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PART 1: Spatial Reasoning – Are we missing something?

PART 1: Spatial Reasoning – Are we missing something?

Like most people I’ve been spending more time in the house over the last year, and probably watching more TV.  Last week I was watching one of my favourite programmes: ‘The Yorkshire Farm’ on channel 5 and it prompted thinking about an area of maths often overlooked.

Learning from  ‘The Yorkshire Farm’

For those of you who have never seen this programme, it’s about Amanda & Clive Owen, who are shepherds and not only run their sheep farm in the remote hills of Yorkshire, but are also raising a family of nine children.   For those of you recovering from lockdown and supporting home-learning, consider that for a moment.

Mapping Skills

In episode two of the latest series, the family revealed their disappointment that the annual country show (the Muker Show) had been cancelled due to lockdown.  They were going to miss taking part in the fell race (hill race).  However, they had a solution – they decided to hold their own family race, through the fields, along the streams, over the hills.   What amazed me in this episode was how each of the children created their own map of the land around their farm as they plotted the route.  Even the youngest children, (aged 3 and 5) created maps and explained the routes.

This is an area of mathematics often overlooked and undervalued by teachers and parents – spatial reasoning (spatial thinking).

Spatial Reasoning – What is it?

Spatial reasoning is linked to the way we can visualise things, whether it be a mathematical problem, a 3 dimensional shape, or our route to school, but it is so much more.    Spatial reasoning is how we know about the location of our own bodies within a space, the shape and position of objects in the world around us – it’s what we use, not only to walk to school in the morning, but to walk from our bedroom to the kitchen. Being able to load a dish-washer, or fit shoes into a shoe box involves spatial reasoning.    A toddler playing with building blocks is using spatial reasoning.   Driving a car, crossing a road, reading a map, following directions, all involves spatial reasoning.   But some people do not realise how this relates to areas of maths such as: drawing/understanding diagrams, understanding geometry, solving problems, using numberlines, understanding number relationships, developing number sense, rearranging algebraic formulae – all of these use spatial reasoning.

by Helen Hackett

Maths Lead


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