I’m back online here in Texas after our week of crazy weather. It’s 74 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny today – and I’m perfectly happy for it to stay that way!
My latest blog post for NEO was published last Thursday while my fingers were still too cold to type on a keyboard. “6 Ways to Support Spatial Reasoning Skills Online” emphasizes the importance of offering plenty of opportunities to children to learn and develop aptitude in this area. During my 29 years in the classroom I observed that spatial reasoning was often overlooked, but has many extremely practical applications in our everyday lives. I also saw, and was the casualty of, gender discrimination in this area. Though I think physical practice is the best way to sharpen spatial reasoning, I mention many free digital tools that you can use in the article. In addition, I’ve made this Wakelet of over 40 links to games, toys, articles, and websites that support spatial reasoning.
I am so not proficient when it comes to spatial reasoning. This makes sense to me because I can’t think of ever really practicing it as a child. I didn’t build with Legos or blocks, and I wasn’t really into jigsaw puzzles. Mostly, I read a lot. That means I’m generally a decent speller, but when I try to sew a face mask you will have to turn it right side in to make it right side out. Or something like that. Let’s just say my very un-straight stitches are very visible on the side of the material that you would normally want people to see. And, yes, that is with a sewing machine.
So, as I spend the second half of my century of life trying to visualize what comes naturally to everyone else in my family, I would like to re-iterate that spatial skills are pretty important, and aren’t really a big focus in most schools. Regular readers will know that this isn’t a new theme on this blog, and here are some past posts that I’ve done with other great resources: Spatial Reasoning, Spatial Puzzles, and a bunch of reviews of apps and games.
Today’s spatial reasoning resource would have been so fun to do with my engineering students. It comes to us from Mark Chubb (@MarkChubb3), who offers these One-Hole Punch Puzzles on his blog, Thinking Mathematically. I’ve seen puzzles like these on some aptitude tests, but usually the questions show how a paper was folded and punched, and you have to select from the multiple-choice the subsequent result when unfolded. In this hands-on twist, Chubb produces the results, and students have to use their own pieces of paper and one-hole punch tools to demonstrate where the paper must have been folded and punched.
In a pre-Covid class, we could have shared hole punchers and then had a huge confetti party. Sadly, this may not be an option for any teachers anytime soon, but I encourage home-schoolers, parents, and anyone who can’t sew a mask to give these puzzles a try.
While searching for ways to help my engineering students develop some desperately needed problem-solving stamina and spatial reasoning, I came across these wonderful puzzles that are in color – and provide solutions. (Did I mention I need to practice my spatial reasoning, too?) I gave them the TED Ed River Crossing Riddle last week, and I thought I was about to have a full-on mutiny on my hands when I wouldn’t reveal the answer right away, so I thought I would try some less complex challenges for the next few weeks 🙂
A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season. I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December. These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child. For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page.
Dog Pile might be a good stocking stuffer for kids 8 and up. Though the box recommends it for 10+, there is no reading needed (except for the instructions). It’s a good game to promote growth mindset and spatial reasoning. Responsibility is another attribute you may need to cultivate, so none of the small plastic dog pieces get lost 😉
The multi-colored dogs included are in a variety of shapes. Challenge cards are included with scaffolded puzzles from Beginner to Expert. Each card has a region that must be filled by the dogs suggested on the card. When placed properly, the dogs will fill the area of the shape without going outside the lines.
Dog Pile is one of the games I like to say belongs in the, “Solitaire Games Best Played with a Partner.” My daughter and I take turns on the challenges for games like this. In my classroom, students usually work in pairs or small groups on games of this category (like Rover Control). Conversing about the puzzles seems to help, and kids tend to persevere more. It’s also important to keep them on the challenge “continuum.” Children often try the first couple of puzzles, think those are too easy, and then skip to the Expert challenges. When the Expert level frustrates them, they sometimes declare the game is “no fun.” Encourage them not to skip levels, as each one slowly introduces new difficulties that will prepare them for more complex puzzles later on. If playing this at home, you will find that games like this have a lot more “staying power” when adults join in and model good problem solving skills.
You can watch the video below for a quick explanation of the game.
Oh, and if your household prefers cats, there is a feline version of the game here!
Some of the tests that students can take in their quest to qualify for gifted services require spatial reasoning. I am frequently astounded by the performance of some students on these tests as they whip through the pages at lightning speed, ending up with nearly perfect scores. Spatial reasoning has never been my strong suit, and even the questions on tests for 6 year olds can make me go cross-eyed.
When you think about it, however, we don’t usually practice a lot of spatial reasoning during a typical school day. After all, aside from geometry and map skills, it’s not generally a part of state standardized tests. According to this article from MindShift, though, we should consider integrating more spatial reasoning into our curriculum.
I tried some of these Zukei puzzles, and learned that I really need to work on this skill myself. If you think those are easy, then try the angle puzzles here.
Considering I have to use the Waze app to find my way out of a parking lot, I think I probably should spend a few hours a week sharpening my brain on these types of challenges (or just resort to online shopping for the rest of my life).