Australasian Mathematical Psychology Conference 2019

Spatial reasoning in mathematical learning: Promoting new approaches to problem solving

Danielle Harris
STEM Education Research Centre, University of Canberra
Tom Lowrie
University of Canberra
Tracy Logan
University of Canberra
Alex Forndran
University of Canberra

There is strong evidence for the importance of spatial reasoning in mathematics proficiency. This relationship between the two skills is no longer questioned, the key discussion now is why and how do we capitalise on this relationship for education? Of interest in this field is the role of gender, as females traditionally have trailed males in both spatial reasoning and mathematical skill. In a future where flexible and creative thinking is paramount, the importance of spatial skills is becoming more critical and the need to bridge the gender gap ever more crucial.

Three recent studies have been conducted to address the need for explicit spatial instruction in formal education. In Study One a ten-week (2 hours per week) intervention across grades 3-6 was implemented. In Study Two the focus was on a single spatial skill commonly linked to mathematics and general intelligence (namely spatial visualisation) over a 3 week period (2 hours per week) in grades 5 and 6. The final study was conducted in grade 8 classes with a spatial syllabus replacing 12 hours of mathematics lessons. Within each of these studies, standard mathematics instruction was replaced with customised spatial curriculum in an attempt to challenge students’ problem solving. In all three studies, intervention students improved more than controls in measures of spatial reasoning and mathematics. For all studies, female and male students improved equally. However, the intervention impact differed across genders. These studies provide the opportunity to explore the relationship between improvements in different types of spatial reasoning and mathematics. This talk will discuss gender and trends across the three studies.