Working With Cultural-Historical Activity Theory


  • Wolff-Michael Roth University of Victoria
  • Luis Radford Université Laurentienne
  • Lionel LaCroix Brock University



cultural-historical activity theory, dialectical thinking, Leont'ev, Vygotsky, mathematics education, objectification, subjectification


This article focuses on the experiences of two researchers, Wolff-Michael ROTH and Luis RADFORD, using cultural-historical activity theory in mathematics education. The aim is to provide insights into the ways these researchers see and engage with activity theory, how they have come to adopt and expand it, and some of the challenges and concerns that they have had using it. These questions are not usually addressed within typical scientific papers. Yet, they are important for understanding both the dynamics of research and the practical use of cultural-historical activity theory. Since the format of research report papers is not necessarily well suited to convey personal experiences and thinking, the present article takes the form of a conversation, which provides an effective vehicle for exploring and articulating these matters. This provides a basis for understanding more deeply the underlying assumptions of this theory; its dynamics and how it is applied in research of mathematics practice, thinking, and learning; and insights into the manner in which experienced researchers grapple with the theoretical dimensions of their research.



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Author Biographies

Wolff-Michael Roth, University of Victoria

Wolff-Michael ROTH is research professor in the Griffith Institute for Educational Research at Griffith University, Mt. Gravatt, QLD. He researches knowing and learning related to mathematics and science across the lifespan. His fields of research include education, social studies of science, pragmatics, sociology, and semiotics.

Luis Radford, Université Laurentienne

Luis RADFORD is professor of Mathematics Education at École des sciences de l'éducation, Laurentian University, Canada. His research interests include the investigation of mathematics thinking and knowing from a cultural-semiotic embodied perspective, the historical and cultural underpinnings of cognition, and conceptual developments in phylogenesis and ontogenesis.

Lionel LaCroix, Brock University

Lionel LaCROIX is assistant professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Brock University, Canada. His research interests include mathematics education; mathematics learning for the workplace; and socio-cultural perspectives on mathematics practice, thinking and learning.




How to Cite

Roth, W.-M., Radford, L., & LaCroix, L. (2012). Working With Cultural-Historical Activity Theory. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 13(2).

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