Thinking in 3D improves mathematical skills

How well small children are able to spatially reason is a reflection of how well they will do in math later. This conclusion was reached by researchers at the University of Basel.Math skills are a prerequisite for many career opportunities in engineering and technical sciences. A nationwide survey on basic skills in Switzerland was conducted in 2019. It found that only a small percentage of schoolchildren had good results in math. After studying 600 children, Dr. WenkeMhring's research team from the University of Basel found that it is possible to promote math skills at a young age.The research team discovered a correlation between children’s spatial sense at three years old and their primary school math skills. Mhring says that past research has shown that adults can think spatially when dealing with numbers. For example, they might place small numbers to one side and larger numbers to the other. However, little research has been done to determine how spatial reasoning in early childhood affects later learning and comprehension of mathematics.The findings of the study, published in Learning and Instruction, suggest that spatial skills are strongly linked to the ability to understand mathematical concepts later on. Researchers also excluded the possibility that this correlation could be due to socio-economic status, language ability, or other factors. It is not clear how spatial ability influences mathematical skills in children, but spatial concepts of numbers may play a role.These findings were based on data analysis from 586 children living in Basel, Switzerland. Researchers gave tasks to three-year-olds as part of a project about language acquisition of German. The children were asked to arrange colored cubes into certain shapes. These tests were repeated four times over a period of approximately 15 months. The results were compared with academic performance in the first grade for seven-year-olds.Researchers also examined closely whether the rate of development (i.e. The researchers also examined whether the pace of development, i.e. rapid development of spatial abilities can predict future mathematical abilities. Although correlations have been shown in past studies, which had a smaller sample size, Mhring and her coworkers were unable confirm this in their study. Children aged three years who had low spatial skills at the beginning of their studies showed a faster improvement over the years. However, they still did poorly in math when they were seven years older. These children did not develop as fast as children with higher spatial reasoning skills, even though they were more advanced.Mhring says that parents often push their children to improve their language skills. Our results show how crucial it is to teach spatial reasoning early in life. This can be done in a few easy ways, including using "spatial languages" (larger and smaller, same, above, etc.) or toys, e.g. Building blocks are a way to improve spatial reasoning abilities.Spatial reasoning and genderResearchers found that girls and boys are virtually indistinguishable when it comes to spatial reasoning abilities at three years old. However, this skill develops slowly in the later years for girls. Mhring and her coworkers suspect that boys might hear more spatial language. Toys that are designed for boys promote spatial reasoning while toys that are made for girls focus on social skills. It is possible that children may internalize the expectations of their teachers and parents and, later, they will live up to these stereotypes as adults. For example, women are not as proficient in mathematics and spatial reasoning as men.