The University of Chicago has released a study which found that children who understand how shapes fit together to create a recognizable image (spatial knowledge) tend to have an easier time when it comes to identifying numbers and solving math problems down the road.
The research team conducted two experiments. First, the researchers administered a test to a diverse group of first and second grade students to see how well they could identify numbers on a line with 0 at the beginning and 1,000 at the end. The researchers also tested the students on their spatial knowledge by asking them to choose the correct piece that would create a square. They found that students with the strongest spatial knowledge were also strong at identifying numbers on the number line. In the second experiment, researchers watched footage of students who had been filmed from ages five to eight having some basic interactions with their parents or caretakers. The students were tested on spatial knowledge at five and a half years old, number line knowledge at around six years old, and calculation skills at eight years old. The results of the second experiment were consistent with the first, meaning that children with better spatial skills did well when it came to the number line and calculation skills.
On the results of the study, Elizabeth Gunderson, lead author of the study and a University of Chicago postdoctoral scholar stated “Improving children’s spatial skills may have positive impacts on their future success in science, technology, engineering or mathematics disciplines, not only by improving spatial thinking but also by enhancing the numerical skills that are critical for achievement in all STEM fields.”
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