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PART 2: Spatial Reasoning – Are we missing something?

Spatial Reasoning & Life Chances

Research shows us that good spatial reasoning skills are required in order to do well in STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) subjects, and STEM subjects open up employment opportunities with higher salaries. 

So it’s clear to see that developing spatial reasoning skills is going to enhance life chances beyond school.

Children in early years and key stage one learn about number using blocks, counters, five frames, ten frames and maybe even watching Numberblocks (on BBC) – representations can be used to connect spatial skills with understanding numbers.

Research shows that children in early years settings who develop good spatial reasoning skills, later become better at arithmetic and attain better in maths exams.   Good spatial reasoning is also linked to reading skills.

Boosting Spatial Reasoning Skills

So what can be done to boost a child’s spatial reasoning ability?   Quite a lot as it happens, both at home and in school.

Simple things like using spatial language with young children and helping them to use it.  Words such as: in, out, up, above, out, under, down, below, over, in front, between, around, behind, beside, on top , next to, underneath – used during daily activities/conversations can boost a child’s spatial skills.

With young children any kind of block play, building with small and large blocks such as Lego, or junk modelling, making a den, going on a treasure hunt, doing a jigsaw puzzle.  With older children Origami (paper folding), map reading (orientation), and computer games such as Minecraft or Tetris. Going out for a walk, asking your child to suggest which direction next, pointing out landmarks, creating a map of your route – all great ways to get your child thinking.

Mapping from Story Books

There are also story books that can help.  ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’ is a good example.  Reading the story with a child, highlighting the spatial language within the story, acting it out and creating a map showing the journey through the story can be a really powerful way to boost spatial reasoning with young children.

Addressing the Potential Impact of Covid Restrictions on Spatial Reasoning

To return to the start of this blog – ‘The Yorkshire Farm’, I found myself thinking what amazing learning opportunities the Owen children have as they explore their farm buildings and land, but also how skilled is their mother, that despite being busy running the farm, she encourages activities such as the map drawing and route plotting.  These children may have missed out on months of school lessons due to Covid, but they’ve been so lucky to have benefited from all these wonderful opportunities to develop their spatial reasoning skills.  But what of those of us not living in the countryside? What about those families living in the inner city, with no, or very small gardens? What impact will the lockdown have had on the spatial reasoning skills of young children as they’ve spent more time indoors, less time out and about playing and exploring?

Good spatial reasoning skills = good maths attainment, which in turn impacts on attainment in all STEM subjects and beyond, and leads to more employment opportunities and better salaries.   And yet enhancing spatial reasoning can be so easy.    Try out some of the activities here and get in touch if you’d like to find out more.

How have you used your spatial reasoning skills today?

By Helen Hackett

Maths Lead


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