Predicts STEM Proficiency
Recent studies have shown that spatial reasoning predicts STEM achievement and proficiency. In many areas of mathematics, a skill required to solve problems effectively is the ability to create an accurate and organized mental representation of the problem that is to be solved. Being able to create that representation requires the ability to visualize mentally. In fact, research shows that spatial reasoning is linked to performance within many strands of mathematics including: basic magnitude and counting skills.
Spatial reasoning is an umbrella term that encompasses many cognitive processes, including understanding the characteristics of a particular object, the similarities and differences between objects, the transformation of an object (e.g. a rotation), and being able to mentally compose/decompose an object based on seeing its pieces or parts (e.g. composing a number with smaller numbers as in an equation, 4+2=6).
Some examples of spatial reasoning skills include the ability to comprehend and recognize imaginary movements in space, describe experiences and observations using spatial language, and explain mental processes using gestures.
Most children have a sense of self-efficacy by the time they reach kindergarten about mathematics. Some students may feel they have a strong understanding, while others may have a sense of despair. Spatial reasoning skills have a strong correlation with mathematical proficiency and can be improved regardless of a child’s age. A great way to improve spatial reasoning is to have students engage in discussions with spatial vocabulary. Such discussions could be facilitated by asking leading questions such as, “how far does your 123 Robot need to travel to complete the course? Which direction will the 123 Robot face once the project is finished?” This should not come as a surprise, since teachers have known for some time that students often retain concepts better when they have the opportunity to engage those concepts in a hands-on activity.
Beyond the activities contained within this unit, students are also prompted to engage in "spatial talk" throughout their activities. With spatial talk, students are asked, for example, to describe where certain pieces are being placed as an object is built.