Two researchers respectively from The University of Hong Kong and The Education University of Hong Kong carried out a three-year longitudinal study of Chinese preschoolers to examine the predictability of the growth rate in spatial perception ability on children’s subsequent arithmetic skills. Spatial perception is the ability to perceive spatial relations.
A total of 106 Chinese children from two non-profit-making preschools in Hong Kong were recruited to participate in the study. All participants were native Cantonese-speaking children and received instruction in Cantonese. Their average age was approximately 45 months (3.75 years old) at the beginning of the study.
The children were tested individually five times across three years of preschool studies. The five-time points were the spring of the first academic year (May, [T1]), the fall of the second academic year (November, [T2]), the spring of the second academic year (May, [T3]), the fall of the third academic year (November, [T4]), and the spring of the third academic year (May, [T5]). A total of seven tests, including spatial perception test and the arithmetic competencies test, were employed as measures, and the reliability of the tests were proved to be good. The purpose of the spatial perception test was to probe into children’s competence to identify spatial relations among task components despite the existences of distracting information.
After controlling for possibly confounding variables such as spatial analogic reasoning, spatial visualization, mental rotation and the level and rate of growth in phonological awareness, the finding indicates that the growth rate in spatial perception during the preschool years had predictive impact on children’s arithmetic competence at the end of preschool but the initial level of spatial perception did not have such predictive function. It also demonstrates that growth rate of spatial perception during preschool years had its unique value in predicting arithmetic competencies, even when other components of spatial ability are considered.
Such findings suggest that it is of significance to assist pre-school students to develop spatial perception which is likely to lead to improvement in their arithmetic competences. Thus, the learning process and progress in spatial ability is worthy of monitoring by teachers and practitioners, and those children whose rate of growth is slower than their fellow students need to be provided with appropriate spatial learning opportunities.
Source: Zhang, X. & Lin, D. (2017). Does growth rate in spatial ability matter in predicting early arithmetic competence? Learning and Instruction, 49, 232-241.