A few days back, at a Parent’s workshop, I devoted almost 20 minutes emphasizing on the significance of Spatial Reasoning in Early education. Spatial reasoning is an essential math skill. Teaching math without addressing Spatial reasoning would be like making a broth without salt. It would have all the necessary ingredients and yet no taste.
So, what exactly is Spatial Reasoning?
Spatial reasoning is the ability to manipulate shape and objects, either mentally or physically. It involves:
- Rotation of objects and understanding how the object would look when rotated;
- How shapes and objects fit together and how they can be manipulated. Like how puzzle pieces fit into each other and how diamond shape could be made by using two triangles;
- Visualizing elevations and layout plans of buildings and objects. For example how would a building look from front or from a bird eye view.
- Understanding relationships between size and shape attributes of objects. Like it is impossible to fit a square into a triangle of the same size.
Spatial reasoning is intricately linked with geometry and visualization skills. In the same way, Math is linked to spatial abilities. To think about Math, only in terms of numbers would be a great injustice. Math abilities are much beyond numbers and their manipulation.
Think about this. Albert Einstein came up with his best work – The theory of Relativity, by imagining himself on a beam of light and travelling into space. How would that be possible without spatial reasoning and visualization skills?
Early explorers, like Christopher Columbus, Sir Frances Drake, Vasco Da Gama, relied on their spatial skills to navigate around the world. In fact, it would not be wrong to say that without spatial awareness great continents would not have been discovered.
Movies like Finding Dory, Moana are other examples that accentuate the significance of spatial skills in our lives.
Why Spatial Skills are Crucial in Early Education?
1. Early Spatial reasoning is closely tied to Mathematical abilities and is a strong predictor of Math skills. Young children who are better at mental rotation have better arithmetic skills and number sense.
2. Spatial skills are crucial for development of problem-solving, critical reasoning skills and even reading comprehension, as suggested by research.
3. They contribute to essential life skills like parking car, using maps, packing lunch etc.
4. Spatial abilities lay the foundation of advanced math skills and help in proportional reasoning, data management and processing skills.
5. Spatial Reasoning is a key skill in STEM and Arts. It clearly gives a head start in STEM to children when taught from a young age.
6. These skills can be nurtured over time and improved through practice and education. Current education system, especially Early Education, lay little emphasis on these skills. Hence, making them all the more important.
7. Spatial Intelligence is believed to enhance cognitive skills including IQ.
According to a Research, a single 20-minute session of mental rotation puzzles improved the math performance of the children in control group compared to their peers.
The evidence is compelling and positions Spatial Intelligence at the forefront. There is no reason for parents and educators to ignore this crucial skill. Spatial Reasoning, is indispensable!
When you engage your child in simple activities like blocks, painting and drawing, you are essentially enhancing their spatial reasoning skills. For a complete list of Spatial Awareness activities, read:
Newcombe et al 2015; Verdine et al 2014
Finding the missing piece: blocks, puzzles, and shapes fuel school readiness, 2014
Newcombe, 2010, 2013; Wai, Lubinski & Benbow, 2009
David Tzuriel and Gila Egozi (2010)