Fang Xie & Li Zhang & Xu Chen & Ziqiang Xin
The relationship between spatial and mathematical ability is controversial. Thus, the current study conducted a meta-analysis of 73 studies, with 263 effect sizes to explore the relationship between spatial and mathematical ability. Furthermore, we explored potential factors that moderate this relationship. Results showed that the relationship between mathematical and spatial ability was not simply linear. Specifically, logical reasoning had a stronger association with spatial ability than numerical or arithmetic ability with spatial ability. Intrinsic-dynamic, intrinsic-static, extrinsic-dynamic, extrinsic-static spatial ability, and visual–spatial memory showed comparable associations with mathematical ability. The association between spatial and mathematical ability showed no differences between children, adolescents, and adults and no differences between typically developing individuals and individuals with developmental disabilities. The implications of these findings for theory and practice are discussed.
Keywords Spatial ability . Mathematical ability . Meta-analysis . robumeta package . Spatial training.
Implications for Theory and Practice
“Our study can shed light on our understanding of the relationship between spatial and mathematical abilities. The relationship between spatial and mathematical abilities is not simply linear. Our moderation analyses suggested that logical reasoning was more strongly associated with spatial ability than numerical and arithmetical ability. As such, when examin-ing the mechanism of the association between spatial and mathematical ability, each domain of mathematical ability should be separately examined. The current study has important educational implications. Although we did not prove the causal relationship between spatial and mathematical ability, our findings might provide some pedagogical suggestions about how to train spatial ability to improve children's mathematical abilities. Notably, a recent intervention study by Sorby et al. (2018) demonstrated the positive effect of spatial interventions on STEM-related skills, and several studies have shown that spatial training can improve mathematical achievement (Cheng and Mix 2014; Clements et al. 2011; Sorby and Baartmans 2000). Firstly, our findings shed light on what kind of spatial ability training should be chosen. The current study indicated that different domains of spatial ability are associated with mathemat-ical ability to a similar degree. Therefore, training in other domains of spatial ability, not just intrinsic-dynamic spatial abilities (Cheng and Mix 2014; Clements et al. 2011; Taylor and Hutton 2013), should be encouraged in educational practice. Further, our findings shed light on when to begin spatial ability training. This study showed that the close association between spatial and mathematical abilities exists in childhood and adolescence. Therefore, spatial training can be beneficial for both children and adolescents. For children, spatial training can be rooted in the real world to develop direct experience by using regular activities such as paper folding, paper cutting (Burte et al. 2017), and Lego construction (Nath and Szücs 2014). For adoles-cents, it is better to carry out spatial training through comprehensive courses involving theory and practice in a series of spatial skills (Miller and Halpern 2013; Patkin and Dayan 2013; Sorby et al. 2013).”
Educational Psychology Review