar, en
términos generales, a una escasa alfabetización matemática.
Para evitar algunas de estas dificultades, junto con las que señalan
Lacasta y Wilhelmi (2008) sobre el posible uso empirista de los recursos
disponibles en el proceso de enseñanza-aprendizaje de las matemáticas
en Educación Infantil, Alsina (2010) plantea que un contexto de
aprendizaje (o un recurso) no es garantía de aprendizaje matemático si
no va acompañado de una buena planificación y gestión por parte de los
maestros. En este sentido se aporta una batería de diez preguntas sobre
el planteamiento y la gestión de las prácticas matemáticas elaborada por
expertos en educación matemática (CREAMAT, 2009), que se propone
al profesorado de Cataluña para analizar el nivel competencial de las
actividades:
Tabla 9
Preguntas que pueden servir de indicadores del nivel de riqueza
competencial de una actividad (CREAMAT, 2009)
Las siguientes preguntas pueden orientar el profesorado sobre el grado
en que en una actividad se trabajan las competencias del alumnado. Que
una actividad sea rica para desarrollar las competencias depende de
cómo se plantea la actividad, es decir, de sus características, pero
también de cómo se gestiona en el aula. Por esta razón se agrupan las
preguntas en dos bloques:
Con respecto al planteamiento, es interesante preguntarse:
- ¿Es una actividad que tiene por objetivo responder una pregunta,
resolver un reto? La pregunta puede referirse a un contexto cotidiano,
puede enmarcarse en un juego, puede tratar de una regularidad o hecho
matemático.
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 137

- ¿Permite aplicar conocimientos ya adquiridos y hacer nuevos


aprendizajes?
- ¿Ayuda a relacionar conocimientos diversos dentro de la matemática o
con otras materias?
- ¿Es una actividad que se puede desarrollar de diferentes formas y
estimula la curiosidad y la creatividad del alumnado?
- ¿Implica el uso de instrumentos varios como por ejemplo material que
se pueda manipular, herramientas de dibujo, software, calculadora, etc.?
En la gestión de la actividad, es interesante preguntarse:
- ¿Se fomenta la autonomía y la iniciativa del alumnado?
- ¿Se interviene a partir de preguntas adecuadas más que con
explicaciones?
- ¿Se pone en juego el trabajo y el esfuerzo individual pero también el
trabajo en parejas o en grupos que conduce a hablar, argumentar,
convencer, consensuar, etc.?
- ¿Implica razonar sobre lo que se ha hecho y justificar los resultados?
- ¿Se avanza en la representación de manera cada vez más precisa y se
usa progresivamente lenguaje matemático más adecuado?
Si se analizan con detalle las diez preguntas de la tabla 9 se aprecia que
en la base de su formulación están los diferentes procesos de
pensamiento matemático descritos por la NCTM (2003): la resolución
de problemas, el razonamiento y la demostración, la comunicación, las
conexiones y la representación.
En esta línea, Alsina (2012b) formula que las prácticas matemáticas en
el aula de Educación Infantil deberían ir más allá de los contenidos para
centrarse en los procesos de pensamiento matemático, en sintonía con
diversos organismos internacionales como la Organización para la
Cooperación y el Desarrollo Económico de la Unión Europea (OCDE,
2006) o bien el Consejo Nacional de Profesores de Matemáticas de
Estados Unidos (NCTM, 2003), que han ido alertando sobre el
problema que supone enseñar matemáticas a partir de un currículum
orientado exclusivamente a la adquisición de contenidos. De manera
muy sintética, estos organismos señalan que una enseñanza de las
matemáticas centrada sólo en los contenidos puede ser útil para tener un
138 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

buen rendimiento matemático en la escuela, pero ello no presupone la


capacidad necesaria para aplicar los contenidos aprendidos a la vida
cotidiana. Desde este marco, de Guzmán (2001) ya puso de manifiesto
que la matemática es, sobre todo, saber hacer, es una ciencia en la que el
método predomina claramente sobre el contenido, por lo que los
procesos deberían ser el centro de la educación matemática. En este
sentido, también Niss (2002) señala que la mirada del proceso de
enseñanza-aprendizaje de las matemáticas focalizada en los contenidos
se centra exclusivamente en la adquisición de símbolos y de técnicas, y
no tanto en su uso significativo.
La combinación de contenidos y procesos matemáticos favorece
nuevas miradas que enfatizan no sólo el contenido y el proceso, sino -y
especialmente- las relaciones que se establecen entre ellos. Desde esta
perspectiva, Torra (2007b) plantea una organización cartesiana en la que
cada espacio relaciona un contenido con un proceso (ver tabla 10).
Partir de este enfoque globalizado del conocimiento matemático ya
desde las primeras edades, en el que todo está integrado, nos parece
especialmente significativo, dado que cuando los niños usan las
relaciones existentes en los contenidos matemáticos, en los procesos
matemáticos y las existentes entre ambos, progresa su conocimiento de
la disciplina y crece la habilidad para aplicar conceptos y destrezas con
más eficacia en diferentes ámbitos de su vida cotidiana.
Tabla 10
Relación cartesiana entre contenidos y procesos matemáticos (Torra,
2007b)
Álgebra Números y Geometría Medida Análisis de
operaciones datos
Resolución de
problemas
Razonamiento y
demostradicón
Comunicación
Conexiones
Representación
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 139

En el marco de una tesis doctoral en curso, Coronata y Alsina (2012)


analizan la presencia de los estándares de procesos en las prácticas de
enseñanza y aprendizaje de las matemáticas en Educación Infantil. Para
ello, entrecruzan los diferentes contextos de aprendizaje planteados por
Alsina (2010) con los procesos matemáticos de la NCTM (2003) al
partir de la base que para favorecer el desarrollo del pensamiento
matemático es necesario considerar, por un lado, diferentes contextos
de aprendizaje para atender a la diversidad de niños que hay en las
aulas; y por otro lado, considerar las diferentes herramientas para
trabajar los contenidos. Los resultados preliminares se muestran en la
tabla 11.
Tabla 11
Relación entre la “Pirámide de la Educación Matemática” y los
procesos matemáticos (Coronata y Alsina, 2012)
Pirámide de la
Educación Procesos matemáticos (NCTM, 2003)
Matemática
(Alsina, 2010)
Situaciones Resolución de Problemas
cotidianas, Generan estrategias para matematizar el entorno y
matematización despejar incógnitas que se les presentan.
del entorno, En los diversos contextos (aula, patio, plaza, playa,
vivencias con el parque, etc) observan, exploran, relacionan, cuentan,
propio cuerpo. comparan para generar situaciones problemas y
encontrar solución.
Razonamiento y demostración
Vivencian distintas estrategias, las argumentan,
verifican su estado y las modifican si es necesario.
Comunicación
Explican su razonamiento matemático a través de un
lenguaje matemático simple y claro.
Trabajan la resolución de situaciones problemáticas
en forma colectiva para generar discusión, análisis y
justificaciones a las respuestas encontradas.
140 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

Conexiones
Conectan las ideas matemáticas entre sí y aplican las
ideas matemáticas a otros contextos.
Establecen conexiones de las matemáticas con otras
disciplinas como por ejemplo la psicomotricidad
(movimiento).
Representaciones
Diseñan y usan representaciones para organizar,
registrar y comunicar ideas matemáticas de la vida
cotidiana.
Recursos Resolución de Problemas
manipulativos, Resuelven problemas matemáticos utilizando
materiales diversos recursos manipulativos concretos según la
inespecíficos estrategia seleccionada.
comercializados Razonamiento y demostración
Recursos Resolución de Problemas
manipulativos, Resuelven problemas matemáticos utilizando
materiales diversos recursos manipulativos concretos según la
inespecíficos estrategia seleccionada.
comercializados Razonamiento y demostración
o diseñados. Hacen investigación matemática, desarrollan
conjeturas y evaluan los argumentos y pruebas con
apoyo de material concreto manipulativo.
Comunicación
Comunican su pensamiento matemático con apoyo
concreto, de manera coherente y clara a los
profesores y demás compañeros y compañeras.
Conexiones
Comprenden cómo se relacionan y organizan las
ideas matemáticas. Aplican los descubrimientos
matemáticos en otros contextos no matemáticos.
Representaciones
Seleccionan y aplican ideas matemáticas con apoyo
de recursos manipulativos para modelizar e
interpretar distintos fenómenos (físicos, sociales y
matemáticos)
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 141

Recursos Resolución de Problemas


lúdicos. Juegos Simulan a través de juegos las estrategias aplicadas
para solucionar las diversas situaciones
problemáticas.
Razonamiento y demostración
Revisan el razonamiento y evalúan argumentos
matemáticos a través de recursos lúdicos.
Comunicación
Organizan y consolidan el pensamiento matemático
a través de la comunicación en situaciones lúdicas
colectivas.
Conexiones
Reconocen y aplican las ideas matemáticas en
contextos no matemáticos a través de juegos y
situaciones lúdicas.
Recursos Resolución de problemas
literarios: Construyen nuevo conocimiento matemático a través
Narraciones, de la comprensión de situaciones que parecen en los
adivinanzas, cuentos y en las canciones, o en los retos planteados
canciones, etc. a través de adivinanzas.
Conexiones
Establecen conexiones de las matemáticas con otras
disciplinas como por ejemplo el lenguaje (cuentos) o
la música (canciones).
Recursos Resolución de Problemas
tecnológicos, Resuelven problemas matemáticos que le presenta la
computadoras, tecnología, en algunos software se puede aplicar
calculadoras, distintas estrategias según necesidad.
software.
Libros, textos Resolución de Problemas
material Reflexionan sobre el proceso que desarrolla al
impreso, guías, resolver un problema que se le da. Se espera que
fichas pueda aplicar distintas estrategias de solución.
142 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

En la tabla 11 se pone de manifiesto que desde la base de la pirámide,


en los tres primeros niveles (las situaciones cotidianas, los recursos
manipulativos y los recursos lúdicos) se observa mayor facilidad para
trabajar los procesos matemáticos, mientras que a medida que se avanza
hacia aquellos contextos más cercanos a la cúspide de la pirámide, al ser
más restrictivos, rígidos y “pobres”, resulta más difícil poder abordar en
ellos todos los procesos matemáticos porque pareciera que viene todo
dado, lo cual limita la indagación, expresión y normal exploración
infantil.
La combinación de contextos de aprendizaje y procesos matemáticos
ofrece algunos elementos para reflexionar sobre la propia práctica
docente. Desde esta perspectiva, el rol que ejerce el profesorado de
Educación Infantil es determinante, puesto que las diversas estrategias
metodológicas que considera con xmayor frecuencia en el trabajo
pedagógico con los alumnos van en directa relación al logro de la
alfabetización matemática de los alumnos de las primeras edades de
escolarización.
Conclusiones
En este artículo se ha presentado, en primer lugar, el estado de la
investigación en Didáctica de las Matemáticas en España. A partir de la
revisión de los trabajos presentados en la SEIEM desde 1997 hasta
2012, se ha puesto de manifiesto en primer lugar la escasa producción
de investigaciones sobre Didáctica de las Matemáticas en Educación
Infantil en la SEIEM desde 1997 hasta 2010 (Gómez, Cañadas, Bracho,
Restrepo y Aristizábal, 2011; Sierra y Gascón, 2011), y el cambio de
tendencia que se ha producido a partir de 2011, cuando se crea el Grupo
de investigación IEMI en el marco de la SEIEM. En términos generales,
diversos estudios bibliométricos señalan que esta tendencia se da
también en otros contextos. Así, por ejemplo, Llinares (2008) concluye
a partir de un extenso trabajo de revisión que la investigación española
en revistas situadas en los listados de JCR-Social Sciences tenía, en el
momento de redactar el informe de su estudio, una presencia pequeña,
que en parte vincula al poco reconocimiento que las revistas de
Educación Matemática tienen en este listado. Sierra y Gascón (2011)
concluyen que en el marco del PME (The International Group for the
Psychology of Mathematics Education) son numerosos estos trabajos
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 143

exclusivamente entre los años 1976 y 1986. Todo ello permite llegar a la
conclusión que la presencia de la investigación española en Didáctica de
las Matemáticas en Educación Infantil en el panorama internacional es,
en términos generales, parecido al nacional, lo que podría atribuirse a la
relativa juventud de la investigación en Educación Matemática en
España, como señala Blanco (2011).
En segundo lugar, se ha concluido que se está empezando a crear un
campo de investigación en Didáctica de las Matemáticas en Educación
Infantil que irá cohesionándose a medida que las investigaciones que se
realicen se sustenten en un determinado enfoque teórico, una
metodología de investigación concreta, y un contenido claro que se
aborde desde un enfoque didáctico concreto (Sierra y Gascón, 2011).
Hasta el momento, y usando un criterio formal de clasificación en base
al contenido matemático que aparece en los trabajos revisados, se han
detectado tres grandes temas: a) la formación inicial de maestros de
Educación Infantil, que se trata desde un enfoque didáctico concreto
como por ejemplo la Teoría de Situaciones Didácticas (TSD), la Teoría
Antropológica de lo Didáctico (TAD) o la Educación Matemática
Realista (EMR); o bien a partir de diferentes métodos de formación
activa, como por ejemplo el Aprendizaje Basado en Problemas (ABP) o
el Aprendizaje Colaborativo; b) la adquisición y el desarrollo del
pensamiento matemático infantil en general, y más concretamente el
desarrollo del pensamiento numérico, con algunos trabajos que se
fundamentan ya en un enfoque didáctico concreto, como por ejemplo
los realizados desde la perspectiva de la Teoría Antropológica de lo
Didáctico (TAD) o bien de la Educación Matemática Realista (EMR); c)
los recursos o contextos de aprendizaje para favorecer el desarrollo del
pensamiento matemático como los contextos de vida cotidiana, los
juegos, los cuentos, los gráficos, etc.
A partir de los datos aportados hasta el momento por la investigación
en Didáctica de las Matemáticas en Educación Infantil en España,
parece obvio concluir que no hay un cuerpo de trabajos suficientemente
consolidado que permita diseñar las orientaciones curriculares de la
etapa de Educación Infantil en relación a los conocimientos
matemáticos que deberían enseñarse en las primeras edades. Como se ha
señalado, la mayoría de trabajos que tratan aspectos relacionados con
los contenidos curriculares se refieren a la numeración (Fernández,
144 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

2002; Bosch, Castro y Segovia, 2005; Lacasta y Wilhelmi, 2008;


Salgado y Salinas, 2009, 2011, 2012; Nuñez, de Castro, del Pozo y
Mendoza, 2010; Alsina, 2011b; entre otros). En estas investigaciones se
tratan temas relacionados con el conocimiento de la secuencia numérica,
la adquisición de la competencia numérica, las propuestas de enseñanza-
aprendizaje del número o la notación numérica, que en términos
generales se recogen en las orientaciones curriculares vigentes, aunque
se han detectado también algunas omisiones en dichas instrucciones
como por ejemplo las fases de adquisición de la notación simbólica, que
se destaca aquí dado el tiempo que se dedica a practicar el trazo de los
números durante la etapa de Educación Infantil, y que por lo tanto deja
de dedicarse a otras propuestas de enseñanza-aprendizaje encaminadas a
favorecer la comprensión de los números, antes que su representación
convencional (Alsina, 2011b).
Por otro lado, son prácticamente inexistentes o no existen datos que
provengan de la investigación en Didáctica de las Matemáticas en
Educación Infantil en nuestro país sobre otros bloques de contenido
como la geometría, la estadística y la probabilidad, etc., por lo que
resulta imposible hasta el momento poder organizar el currículum de
matemáticas en las primeras edades a partir de los datos aportados por la
investigación. En este sentido, existen actualmente diversos documentos
de referencia a nivel internacional que establecen los estándares de
contenido (NCTM, 2003) o bien los estándares comunes para las
matemáticas (CCSSI, 2010) que pueden contribuir a diseñar currículums
que faciliten la alfabetización matemática en las primeras edades. En
este artículo se han contrastado estos referentes internacionales con las
orientaciones curriculares vigentes en nuestro país, y hay diversos
aspectos que deben ser mencionados: en primer lugar, los referentes
internacionales tratan exclusivamente sobre educación matemática,
mientras que las orientaciones curriculares españolas exponen, desde un
enfoque globalizado, los diferentes contenidos. Así, mientras los
estándares de contenido se organizan en cinco bloques (álgebra,
numeración y cálculo, geometría, medición, y análisis de datos y
probabilidad), y se ofrecen orientaciones para los diferentes niveles
educativos organizados por grupos de edades (las orientaciones
correspondientes a la Educación Infantil se encuentran en los niveles
Pre-K-2, de los 4 a los 8 años aproximadamente); en el currículum
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 145

español los contenidos se organizan en tres áreas de conocimiento


(conocimiento de sí mismo y autonomía personal; conocimiento del
entorno; y lenguajes: comunicación y representación); y en dos grupos
de edades (primer ciclo: 0-3 años; y segundo ciclo: 3-6 años). Como se
ha indicado, desde el punto de vista de la educación matemática,
Lacasta y Wilhelmi (2008) señalan las posibles desventajas de este
enfoque globalizado, mientras que otros abogan por lo contrario, como
por ejemplo Canals, (1993), quien pone de manifiesto que a pesar del
esfuerzo realizado por ofrecer un enfoque globalizado, en realidad se
vuelve a ofrecer una visión parcelada del conocimiento ya que las
asignaturas se incluyen dentro de un área. De todas formas, a partir del
análisis realizado en este artículo puede concluirse que las matemáticas
se encuentran presentes, aunque de diferentes formas, en las tres áreas
de conocimiento del currículum de Educación Infantil y, por lo tanto, se
presentan desde una perspectiva globalizada que debe favorecer el
desarrollo integral y armónico de los niños, más que la consecución de
contenidos conceptuales o de procedimientos específicos de un área
(Lacasta y Wilhelmi, 2008).
A partir del contraste entre los referentes internacionales y el
currículum de Educación Infantil, se aprecia que en el documento
legislativo español se realizan omisiones importantes en relación a
contenidos matemáticos que sería muy oportuno trabajar en las primeras
edades como por ejemplo los patrones (series de repetición y de
crecimiento), por su relación con el conocimiento de las funciones en
particular y del álgebra en general; las operaciones aritméticas de suma
y resta, su comprensión, o las relaciones entre ambas operaciones; las
transformaciones geométricas, como por ejemplo los giros y la simetría;
o bien los contenidos de estadística y probabilidad.
La tercera cuestión que se ha tratado en este artículo son las prácticas
matemáticas que se realizan en las aulas de Educación Infantil en
nuestro país, y los vínculos que mantienen dichas prácticas con la
investigación en Didáctica de las Matemáticas en Educación Infantil y
las orientaciones curriculares. Desde un punto de vista genérico, Murillo
(2006) expone que la indagación empírica en el ámbito de la
investigación educativa no ha sabido ser útil para la fundamentación de
la práctica docente, no ha creado un cuerpo de conocimientos sólidos e
146 Alsina - Educación Matemática en Infantil

indiscutibles, ni siquiera ha conseguido que los pocos resultados


encontrados llegasen a los destinatarios, haciendo patente el abismo que
separa la práctica y la investigación educativa, los docentes y los
investigadores. En esta línea, se han podido identificar algunos estudios
del ámbito de la Didáctica de las Matemáticas que señalan la
discrepancia entre las prácticas matemáticas y las directrices oficiales,
como por ejemplo el trabajo de Lacasta y Wilhelmi (2008), en el que se
pone de manifiesto un desajuste entre el peso de las matemáticas en las
colecciones de fichas y en las directrices oficiales, lo que para estos
autores es un indicador de que las nociones matemáticas se confían a
este material. También Alsina (2010) y Olmos y Alsina (2010) postulan
que los cuadernos de actividades siguen siendo el recurso más utilizado
para enseñar matemáticas en las primeras edades, mientras que la
matematización del entorno, el uso de materiales manipulables, juegos,
etc. se utilizan muy poco. En diversos estudios comparativos entre la
enseñanza de las matemáticas y la lengua en las primeras edades, Alsina
y Llach (2012) y Llach y Alsina (2012) llegan también a conclusiones
similares.
Es en este sentido que en este artículo se ha planteado la necesidad de
replantear las prácticas matemáticas que se llevan a cabo en el aula de
Educación Infantil. Para ello se han tomado en consideración los
diferentes contextos de aprendizaje de las matemáticas en las primeras
edades (Alsina, 2010) con los procesos matemáticos NCTM (2003) al
partir de la base que para favorecer el desarrollo del pensamiento
matemático es necesario considerar, por un lado, diferentes contextos de
aprendizaje para atender a la diversidad de niños que hay en las aulas; y
por otro lado, considerar las diferentes herramientas para trabajar los
contenidos. Los resultados preliminares de una tesis doctoral en curso
(Coronata y Alsina, 2012) sugieren que los contextos de aprendizaje de
las matemáticas que parten de situaciones cotidianas, recursos
manipulativos y recursos lúdicos se observa mayor facilidad para
trabajar los procesos matemáticos, mientras que otros contextos como
los cuadernos de actividades, al ser más restrictivos, rígidos y “pobres”,
dificultan poder abordar en ellos todos los procesos matemáticos ya que
limitan la indagación, expresión y normal exploración infantil. A partir
de estos datos se concluye que el rol que ejerce el profesorado de
Educación Infantil es muy relevante, puesto que los saberes docentes
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 147

(disciplinares y didácticos) determinan el grado de alfabetización


matemática de los alumnos de Educación Infantil.
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REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education, 2 (1) 153

Àngel Alsina es profesor agregado en la Universidad de Girona,


en el departamento de Didácticas Específicas; España.
Dirección de Contacto: Para correspondencia directa con el au-
tor, diríjanse a Universitat de Girona, Plaça Sant Domènec, 9;
17071, Girona. Dirección de E-mail: angel.alsina@udg.edu.
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Towards Equity in Mathematics Education. Gender, Culture and


Diversity.

Francesc Rodríguez1

1) York University, Canada.

Date of publication: February 24th, 2013

To cite this article: Rodríguez, (2013). Towards Equity in Mathematics


Education. Gender, Culture and Diversity. REDIMAT - Journal of Research
in Mathematics Education, 2(1), 154-156. doi: 10.4471/redimat.2013.23

To link this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.4471/redimat.2013.23

PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE

The terms and conditions of use are related to the Open Journal
System and to Creative Commons Non-Commercial and Non-
Derivative License.
REDIMAT ­ Journal of Research in Mathematics Education Vol. 2 No. 1
February 2013 pp. 154­156

Review
Fogasz, H., and Rivera, F. (Eds.) (2012). Towards Equity in Mathematics
Education. Gender, Culture and Diversity. Berlin – Heidelberg:
Springer.

Towards Equity in Mathematics Education es un libro de recomendada


lectura para aquellos profesionales de la educación matemática que se
plantean cómo abordar cuestiones relativas a las desigualdades entre
grupos sociales y promover una mayor equidad en la enseñanza de las
matemáticas.
Con la equidad como tema de fondo, aporta análisis y respuestas sobre
uno de los retos más importantes de los sistemas educativos actuales.
Por un lado, los profesionales de la educación han de aplicar
actuaciones educativas efectivas, es decir, que aseguren la adquisición
de los contenidos de aprendizaje considerados importantes. En este
sentido, las matemáticas ocupan un lugar central ya que son un conjunto
de contenidos instrumentales que permiten el acceso a otros
aprendizajes. Por otro lado, y para prevenir desigualdades, la eficiencia
en la adquisición de los aprendizajes matemáticos se ha de poner al
alcance a todo el alumnado, con un objetivo de equidad. El libro parte
de la importancia que tiene el acceso a la educación matemática para
avanzar en equidad, y de hecho, aborda esta cuestión a partir de dos
variables que tradicionalmente se han asociado con desigualdades tanto
en la educación matemática como en la sociedad en general: el género y
la cultura.
El libro, editado por Helen Fogasz y Ferdinand Rivera, es un
compendio de diferentes artículos de investigación de un conjunto de

2013 Hipatia Press


ISSN 2014­3621
DOI: 10.4471/redimat.2013.23
155 Francesc Rodríguez ­ Towards Equity in Mathematics Education

autores y autoras sobre una diversidad de temas. Una parte de los


artículos son reproducciones de artículos publicados previamente en la
revista ZDM ­ The International Journal on Mathematics Education,
entre 1999 y 2008, por lo que van precedidos de prefacios en que los
autores que actualizan sus contribuciones. El segundo conjunto de
artículos son artículos originales que pretenden cubrir aspectos no
tratados por los anteriores; en este caso, vienen acompañados de
comentarios de investigadores o investigadoras que aportan su
reflexión sobre el tema.
El volumen está formado por un total de 19 capítulos estructurados en
cuatro partes, cada una de ellas centrada en un tema, aunque varios de
los artículos abarcan cuestiones que tienen que ver con más de un
bloque. La primera parte, sobre Equidad y género, consta de seis
capítulos que tratan aspectos tales como feminismo y justicia social en
relación a las matemáticas, o estereotipos de roles de género, actitudes
y formación de la identidad de los alumnos y alumnas en relación a las
matemáticas y el género.
La segunda parte, sobre Equidad y Cultura, está formada por seis
capítulos sobre temas como la etnomatemática, las perspectivas de los
padres inmigrantes sobre la educación matemática de sus hijos, la
educación matemática de personas adultas y su relación con la
reducción de desigualdades sociales, o las clases matemáticas
multilingües, entre otros.
La tercera parte trata sobre la Equidad y aspectos relacionados con el
currículum tales como la organización escolar de la educación
matemática o el alumnado con altas capacidades. Cuatro capítulos
componen este bloque.
La cuarta parte se centra en la Equidad en relación a aspectos
biológicos, con tres capítulos sobre aspectos tales como las relaciones
entre biología y diferencias de género en las matemáticas, la enseñanza
de las matemáticas al alumnado con dificultades de aprendizaje, y las
relaciones entre género, cultura y pensamiento matemático desde el
punto de vista de la neurociencia.
En las diferentes contribuciones que se recogen hay combinación de
teoría y práctica, con una vocación de orientar la práctica educativa
hacia una mayor equidad. Como los mismos editores explican: “We are
just as concerned about efforts that seek to translate evidence to norms,
REDIMAT ­ Journal of Research in Mathematics Education, 2(1) 156

but we hope the chapters in the volume generate further productive


discussions in terms of how equity gaps can be eliminated so that all
learners, in whatever category of diversity they are located, are able to
achieve success in their encounters with an engagement in the learning
of mathematics” (p.2). En conjunto, el libro pretende contribuir a cubrir
vacíos existentes en la equidad entre diferentes grupos de alumnos y
alumnas para que todos puedan tener éxito en el aprendizaje de las
matemáticas.

Francesc Rodríguez, York University


frodrig@yorku.ca
Instructions for authors, subscriptions and further details:

http://redimat.hipatiapress.com

List of Reviewers

Date of publication: February 24th, 201 3

To cite this list of reviewers: (201 3). List of Reviewers. Journal of Research
in Mathematics Education, 2 (1), 157. doi:
http://doi.dx.org/10.4471/redimat.2013.24

To link this article: http://dx.doi.org/1 0.4471 /remie.201 3.24

PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE

The terms and conditions of use are related to the Open Journal System
and to Creative Commons Non-Commercial and Non-Derivative License.
REDIMAT - Journal ofResearch in Mathematics Education Vol. 2 No. 1
February 2013 pp. 157.

List of Reviewers
On behalf of the REDIMAT - Journal of Research in Mathematics Education
we deeply appreciate contributions provided by the reviewers to the quality of
this journal, during 2012. The journal owes this debt with those who have been
peer reviewers during this period. Yours sincerely,
Javier Díez-Palomar
Silvia Molina
Berta Barquero
Editors
Alonso, Josebe Puigvert, Lidia
Alvarez, Pilar Rodriguez, Francesc
Appelbaum, Peter Sampé, Marc
Bento, Paulo Serradell, Olga
Blanco, Hilbert Tellado, Itxaso
Burgués, Ana Villarejo, Beatriz
Campdepadrós, Roger Yuste, Montse
Di Paola, Benedetto
Fernandes, Anthony
FitzSimons, Gail
Garcia, Paloma
Giménez, Joaquim
Gomez, Aitor
Lo Cicero, Maria
Lobo da Costa, Nielce
Melgar, Patricia
Montanuy, Manel
Palhares, Pedro
Petreñas, Cristina

2013 Hipatia Press


ISSN 2014-2862
DOI: 10.4471/remie.2013.24