Does training mental rotation transfer to gains in mathematical competence? Assessment of an at-home visuospatial intervention

  • Chi-Ngai CheungEmail author
  • Jenna Y. Sung
  • Stella F. LourencoEmail author
Original Article


The current study examined whether the effect of spatial training transfers to the math domain. Sixty-two 6- and 7-year-olds completed an at-home 1-week online training intervention. The spatial-training group received mental rotation training, whereas the active control group received literacy training in a format that matched the spatial training. Results revealed near transfer of mental rotation ability in the spatial-training group. More importantly, there was also far transfer to canonical arithmetic problems, such that children in the spatial-training group performed better on these math problems than children in the control group. Such far transfer could not be attributed to general cognitive improvement, since no improvement was observed for non-symbolic quantity processing, verbal working memory (WM), or language ability following spatial training. Spatial training may have benefitted symbolic arithmetic performance by improving visualization ability, access to the mental number line, and/or increasing the capacity of visuospatial WM.



The authors thank Megan Peterson and Elizabeth Wildman for assistance with data collection.


This study was partially supported by a Scholarly Inquiry and Research at Emory (SIRE) fellowship from Emory University to Jenna Y. Sung, and a scholar award from the John Merck Fund to Stella F. Lourenco.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained on behalf of each child by a parent or legal guardian.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  3. 3.Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public HealthGeorgia Southern UniversityStatesboroUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA

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