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IMPROVING SPATIAL REPRESENTATIONS IN EARLY

CHILDHOOD
Andreas Oikonomou, Marianna Tzekaki
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
In this paper, a teaching intervention programme aiming at improving spatial
reasoning in early childhood is presented. An initial study (Oikonomou, 2005), which
investigated the development of spatial representations in pre-school children (4, 5 –
6 years old) showed that, despite important individual differences, the ways in which
the subjects represented and handled spatial situations evolved: from the exploitation
of either a holistic or partial approach in the beginning to the control of elaborated
one and two dimensions situations. These results contributed to a better
understanding of the development of children’s spatial representations, as detected
and discussed by Case and Okamoto (1996) and Newcombe and Huttenlocher (2000)
and more in accordance to Siegler’s than to Piaget’s approaches (Siegler, 1998).
Based on these findings, a teaching intervention programme was designed aiming at
the investigation of the possibility to help children to improve the ways they represent
and handle spatial situations and hence the knowledge and the abilities required.
The 52 pre-schoolers who participated in the experiment were pre-tested and
classified in different groups according to their performances. The teaching
intervention included group activities, where the task was related to the reproduction
of material or to graphical configurations. The spatial relations involved were relative
positions or locations in space, locations according to a reference system, colinearity,
horizontality, perpendicularity. The children were post-tested a month after the end of
the intervention and their performances was compared to that of a control group.
The comparison of the children’s performance in the diagnostic and the evaluative
tests showed that the improvement of the experimental group was very significant
(54%, with an effect size=1,24), whereas that of the control group was modest (28%).
The improvement concerned all the dimensions of the test, thus showing that,
working with appropriate tasks, the children of the sample could ameliorate their
spatial reasoning.
References
Case, R., and Okamoto, Y. (1996). The role of central conceptual structures in the
development of children’s thought. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child
Development 61: v-265.
Oikonomou, ǹ. (2005). Spatial Representations of pre schoolers, Dissertation, Aristotle
University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki. AUTH.
Newcombe N., and Huttenlocher, J. (2000). Making Space. The Development of Spatial
Representation and Reasoning. Massachusetts: MIT Press.
Siegler, R. (1998). Children’s thinking. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

2005. In Chick, H. L. & Vincent, J. L. (Eds.). Proceedings of the 29th Conference of the International
1- 268 Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education, Vol. 1, p. 268. Melbourne: PME.