Supporting senior high-school students’ measurement and geometry performance: Does spatial training transfer to mathematics achievement?

Jonathan Adams, Ilyse Resnick, Tom Lowrie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is well established that spatial reasoning skills (i) support mathematics achievement, (ii) are malleable, and (iii) can be improved through training. More recently, there has been interest in using spatial training to causally support corresponding improvements in mathematics achievement; however, findings so far appear to be mixed. The current study explores the effect of a spatial reasoning intervention on Year 11 students’ spatial reasoning skills and mathematics achievement and considers the role of a pedagogical framework and the multidimensional nature of mathematics and spatial reasoning in the design of the intervention. The Experience-Language-Pictorial-Symbolic-Application (ELPSA) pedagogical framework was used to modify an existing spatial intervention program for delivery by high-school educators to Year 11 students (an important but understudied population). The spatial intervention involved training a range of spatial skills over an extended timeframe. Students were randomly assigned to the intervention condition or to a business-as-usual control (n = 73). Using a pre-/post-test design, we found the intervention was successful in improving participants’ spatial reasoning skills and performance on measurement and geometry items compared to the control condition but not on number and algebra items. These findings demonstrate that spatial training can support mathematics achievement in certain contexts, highlighting the importance of identifying how individual spatial skills support specific mathematics tasks. Consideration was given for how to use strong pedagogical techniques to scaffold transfer, finding utility in the ELPSA framework. Implications for how to embed spatial training within real mathematics classrooms, as done in the current study, are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalMathematics Education Research Journal
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Apr 2022


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