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Intro to Coding
Unit Spatial Reasoning

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Spatial Reasoning

Predicts STEM Proficiency

Spatial reasoning involves the capacity to relate to and navigate the world, and the ability to create and mentally manipulate representations of imagined and real shapes, objects, and structures. This includes Computer Science tasks like breaking down the steps needed to accomplish a goal through coding.

Recent studies have shown that spatial reasoning predicts STEM and Computer Science achievement and proficiency. 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. Each time students plan a project with the 123 Robot, they are engaging in these processes — from mentally mapping the path they want the 123 Robot to travel, to gesturing or verbally describing their code to others.

These practices ultimately lead to students thinking in more systematic and sequential ways, as they do things like break down a mental map of a path into a series of smaller steps. Coding, in this case, becomes the vehicle for building computational thinking and problem solving skills.

Young student with a VEX 123 robot.

In many areas of mathematics, a key competency of STEM and Computer Science, 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. When working with the 123 Robot, students need to be able to visualize what they want their robot to do, and then create the code to accomplish that task.

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 engage students with robotic manipulatives, like the 123 Robot. The 123 Robot offers the opportunity to problem solve and learn through play, while practicing things like one to one correspondence, sequence, and mental mapping, through a series of fun and engaging activities and challenges. Instead of a worksheet of math problems, students can practice with the 123 Robot on a number line, or by figuring out how many steps the 123 Robot needs to travel to reach Grandmother’s house.

Beyond the activities contained within this Unit, students are also prompted to engage in "spatial talk" throughout their learning experiences. Encourage students to describe their projects using gestures and words as they are working. The more practice students get with using directional and spatial words in context, the more confident they will grow in using them independently, which can then support their sense of self-efficacy relative to math and Computer Science.