In this paper we reflect on the meaning and evolution of the microworld idea. We point out a crucial distinction between user manipulation and modification at three distinct but mutually dependent levels — the interface, superstructural and platform levels. We exploit a case study of two 8-year-old girls playing and rebuilding a simple video game, to argue for the importance of ease of interplay between these levels. We reflect on the ways in which newly-created alternatives to textual forms of representation are redefining the utility and power of microworlds, and offering advantages (as well as disadvantages) for mathematical learning in the sense of understanding inference and mechanism — how things work and why.
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