Spatial reasoning in context: bridging cognitive and educational perspectives of spatial-mathematics relations

Danielle Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Spatial reasoning is ingrained in daily life, such as when locating our keys or parking our car. At a broad level, spatial reasoning describes the ability to mentally represent and transform objects and their relations. Spatial reasoning is comprised of distinct, yet related, spatial skills, most of which have strong links with mathematics achievement. Subsequently, understanding the ways spatial reasoning connects with mathematics has the potential to support achievement in school. However, current research practices have failed to translate into practical outcomes for students. To date, research has often focused on decontextualized spatial skills, measured by psychometric tests, to generalize about broader models of spatial reasoning. However, spatial reasoning goes beyond test performance. In this theoretical review, I have sought to find the points of connection between the fields of cognitive psychology, often based in the lab, and mathematics education, situated within classrooms, and discussed ways to connect this currently siloed work for greater impact on classroom practice. The paper addresses the emergence of spatial research from its historical roots in intelligence testing and the influence these conceptualizations have had on contemporary methodologies. It goes on to discuss how these research traditions may be limiting our ability to understand the mechanisms linking spatial reasoning and mathematics. The paper argues for a broader view of research problems and methodologies in spatial cognition research to facilitate the translation of research to meaningful contexts in pedagogy and learning.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1302099
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Education
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2023


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