Using Spatial Reasoning in Math

Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has been teaching math for over 9 years. Amy has worked with students at all levels from those with special needs to those that are gifted.

In this lesson, you will learn how spatial reasoning is a different way to encourage the development of mathematical skills in young students. You'll also learn what kinds of activities are ideal for spatial reasoning.

Spatial Reasoning

Can you picture a spinning cube? If you can, then you are using what is called spatial reasoning. Spatial reasoning is defined as the ability to imagine things in three-dimensions. It includes the ability to move objects around in your mind. This type of reasoning has been shown to be very beneficial to young learners starting from kindergarten. It helps them develop their math skills better than traditional paper and pen number exercises.

Spatial reasoning oftentimes is a better way to teach math
spatial reasoning

Instead of teaching the number line by showing your students a line and then writing the numbers on it, you can have your students use spatial reasoning and use blocks to represent each number on the number line. This way, your students can visualize it in their heads and get a sense of magnitude at the same time. Young students who aren't able to articulate very well often do much better with spatial reasoning activities as they can use gestures to help them explain. Many times, these students find their words as they gesture.


A major part of spatial reasoning is imagining. Students use their imagination to help them visualize and move objects around in their heads. For example, after showing your students the number line with the help of blocks, you can now ask your students to visualize different numbers in their heads with these blocks. You can have your students compare two different numbers to see which is greater. You can also have your students tell you how many more blocks the greater number has. This ability to spatially reason with blocks can help your students as they move onto addition and subtraction.

Let's take a look at two different tools you can use spatial reasoning with now.


This first tool is that of blocks. You've already seen how you can use blocks to help you teach the number line. You can also use blocks to teach rotations and symmetry. You can also use a flattened version of a block to help your students spatially reason. These flattened versions are called nets, where if you cut them out, you can fold them back into the block. One way you can use these nets is to show your students a collection of various nets and then ask them to pick out the ones that will fold to give you a block.

spatial reasoning

To help with your student's spatial reasoning, you can have your students cut these nets out and try making blocks out of them. This is a great way for young learners to begin learning about shapes, too.

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