Saturday, March 05, 2005

Visual, Sensory-Motor, & Mathematical Spatial Learning

Spatial learning is one of the most neglected 'intelligences' in the conventional classroom. Although recreational video and other spatial gaming can exercise the 'Spatial Mind', rarely will a child actually receive instruction in spatial learning. And yet spatial skill is essential for many technological and scientific disciplines like computer modelling, chemistry, physics, engineering, or mathematics.

Brain research has come a long way from the first brain images of people 'mentally rotating blocks'. The view below was published in 1996. It shows the pattern of brain activity when subjects mentally rotate the blocks (not just flip) from side to side.

Our understanding of spatial learning is still in its infancy, but some interesting links to read below are references to folks like Erik Demaine (homeschooled by math dad who worked at craft fairs, MIT's youngest professor- now the 'Origami Professor', combinatorial game theory, etc) and an abstract (sorry, no free access yet) of a brain study showing different brain pathways for mental rotation depending on whether visual strategies (imagining floating) or sensory-motor strategies (imagine turning by hand) were used.

Ideally, spatial problem solving should be cultivated by training in visual, sensory-motor, and mathematical spatial learning approaches. In the ideal world, having all 3 in your problem solving arsenal would provide you greater flexibility in your approach to spatial problems.
Demaine 'Origami Professor' at MIT
Erik Demaine's Videos
Erik Demaine
Different Strategies for Mental Rotation
UCLA Mental Rotation 1996

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