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Spatial Skills: A Neglected Dimension of Early STEM Education

Education Week – Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers

“A new report (“STEM starts early: Grounding science, technology, engineering, and math education in early childhood”) by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and New America provides intriguing insights into the current state of STEM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in early childhood. Lead author Elisabeth R. McClure and her colleagues did an excellent job describing the importance of STEM development by culling together information not only from scientific literature but also from conversations with researchers, policy makers, and practitioners. The report emphasizes that STEM fields rely on more than just knowledge of facts like 4 + 2= 6, that tomatoes are really fruits, or how to operate computers. No, STEM success relies on broader abilities, such as strong reasoning and problem-solving skills.”(more)

Five Compelling Reasons For Teaching Spatial Reasoning To Young Children

KQED News Mind/Shift – Staff Writer

“Our journey began when we conducted an extensive literature review at the outset of the project (Bruce, Flynn, & Moss, 2012) and learned about the crucial importance of spatial reasoning. This theme was consistent across many research disciplines, including biology, cognitive sciences, psychology, developmental sciences, education, as well as educational neuroscience—an emerging transdisciplinary field which sits at the intersection of these other disciplines and aims for a collaborative approach in which educational theory and practice are informed by new findings in the cognitive sciences, and vice versa (Fisher, 2009). We also learned—and have experienced in our careers as mathematics educators and researchers—that spatial reasoning is a curiously unacknowledged and neglected area of the curriculum. During our involvement with the M4YC project, we have become more and more convinced of reasons why we should pay attention to spatial reasoning in early years mathematics. Below we offer our Top Five reasons why, as educators, we should care about spatial thinking when we plan, observe, and assess mathematics in our classrooms.”(more)

Young children’s spatial talk predicts their spatial abilities

Medical X-Press – Chris Barncard

“It’s not how many words a kid knows; it’s how they choose them that tells Hilary Miller the most about their spatial skills. That grasp of the layout of their physical word—understanding where they are relative to a friend, imagining how to rotate puzzle pieces to fit them together, conjuring a mental map of the park—is important.”(more)

Want to ‘train your brain’? Forget apps, learn a musical instrument

The Guardian – Mo Costandi

“The multimillion dollar brain training industry is under attack. In October 2014, a group of over 100 eminent neuroscientists and psychologists wrote an open letter warning that “claims promoting brain games are frequently exaggerated and at times misleading”. Earlier this year, industry giant Lumosity was fined $2m, and ordered to refund thousands of customers who were duped by false claims that the company’s products improve general mental abilities and slow the progression of age-related decline in mental abilities. And a recent review examining studies purporting to show the benefits of such products found “little evidence … that training improves improves everyday cognitive performance”. While brain training games and apps may not live up to their hype, it is well established that certain other activities and lifestyle choices can have neurological benefits that promote overall brain health and may help to keep the mind sharp as we get older. One of these is musical training. Research shows that learning to play a musical instrument is beneficial for children and adults alike, and may even be helpful to patients recovering from brain injuries.”(more)

Neuroimaging study: Building blocks activate spatial ability in children better than board games

Medical X-Press – Staff Writer

“Research from Indiana University has found that structured block-building games improve spatial abilities in children to a greater degree than board games. The study, which appears in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, measured the relative impact of two games—a structured block-building game and a word-spelling board game—on children’s spatial processing, including mental rotation, which involves visualizing what an object will look like after it is rotated. The research lends new support to the idea that such block games might help children develop spatial skills needed in science- and math-oriented disciplines. It is also the first study to use neuroimaging to explore the effects of block building on brain activity, said Sharlene Newman, a professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, who led the research.”(more)

Babies’ spatial reasoning predicts later math skills

Medical X-Press – Carol Clark

“Spatial reasoning measured in infancy predicts how children do at math at four years of age, finds a new study published in Psychological Science. “We’ve provided the earliest documented evidence for a relationship between spatial reasoning and math ability,” says Emory University psychologist Stella Lourenco, whose lab conducted the research. “We’ve shown that spatial reasoning beginning early in life, as young as six months of age, predicts both the continuity of this ability and mathematical development.” Emory graduate student Jillian Lauer is co-author of the study. The researchers controlled the longitudinal study for general cognitive abilities of the children, including measures such as vocabulary, working memory, short-term spatial memory and processing speed.”(more)