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Spatial skills

By Admin, on 29 March 2021

Image credits: Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Spatial thinking incorporates a number of different skills. For example, being able to imagine an object and rotate it in our minds. This is known as mental rotation. Other spatial skills include: disembedding, which is the ability to mentally separate a particular object from a more complex image and navigation, which is being able to move around our environment either literally or virtually by understanding the position and relationship between different objects.

Several studies have shown these different spatial skills are connected to children’s mathematical development. Results collectively show children who are better at spatial thinking also do better at maths. For example, young children who do better at constructing building blocks also do better on assessments of early maths skills.

Further research also shows spatial skills can be trained. For example, computer games that require children to orientate themselves in virtual worlds, playing with building blocks and lego, and reading maps when going for walks. Intervention studies have shown that these types of play not only improve children’s spatial skills, but in some cases, there was also an improvement in their maths abilities.

More recent findings have also indicated that maths skills can also support children’s spatial thinking: so, the relationship between maths and spatial skills is bi-directional. Collectively, this evidence strongly suggests that spatial thinking is a vital component of children’s mathematical development.

Want to know more? Check out some of these papers:

“Make Space: The Importance of Spatial Thinking for Learning Mathematics” by Dr Katie Gilligan (University of Surrey)

“Early Education for Spatial Intelligence: Why, What, and How” by Nora Newcombe and Andrea Frick (Temple University)


Copyright © 2021 UCL


By Admin, on 29 March 2021


Image credits: Luis Arias on Unsplash

Learning to count is a fundamental part of children’s mathematical development and 5 key skills need to be mastered- these are known as the counting principles:

  1. Stable order principle: Your child understands that the number sequence always remains the same, “one, two, three”.
  2. One-to-one correspondence: Your child is able to match one distinct counting word to one (and only one) of the items within the set of objects being counted.
  3. Cardinality: Your child understands that the last number said when counting a set of objects represents the total number of objects. Your child can demonstrate this by giving you the correct number of items when asked to give a specific number of items.
  4. Abstractions: Your child understands that sets of any nature can be counted, including a mixture of items that differ in shape, size, and colour, or even sounds.
  5. Order irrelevance: Your child understands that no matter which order you count the items, (e.g., left to right or right to left), the sequence and total number remains the same.

You may notice when your child is first learning to count, they will say the number words in a fixed counting list: ‘one, two, three, four’. Initially, those number words hold little to no meaning for children.

For example, if you were to ask your child ‘what number comes after four?’ They would typically recite the counting words, like a nursey rhyme they know by heart, ‘one, two, three, four, FIVE!’ As children get older and more experienced with counting, they gradually develop the understanding that 5 comes after 4, and no longer need to recite the entire counting list.

Learning to count help to establish a mental number line. This is also an important foundation for understanding quantity and the ability to manipulate number when carrying out sums when they are older, such as addition and subtraction.

Want to know more?

“What Children Know and Need to Learn about Counting” by Prof. Herbert Ginsburg (Columbia University)


Copyright © 2021 UCL

Welcome to the Maths@Home blog

By Admin, on 2 February 2021

The Maths@Home Blog

These blogs are written by academics at UCL Institute of Education who developed the Maths@Home activities. These blogs provide further information about mathematical abilities in children aged 2 to 6 years old, based on recent research evidence from mathematical development as well as best evidence-based practice to support children’s mathematical abilities.

To find out more about the Maths@home activities visit our website.

The Maths@Home app is freely available to all users. However, in order to keep the app freely available we need to raise a minimum amount of funding each year to ensure the app is compatible with any software updates. So please donate if you can:



Copyright © 2021 UCL