Visual-spatial Skills and Mathematics Content Conceptualisation for Pre-service Teachers

Chipo Makamure, Zingiswa M Jojo


Empirical evidence in literature identified significant association between spatial ability and educational performance particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The purpose of this study was to explore pre-service teachers’ spatial skills in solving mathematics problems, in the context of coordinate geometry. It is envisaged that spatial skills allow for the perception of visual information and, therefore, spatial cognition has been considered as a key skill in teaching mathematics. However, literature asserts that teachers are ill prepared to teach mathematics, hence there is limited use and misuse of spatial skills in teaching the subject. This study, therefore, examines the spatial orientation of pre-service teachers in teaching coordinate geometry. This is a mixed methods study in which pre-service teachers answered a coordinate geometry test to explore their content knowledge and their ability to interpret, analyse and apply visual spatial models to solve mathematical problems in coordinate geometry. The study established that the spatial orientation skills of pre-service teachers determine their performance in mathematics, especially coordinate geometry.


coordinate geometry, mathematics content knowledge, pre-service teachers, spatial orientation skills, visual-spatial skills

Full Text:



P.J. Kok, “The Relationship Between Pre-service Teachers’ Spatial Experience and Spatial Visualisation at a Rural-based University,” African Journal of Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, vol. 25, no. 1, pp. 103-111, 2021.

K. Atit, J. R. Power, N. Veurink, D.H. Uttal, S. Sorby, G. Panther, C. Msall, L. Fiorella and M. Carr, “Examining the role of spatial skills and mathematics motivation on middle school mathematics achievement,” International Journal of STEM Education, vol. 07, no. 38, pp. 1-13, 2020.

K.S. Mix, S.C. Levine, Y.L. Cheng, C.J. Young, D.Z. Hambrick and S. Konstantopoulos, “The latent structure of spatial skills and mathematics: Further evidence from wave 2,” Journal of Cognition and Development, vol. 04, pp. 465-492, 2017.

National Research Council, “Learning to think spatially: GIS as a support system in the K—12 curriculum”, National Academies Press, Washington DC, 2006.

J. Buckley, N. Seery, D. Canty, “A Heuristic Framework of Spatial Ability: a Review and Synthesis of Spatial Factor Literature to Support its Translation into STEM Education”, Educational Psychology Review, vol. 30, pp. 947–972, 2018.

D. Abrahamson, M.J. Nathan, C. Williams-Pierce, C. Walkington, E.R. Ottmar, H. Soto and M.W. Alibali, “The Future of Embodied Design for Mathematics Teaching and Learning”, Frontiers in Education, vol. 5, no. 147, 2020.

K. Jones, “Issues in the teaching and learning of geometry”, In L. Haggarty (Ed.), Aspects of Teaching Secondary School Mathematics: Perspectives on Practice, pp. 121-139, 2002. London: Routledge Falmer.

S.A. Tachie, “The challenges of south african teachers in teaching euclidean geometry,” International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research, vol. 19, no. 8, pp. 297–312, 2020.

K. Luneta, “Foundation Phase Teachers’ (Limited) Knowledge of Geometry,” South African Journal of Childhood Education, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 71-86, 2014.

T. Adolphus, “Problems of Teaching and Learning of Geometry in Secondary Schools in Rivers State, Nigeria,” International Journal of Emerging. Sciences, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 143–152, 2011.

K.S. Mix, “Why Are Spatial Skill and Mathematics Related?” Child Development Perspectives, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 121–126, 2019.

M.G. Tosto, K.B. Hanscombe, C.M.A. Haworth, O.S.P. Davis, S.A. Petrill, P.S. Dale, Y. Kovas, “Why do spatial abilities predict mathematical performance?” Developmental Science, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 462–470, 2014.

C.J. Young, S.C. Levine and K.S. Mix, “The Connection Between Spatial and Mathematical Ability Across Development”, Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 9, no. 755, 2018.

B. Jaworski, “Theory and practice in mathematics teaching development: Critical inquiry as a mode of learning in teaching,” Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, vol. 09, no. 2, pp. 187-211, 2006.

R.O.E. Putri, “Spatial Skill Profile of Mathematics Pre-Service Teachers”, Journal of Physics: Conference Series, vol. 947, no. 1,

A. Bakker, J. Smit, and R. Wegerif, “Scaffolding and dialogic teaching in mathematics education: Introduction and review,” ZDM Mathematics Education, vol. 47, pp. 1047, 2015.

M.T. Battista, “Spatial visualization and gender differences in high school geometry”, Journal for research in mathematics education, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 47-60, 1990.

D.H. Clements, “Geometric and Spatial Thinking in Young Children” Opinion paper National Science Foundation, 1998.

S.A. Sorby, “Developing 3-D spatial visualization skills”, Engineering Design Graphics Journal, vol. 63, no. 2, 2009.

D.L. Bahr, and L.A. DeGarcia, “Elementary mathematics is anything but elementary”, Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, USA, 2010.

R. Seah, “Understanding Geometric Ideas: Pre-service Primary Teachers’ Knowledge as a Basis for Teaching,” Proceedings of the 38th annual conference of the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia, pp. 571–578, 2015. Sunshine Coast: MERGA

X. Xistouri and D. Pitta-Pantazi, “Spatial rotation and perspective taking abilities in relation to performance in reflective symmetry tasks,” in Proceedings of the 30th Conference of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education, pp. 425–432, 2006.

P. Kalogirou, I. Elia, and A. Gagatsis, “Spatial Ability and Geometrical Figure Understanding,” In Gagatsis, A., Kuzniak, A., Deliyianni, E., & Vivier, L. (Eds), Cyprus and France Research in Mathematics Education, pp. 105-118, 2009. Lefkosia: University of Cyprus.

R. Duval, “Representation, Vision and Visualization: Cognitive Functions in Mathematical Thinking. Basic Issues for learning”, Retrieved from ERIC ED 466 379, 1999.

K. Jones and M. Tzekaki, “Research on the teaching and learning of geometry. In A. Gutiérrez, G. Leder & P. Boero (Eds.),” The Second Handbook of Research on the Psychology of Mathematics Education: The Journey Continues. pp. 109-149. Rotterdam: Sense, 2016.

K.S. Mix, Y.L. Cheng, “The relation between space and math: developmental and educational implications,” Advances in Child Development Behavior, 42, New York, NY, Elsevier, 2012.

K.S. Mix, S.C. Levine, Y.L. Cheng, C. Young, D.Z. Hambrick, R. Ping, et al, “Separate but correlated: the latent structure of space and mathematics across development,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, vol. 145, no. 9, pp. 1206–1227, 2016.

D.H. Uttal, N.G. Meadow, E. Tipton, L.L. Hand, A.R. Alden, C. Warren and N.S. Newcombe, “The malleability of spatial skills: A meta-analysis of training studies,” Psychological Bulletin, vol. 139, no. 2, pp. 352–402, 2013.

T. Ishikawa, N.S. Newcombe, “Why spatial is special in education, learning, and everyday activities”, Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, vol. 6, no. 20, 2021.

B. Rittle-Johnson, E.L. Zippert and K.L. Boice, “The roles of patterning and spatial skills in early mathematics development,” Early Childhood Research Quarterly, vol. 46, no. 1, pp. 166–178, 2019.

D.F. Lohman, “Spatial ability”, pp. 97-116, Hillsdale, NJ, Erlbaum, 1996.

S. Metoyer, S.W. Bednarz, R.S. Bednarz, “Spatial thinking in education: Concepts, development, and assessment”, A & M University, Texas, 2015.

L.E. Mnguni, “The theoretical cognitive process of visualization for science education,” Springer Plus, vol. 3, Article no. 184, 2014.

R.E. Mayer, “Learning and instruction”, Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2003.

N.S. Newcombe, and T.F. Shipley, “Thinking about spatial thinking: New typology, new assessments”, pp. 179-192, Springer, Dordrech, 2015.

D.H. Uttal, K.V. Scudder and J.S. DeLoache, “Manipulatives as symbols: A new perspective on the use of concrete objects to teach mathematics” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 37–54, 1997.

L.A. Tartre, “Spatial Orientation Skill and Mathematical Problem Solving,” Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 216-229, 1990.

M.B. Casey, R.L. Nuttall, and E. Pezaris, “Spatial-mechanical reasoning skills versus mathematics self-confidence as mediators of gender differences on mathematics subtests using cross-national gender-based items”, Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 28–57, 2001. 749620.

B.N. Verdine, R.M. Golinkoff, K. Hirsch-Pasek and N.S. Newcombe, “Links between spatial and mathematical skills across the preschool years,” Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, vol. 82, no. 1, pp. 1–150, 2017.

M. Turğut and Y. Süha, “Relationships Among Preservice Primary Mathematics Teachers’ Gender, Academic Success and Spatial Ability,” International Journal of Instruction, vol. 5, no. 2, 2012.

B. Rabab’h and V. Arsaythamby, “Spatial Visualization as Mediating between Mathematics Learning Strategy and Mathematics Achievement among 8th Grade Students,” International Education Studies, vol. 85, 2015.

B.N. Verdine, R.M. Golinkoff, K. Hirsh-Pasek, N.S. Newcombe, A.T. Filipowicz, A. Chang, “Deconstructing Building Blocks: Preschoolers’ Spatial Assembly Performance Relates to Early Mathematical Skills,” Child Development journal, vol. 85, no. 3, pp. 1062-1076, 2014.

R.D. Hannafin, M.P. Truxaw, J.R. Vermillion and Y. Liu, “Effects of Spatial Ability and Instructional Program on Geometry Achievement,” The Journal of Educational Research, vol. 101, no. 3, pp. 148-157, 2010.

R. Udhaya Mohan Babu and G. Kalaiyarasan, “Visual-Spatial intelligence-A Best creativity Agency,” Conference: Health indicator for physical and cognitive fitness education, 2016.

A.G. Carlson, E. Rowe, T.W. Curby, “Disentangling fine motor skills' relations to academic achievement: the relative contributions of visual-spatial integration and visual-motor coordination,” Journal of Genetic Psychology, vol. 174, no. 5-6, pp. 514-533, 2013.

K.A. Gilligan, E. Flouri and E.K. Farran, “The contribution of spatial ability to mathematics achievement in middle childhood,” Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, vol. 163, no. 2017, pp. 107-125, 2017.

V. Crollen, C. Vanderclausen, F. Allaire, A. Pollaris, M. Noël, “Spatial and numerical processing in children with non-verbal learning disabilities,” Research in Developmental Disabilities, vol. 47, pp. 61-72, 2015.

J. Wai, D. Lubinski, and C.P. Benbow, “Spatial Ability for STEM Domains: Aligning Over 50 Years of Cumulative Psychological Knowledge Solidifies Its Importance,” Journal of Educational Psychology, vol. 101, no. 4, pp. 817– 835, 2009.

S. Wang and M. Kinzel, “How do they know it is a parallelogram? Analysing geometric discourse at van Hield level 3,” Research in Mathematics Education, 2014.

D.A. Stylianou, “Teachers’ conceptions of representation in middle school mathematics,” Journal of mathematics Teacher education, vol. 13, pp. 325-343, 2010.

E. Fischbein, “The Theory of Figural Concepts,” Educational Studies in Mathematics, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 139-162, 1993.

M.A. Mariotti, “The Interaction Between Images and Concepts in Geometrical Reasoning,”, Doctoral thesis, Tel Aviv University, 1995.

E. Miragliotta, and A. Baccaglini-Frank, Visuo-spatial abilities and geometry: A first proposal of a theoretical framework for interpreting processes of visualization, Dublin, ffhal-01950545, 2017.

H. Caldwell, and B. Moore, “The art of writing: Drawing as preparation for narrative writing in the primary grades,” Studies in Art Education, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 207–219, 1991.

Li-Ming Liu, “The Relationships between Creativity, Drawing Ability, and Visual/ Spatial Intelligence: A Study of Taiwan’s Third-Grade Children,” Asia Pacific Education Review, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 343-352, 2007.


Article Metrics

Abstract views : 354 | PDF downloads : 148


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2021 Unit Riset dan Publikasi Ilmiah FTK UIN Raden Intan Lampung

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Creative Commons License

Indonesian Journal of Science and Mathematics Education is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License