Vanessa Sena Tomaz's seminar on her work with indigenous students in Brazil

"Mathematics between Indigenous and Market-based Logics of Life: Double Stimulation in Learning to Manage Money," March 22, 2018

March 22, 2018


This talk presents results from a research developed by members of the Cultural Historical Activity Theory in Educational Research (CHATER), Brazil, aligned with the Intercultural Indigenous Education field, which examined a school mathematics activity developed by a multiethnic group of Brazilian Indigenous undergraduate students. During the activity, the students were asked to manage their money provided by a social program scholarship given by the Brazilian government. We used this activity to investigate the mathematical learning of these Indigenous. The data were collected during an intervention, including ethnographic records from field notes, audio, video recording, and students’ notebooks covered at least 20 hours of classes, in total, over 2 semesters. The principle of double stimulation associated with Sannino’s Vygotskian model, in which  Cultural-Historical Activity Theory is based, was used to bring to light the dialectical contradiction emerged in a classroom activity and its overcoming when two different economic logics are in contact (reciprocity and redistribution vs. market exchange). This principle was used to discuss how the Indigenous students gained agency in their learning of mathematical ideas. First, we analyzed how the contradictions and conflict of motives manifested when Indigenous students are instructed to fill a debit/credit spreadsheet and produce a personal budget. We focused on the role of the artifacts in the Indigenous students’ intercultural activity to deal with the conflict of motives, when using mathematics language and procedures to budget future expenses. As double stimulation principle cannot be accomplished without the use of tools or signs, thus we focused on mathematical artifacts to analyze how they are adapted and used to deal with the motive conflicts, allowing double stimulation and expansive learning in this specific situation. The analysis showed that the fundamental contradiction was strengthened by the tools introduced: use of a standard form (spreadsheet); use of mathematical symbols and money calculations. We can also say that the instructors and students also became aware that there could be more than one possible economic logic to produce the financial plan. In conclusion, we argue that the spreadsheet was powerful to regulate the expenses of the Indigenous students and that the regulation to scholarship access imposes to students a clash between different logics of life. 


About Vanessa Tomaz

Vanessa Sena Tomaz is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Education at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG), Brazil, and leader of the Cultural Historical Activity Theory in Educational Research (CHATER) research group. Her main fields of research and teaching are Mathematics Education and Indigenous Intercultural Education working in teachers’ formation. Her researches have focused on mathematics learning in classroom, using ethnography as a logic of investigation. Her work points out the role of artifacts in the negotiation between formalized knowledge and common knowledge. 


CRADLE research seminar