In this paper, we elaborate on theoretical and methodological considerations for designing a sequence of tasks for introducing middle and high school students to functions and their graphs. In particular, we present didactical activities with an artifact realized within a dynamic interactive environment and having the semiotic potential for embedding mathematical meanings of covariation of independent and dependent variables. After laying down the theoretical grounds, we formulate the design principles that emerged as the result of bringing the theory into a dialogue with the didactical aims. Finally, we present a teaching sequence, designed and implemented on the basis of the design principles and we show how students’ efforts in describing and manipulating the different graphs of functions can promote their production of specific signs that can progressively evolve towards mathematical meanings.
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