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Reading Mathematics

Spatial ability can influence verbal ability

As a child, I loved LEGOs and spent hours upon hours building with them. We got Fleur Megablocks early and she aspired to build towers taller than her. I tried getting her in Duplos (toddler LEGOs), only to find her interested in the Minifig(ure)s. For the past 6 months she has really been interested in Magna-Tiles to build zoos for toy animals and houses for her Minifigs.

Coincidentally, she has also had a verbal explosion about the same time.

And I’ve run across a study looking at bleed over affects spatial ability into the verbal domain. These are older students, getting new lessons on spatial ability who then showed skill gains in verbal reasoning backed by changes in the brain through longitudinal fMRI scans.

The more students improved on spatial scanning and mental rotation, abilities that are specifically theorized to support mental modeling, the more they improved on verbal reasoning, and improvement on spatial scanning mediated the association of the spatial curriculum to improved verbal reasoning.

Robert A. Cortes et al. Transfer from spatial education to verbal reasoning and prediction of transfer from learning-related neural change. Science Advances, 8, 32. 2022. https://www.science.org/doi/abs/10.1126/sciadv.abo3555

This might be something akin to findings that students who struggle with reading find word problems more difficult, so improving reading also improves math ability. The mental modeling aspect is truly fascinating.

The SAT wants verbal and math to be separate things, but we keep finding that they are subtly linked.