Spatial Thinking for STEM Success

Dr. Nora Newcombe

Spatial thinking concerns the locations of objects, their shapes, their relations, and the paths they take as they move. Spatial skills are as important as literacy and numeracy and play a central role in achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This talk will review research showing that (a) spatial thinking and STEM learning are related, and (b) spatial thinking is malleable. It will go on to evaluate two strategies for using these findings in education. Strategy 1 involves direct training of spatial skills. Strategy 2 involves spatializing the curriculum, using tools including spatial language, maps, diagrams, graphs, analogical comparison, physical activity that instantiates scientific or mathematical principles, gesture and sketching. Research continues to evaluate the effectiveness of the efforts and explore mechanisms.