The teaching and learning of mathematics has presented a great challenge for mathematics educationalists over many decades. Researchers have been searching for new strategies and techniques for improving the understanding of abstract mathematical concepts. This study focused on mathematics teachers? use of visual tools. The teachers were selected from South African schools that catered for learners from multicultural and multiracial backgrounds. Visual tools that are referred to in this study incorporated diagrams, symbols, pictures, transparencies, graphs, the use of colour, shapes, mathematics manipulatives and gestures. Activity theory was used as a framework to locate the study. Each activity system was interrogated within an interpretivist paradigm. Data was collected using six methods and five research instruments. A key finding of this research showed that using visuals as scaffolding tools was paramount for the effective teaching and learning of mathematics. These tools were conscious, predetermined, intuitive and relevant.