Investigating the use of spatial reasoning strategies in geometric problem solving.
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A core aim of contemporary science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education is the development of robust problem-solving skills. This can be achieved by fostering both discipline knowledge expertise and general cognitive abilities associated with problem solving. One of the most important cognitive abilities in STEM education is spatial ability however understandings of how students use this ability in practice are currently underdeveloped. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate how levels of spatial ability impacted both performance and approaches to problem solving. In the context of graphical education, selected due to its significant overlap with technological, mathematical and engineering knowledge, a repeated cross-sectional study design was implemented to gather longitudinal data of student approaches to problem solving. A battery of psychometric tests of spatial ability was administered to two cohorts and problem solving was examined through a variety of graphical problems. The findings illustrate a relationship between attaining higher levels of spatial ability and performance. Participants with lower levels of spatial ability evidenced the utilisation of models to a greater extend with a particular emphasis on models with the capacity to alleviate the need for spatial reasoning.
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