A case study on the semiotic signs during a lecture of Cartesian plane

Sahin Danisman, Dilek Tanıslı


The use of signs in the teaching of mathematics plays a crucial role in students' cognition. Trying to understand what signs both students and teachers use in the mathematics classes may help us understand their meaning making processes. From this point of view, this paper aims to reveal the use of semiotic resources both by students and a teacher while lecturing Cartesian plane in seventh grade level. The study group of this qualitative study consisted of a teacher and her 29 seventh grade students. Two lectures delivered by the teacher on the Cartesian plane have been video-recorded. The semiotic analysis to make meanings from the linguistic and visual signs expressed through gestures and discourses has been conducted. According to the analysis of the data, links were explored between the signs in the class to present what the students and teacher actually were trying to say and how the signs used were reflected on the other side. What is more, the unclear directions and the in\-con\-sis\-ten\-cies between the discourses and gestures of~the teacher misled the students' thinking, which was revealed during the mathematical tasks. It seems that the teacher assumed that students think the same way with her.


semiotics, sign, mathematics, Cartesian plane, ordered pair


Arcavi, A.: 2003, The role of visual representations in the learning of mathematics, Educational Studies in Mathematics 52, 215–241.

Ball, T. S.: 2011, Exploring the learning of ratio by a semiotic process in a combined fifthand sixth-grade class (Doctoral dissertation), University of Nevada, US.

Barthes, R.: 1964/1983, Elements of Semiology (Trans. A. Lavers & C. Smith), Hill and Wang.

Berger, A. A.: 1984, Signs in contemporary culture: An Introduction to Semiotics, Longman.

Chandler, D.: 2017, Semiotics: The basics, Routledge.

Chapman, A.: 1995, Intertextuality in school mathematics: The case of functions, Linguistics and Education 7, 243–262.

Danesi, M.: 1994, Messages and Meanings: An introduction to semiotics, Canadian Scholar’s Press Inc.

Deely, J.: 1990, Basics of semiotics, Indiana University Press.

Ernest, P.: 2006, A semiotic perpective of mathematical activity: The case of number, Educational Sciences in Mathematics 61, 67–101.

Godino, J. D., Batanero, C.: 2003, Semiotic functions in teaching and learning mathematics, Educational perspectives on mathematics as semiosis: From thinking to interpreting to knowing, 149–167.

Houser, N., Kloesel, C.: 1992, The essential Peirce: Selected philosophical writings, Indiana University Press.

Langrehr, D.: 2003, From a semiotic perspective: Inference formation and critical comprehension of television advertising, retrieved from: http://www.readingonline.org/articles/langrehr/.

Lechte, J.: 2001, Fifty key contemporary thinkers: From structuralism to postmodernity, Routledge.

Morgan, C.: 2006, What does social semiotics have to offer mathematics education research?, Educational studies in mathematics 61(1–2), 219–245.

Moriarty, S. E.: 1996, Abduction and a theory of visual interpretation, retrieved from: http://www.spot.colorado.edu/~moriarts/abduction.html.

Nöth, W.: 1990, Handbook of semiotics, Indiana University Press.

Núñez, R. E.: 2009, Gesture, inscriptions, and abstraction: The embodied nature of mathematics or why mathematics education shouldn?t leave the math untouched, in: W. M. Roth (ed.), Mathematical representation at the interface of body and culture, Information Age Publishing, Charlotte, NC, 309–328.

Pimm, D.: 1995, Symbols and meanings in school mathematics, Routledge, London.

Presmeg, N., Radford, L., Roth, W. M., Kadunz, G.: 2018, Signs of signification: Semiotics in mathematics education research, Springer, Cham, Switzerland.

Radford, L.: 2000, Signs and meanings in students’ emergent algebraic thinking: a semiotic analysis, Educational Studies in Mathematics 42, 237–268.

Radford, L.: 2003, Gestures, speech, and the sprouting of signs: A semiotic-cultural approach to students’ types of generalization, Mathematical thinking and learning 5(1), 37–70.

Random House Electronic Dictionary: 2017, Random House Webster’s Electronic Dictionary and Thesaurus.

Saussure, F.: 1916/1983, Course in general linguistics (Trans. R. Harris), Duckworth.

Vygotsky, L. S.: 1997, Collected works (Vol. 4) (R. Rieber, Ed.), Plenum, New York.

Full Text: PDF

e-ISSN: 2450-341X, ISSN: 2080-9751

AUPC SDMP is on the List of the Ministry’s scored journals (part B) with 5 points for 2016