The influence of spatial thinking skills training using the online platform RIF 3.0 on students’ spatial thinking and mathematical skills

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Eleni Lagoudaki (2022): The influence of spatial thinking skills training using the online platform RIF 3.0 on students’ spatial thinking and mathematical skills. Dissertation, Paris-Lodron-Universität Salzburg.
Betreut durch Karl Josef Fuchs.


The importance of research that aims at the improvement of mathematics teaching and learning cannot be questioned. The various students’ misconceptions that have been identified can become an obstacle to their latter performance. For example, some students struggle with understanding the relational dimension of the equal sign and tend to perceive it as an order to "do something". This difficulty to conceptualise the equal sign a symbol of mathematical equivalence can hinder their ability to solve equations later on (Knuth et al., 2006). Issues like students’ early development of their generalizing skills, abstract thinking, observation of arithmetic and geometric patterns, and the provision of multiple representations of mathematical objects are very crucial for their future algebraic reasoning abilities (Blanton et al., 2019; Kieran, 2004; Sutherland, 2004). The aspect of students’ future mathematical competence and the role mathematics play in following a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields, is also pointed out often by Mathematics Education researchers, which is considered highly paid (Green et al., 2017; Wai et al., 2009). Consequently, the effort to amplify mathematics instruction and ensure that students are provided the best possible educational tools in order to develop their mathematical skills and later on follow that career path, is of high importance (Green et al., 2017). Mathematics teaching and learning have been the center of interest of many studies focusing on how students perceive and understand mathematics (Skemp, 2006) or how various emotional factors affect mathematics performance (Reyes, 1984). As Schoenfeld (2001) summarizes, the scope of research that addresses Mathematics Education is, on the one hand, to understand the nature of mathematical thinking, teaching and learning and on the other hand, to utilize those findings in order to improve the teaching of the subject. Schoenfeld (2001) also notes that the nature of this research differs from the one of Mathematics themselves precisely due to the research objectives, the posed questions that are seeked to be answered and the kind of evidence and methods that are used. In addition, due to the complex themes that research regarding mathematics teaching and learning deals with, methods and findings from various disciplines as Sociology, Cognitive Psychology and a broad range of perspectives are recruited (English et al., n.d.). Alongside the body of Mathematics Education research and the efforts to apply those findings in practice there is also a misconception found among some teachers, students and parents that mathematics is not for everyone. In other words, it is believed that some people have that kind of “intelligence” to be competent at mathematics and others that are not fit for such a career or a profession that involves mathematics. The proposed study will focus on a specific aspect of human intelligence namely spatial thinking, the role that it plays in mathematics performance and how its training can also support mathematics learning. More specifically, the purpose of the current study is to evaluate for the first time the online spatial training platform RIF 3.0 on its effectiveness regarding the development of 11-12 year old students’ spatial and mathematical skills. This evaluation will contribute to the improvement of the spatial training tasks contained in the platform and the enhancement of the platform’s effects. The introduction of platform RIF 3.0 comes at a time when digitization in schools is expanding, which makes the scientific development of online tools a matter of high importance. In addition, platform RIF 3.0 provides the affordance of easy and free access to spatial training, allowing students to develop their spatial skills regardless of their socioeconomic background. Furthermore, the results of the current study will contribute to the needed deepening of our understanding of the relationship between spatial and mathematical skills (Mix, 2019). Numerous researchers have stated that there’s a need for more interventional studies to better find ways to enhance students’ spatial skills and help their performance in mathematics. This is due to the small number of studies that have taken place so far and the mixed results that they have produced (Z. C. K. Hawes et al., 2022; Mix et al., 2021). In this regard, the present study will add to this experience by examining the outcomes of the platform RIF 3.0 in a broad range of spatial and mathematics skills and propose ways for effective spatial training in the context of mathematics education. The literature review section will cover the definition of spatial intelligence, the relationship between spatial intelligence and mathematics performance and how it can be explained, interventions that aim at improving spatial abilities and then spatial interventions that specifically target mathematical skills. In the methodology section, the contribution and the importance of the study, the research questions and the method that will be followed in order to answer them are being presented.


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