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Spatial Skills: STEM Success Depends on Them

December 9, 2014

spatial perception

Spatial skills are strongly linked to creativity and achievement in fields like math, science and the arts. While students might not use spatial skills in school as often as other reasoning skills, it is critical in many professions. Note: This is one of a 10 blog series on learning traits. Read about all 10 learning traits here.

What is Spatial Perception?

Spatial perception is the ability to visualize how objects relate in space. You may hear it referred to as spatial reasoning or visual-spatial perception.

Why are Spatial Skills important?

Spatial perception is very task-specific. You don’t always rely on them, but when you need them, they are essential. Drawing, design, reading graphs and maps, and working with geometric figures all rely heavily on spatial skills. Weak spatial skills might affect reading efficiency and standardized test taking efficiency.

Is my student struggling with Spatial Perception?

Because students typically do not rely on these skills throughout the school day, or they are very important in one math unit but far less important in the next one, a difficulty in spatial perception can often go undetected. Students with weaker spatial perception might sub-consciously avoid hands-on tasks or project-based work. You might also observe messy handwriting or math work. Some students find that weaker spatial skills can force them to read more slowly.

How do I know if my student needs support for Spatial Perception?

If you suspect your child is struggling with spatial perception you want to use an objective test, not just observation. If you are uncomfortable talking to someone but have concerns, try a spatial skills test at home and then make a decision if you need to speak with a professional.

How can I support Spatial Perception?

Verbal elaboration, or talking through what you see, is one of the most effective strategies for spatial perception. Using graph paper or multi-colored pencils can help students keep their numbers aligned and their math work legible. Reading strips can help students focus while reading. 3-D building sets, and many games, offer fun ways to strengthen spatial skills.

Check out our spatial perception test!


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