Think3d!: Improving mathematics learning through embodied spatial training Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Spatial thinking skills positively relate to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) outcomes, but spatial training is largely absent in elementary school. Elementary school is a time when children develop foundational cognitive skills that will support STEM learning throughout their education. Spatial thinking should be considered a foundational cognitive skill. The present research examined the impact of an embodied spatial training program on elementary students' spatial and mathematical thinking. Students in rural elementary schools completed spatial and math assessments prior to and after participating in an origami and pop-up paper engineering-based program, called Think3d!. Think3d! uses embodied tasks, such as folding and cutting paper, to train two-dimensional to three-dimensional spatial thinking. Analyses explored spatial thinking gains, mathematics gains - specifically for problem types expected to show gains from spatial training - and factors predicting mathematics gains. Results showed spatial thinking gains in two assessments. Using a math categorization to target problems more and less likely to be impacted by spatial training, we found that all students improved on real-world math problems and older students improved on visual and spatial math problems. Further, the results are suggestive of developmental time points for implementing embodied spatial training related to applying spatial thinking to math. Finally, the spatial thinking assessment that was most highly related to training activities also predicted math performance gains. Future research should explore developmental issues related to how embodied spatial training might support STEM learning and outcomes.

author list (cited authors)

  • Burte, H., Gardony, A. L., Hutton, A., & Taylor, H. A.

publication date

  • January 1, 2017 11:11 AM