VOLUME 22 #2

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Spatial skills shape math readiness

RESEARCH | A new research project is investigating whether young children who develop spatial-thinking skills have an advantage in learning math as they grow older—much the way mastering the alphabet is a first step in learning to read and write.

Roberta Golinkoff, Unidel H. Rodney Sharp Chair in Human Services, Education and Public Policy, has received a $1.5 million, four-year grant from the Institute of Education Sciences to explore the effect of developing spatial skills in preschoolers. Working with preschools and Head Start programs in Delaware and Pennsylvania, researchers will ask 3-year-olds to copy flat designs composed of geometric forms and will then teach them various ways to improve their performance.

Children will be tested over the course of three years, and long-term follow-ups will be conducted to understand what kind of spatial instruction works best for young children and maximizes their school readiness.

“Understanding spatial relationships is crucial for tasks we perform every day in the world, such as packing the trunk of the car to go on vacation or navigating to that special spot,” Golinkoff says. “The link to mathematics, though, is key for children’s success in school. Blocks, puzzles, map reading—all these things feed into your kids’ understanding of space and math.”

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