How Do Different Aspects of Spatial Skills Relate to Early Arithmetic and Number Line Estimation?

Véronique Cornu, Caroline Hornung, Christine Schiltz, Romain Martin


The present study investigated the predictive role of spatial skills for arithmetic and number line estimation in kindergarten children (N = 125). Spatial skills are known to be related to mathematical development, but due to the construct’s non-unitary nature, different aspects of spatial skills need to be differentiated. In the present study, a spatial orientation task, a spatial visualization task and visuo-motor integration task were administered to assess three different aspects of spatial skills. Furthermore, we assessed counting abilities, knowledge of Arabic numerals, quantitative knowledge, as well as verbal working memory and verbal intelligence in kindergarten. Four months later, the same children performed an arithmetic and a number line estimation task to evaluate how the abilities measured at Time 1 predicted early mathematics outcomes. Hierarchical regression analysis revealed that children’s performance in arithmetic was predicted by their performance on the spatial orientation and visuo-motor integration task, as well as their knowledge of the Arabic numerals. Performance in number line estimation was significantly predicted by the children’s spatial orientation performance. Our findings emphasize the role of spatial skills, notably spatial orientation, in mathematical development. The relation between spatial orientation and arithmetic was partially mediated by the number line estimation task. Our results further show that some aspects of spatial skills might be more predictive of mathematical development than others, underlining the importance to differentiate within the construct of spatial skills when it comes to understanding numerical development.


spatial skills; early mathematics development; kindergarten; arithmetic; number line estimation

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Copyright (c) 2017 Cornu; Hornung; Schiltz, Martin