As educators and parents look for ways to identify and nurture creativity early in a child’s life, they may want to pay particular attention to spatial skills. Douglas Quenqua reports for the New York Times on a new study out of Vanderbilt University that shows intellectually children with strong spatial skills were more successful in careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

“Evidence has been mounting over several decades that spatial ability gives us something that we don’t capture with traditional measures used in educational selection,” said David Lubinski, the lead author of the study and a psychologist at Vanderbilt. “We could be losing some modern-day Edisons and Fords.”

A gift for spatial reasoning – the kind that may inspire an imaginative child to dismantle a clock or the family refrigerator – may be a greater predictor of future creativity or innovation than math or verbal skills, particularly in math, science and related fields, according to a study published Monday in the journal Psychological Science.

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  • Tskillsclub

    Katarina –
    The author mentions Lego and chemistry sets as good for developing spatial skills, but neglects recent research, much of it spearheaded by Daphne Bavelier at the University of Rochester, that video games are excellent at developing such skills.

    The NYT article quotes psychologist David Geary, commenting on the skill of spatial attention, as saying, “It’s not like math or English, it’s not part of an academic curriculum,” he said. “It’s more of a basic competence.” The idea of developing such basic competencies as this and working memory, for instance, using games, is the impetus behind the nascent “brain training” industry (of which, incidentally, the NYT takes a dim view).

    The article goes on to say that spatial attention “is also a competence more associated with men than women.” It’s interesting to note in this regard a study by Ian Spence at the University of Toronto which showed that a 3D first-person shooter video game was also very effective in closing the gender gap.

  • Pingback: Why We Need To Value Students’ Spatial Creativity | Global Digital Citizen Foundation()


Katrina Schwartz

Katrina Schwartz is a journalist based in San Francisco. She's worked at KPCC public radio in LA and has reported on air and online for KQED since 2010. She's a staff writer for KQED's education blog MindShift.

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