What Processes Underlie the Relation Between Spatial Skill and Mathematics?

  • Christopher Young
  • Susan C. Levine
  • Kelly S. Mix
Part of the Research in Mathematics Education book series (RME)


In this chapter, we review approaches to modeling a connection between spatial and mathematical thinking across development. We critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of factor analyses, meta-analyses, and experimental literatures. We examine those studies that set out to describe the nature and number of spatial and mathematical abilities and specific connections among these abilities, especially those that include children as participants. We also find evidence of strong spatial-mathematical connections and transfer from spatial interventions to mathematical understanding. Finally, we map out the kinds of studies that could enhance our understanding of the mechanism by which spatial and mathematical processing are connected and the principles by which mathematical outcomes could be enhanced through spatial training in educational settings.


Process modeling Cognitive processes Factor analysis Spatial skills Spatial cognition Cognitive development Mathematical concepts Latent structure Spatial visualization Cognitive science Education Spatial ability Mathematical ability Individual differences Intelligence Number concepts Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Exploratory factor analysis Confirmatory factor analysis Multidimensionality Meta-analysis 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Young
    • 1
  • Susan C. Levine
    • 2
  • Kelly S. Mix
    • 3
  1. 1.Consortium on School ResearchUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Psychology, and Comparative Human Development and Committee on EducationUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Department of Human Development and Quantitative MethodologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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