Spatial Skills Are Key to Success in STEM
A new post on the blog of cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham directed my attention to this article, about the relationship between spatial skills and careers in science and technology. Written by Nora Newcombe, it reads in part:
“Is spatial thinking really a key to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—the so-called STEM disciplines? Yes. Scores of high-quality studies conducted over the past 50 years indicate that spatial thinking is central to STEM success. One of the most important studies is called Project Talent; it followed approximately 400,000 people from their high school years in the late 1950s to today. It found that people who had high scores on spatial tests in high school were much more likely to major in STEM disciplines and go into STEM careers than those with lower scores, even after accounting for the fact that they tended to have higher verbal and mathematical scores as well.
Similar results have been found in other longitudinal studies: one began in the 1970s and tracked the careers of a sample of gifted students first studied in middle school;4 another began in the 1980s with observing the block play of preschoolers and followed their mathematics learning through high school. In short, the relation between spatial thinking and STEM is a robust one, emerging for ordinary students and for gifted students, for men and for women, and for people who grew up during different historical periods.
Spatial thinkers are likely to be more interested in science and math than less spatial thinkers, and are more likely to be good enough at STEM research to get advanced degrees. So, would early attention to developing children’s spatial thinking increase their achievement in math and science, and even nudge them toward STEM careers? Recent research on teaching spatial thinking suggests the answer may be yes.” See Willingham’s post, with a link to Newcombe’s article, here.