Enhancing Middle School Mathematics Achievement through Spatial Skills Instruction

Project: Research project

Project Details


The proposed project investigates the influences of spatial training middle-school students’ mathematics achievement. Spatial training refers to teaching children how to think about the relations among objects in space, such as how to draw different objects from various perspectives or to imagine the rotation of an object through a plain. Many previous studies have demonstrated that there is a strong correlation between students’ ability to perform these spatial operations and their success in mathematics and other STEM fields. These fields often require the mental transformation of spatial information, but such skills are unfortunately rarely taught, even though almost all students can improve substantially with training. The overall goal of the proposed research is to test whether training students’ spatial thinking will lead to improvements in mathematics. The research will be conducted in the Metropolitan Denver area. The work involves both an intervention to train randomly selected students spatial skills and to assess their (a) performance in mathematics, and (b) their interest and enrollment in subsequent, more advanced mathematics courses. We predict that spatial training will improve achievement and will increase subsequent enrollment. The Northwestern University team will not be involved in the day-to-day collection of data. Instead, the scope of the Northwestern work includes the following: a) Preparation of materials. Northwestern PI Uttal will work with other members of the grant team to hone the spatial training materials and to prepare and assemble tests. This work will occur in the first year of the grant b) Consulting on data collection. PI Uttal will travel once per year to the Denver area to observe data collection and to ensure that it is proceeding as planned c) Data Analysis. Northwesterm team members will be responsible for the analysis of several aspects of the data, most notably the spatial ability and mathematics achievement test. d) Preparation for Publication. Northwestern team members will be responsible for preparation of some of the manuscript that report the results, as well as for presentations at one conference in Years 2-4.
Effective start/end date6/1/156/30/19


  • Ohio State University (60046917//R305A150365-02)
  • Department of Education (60046917//R305A150365-02)


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