2021 Undergraduate Research Showcase

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Iryna Babik


Previous research has suggested that early sex differences in visuospatial skills may be related to science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) careers being disproportionately male.1 Visuospatial skills such as spatial visualization and mental rotation are correlated with childhood math skills.2 Findings regarding sex differences in math skills have been inconsistent.3 However, there is a slight female advantage in computation and algorithmic solutions in elementary school and middle school before there is no sex difference, and there is a male advantage in assessments involving problem-solving and the application of math concepts to novel contexts beginning in high school.4 Male advantages in spatial skills are present in childhood and become increasingly exaggerated over time beginning in middle school.5 Visuospatial skills are a predictor of computational and algorithmic math skills in middle school aged males but not in middle school aged females.3 The development of visuospatial and math skills such as mental rotation, numeracy, and shape recognition are correlated in early childhood with playing with spatial toys such as puzzles or blocks—which are less commonly played with by females than males.6,7 Gender and its influence on types of toys played with may influence visuospatial skills, math skills, and eventual involvement in STEM.


  1. Sanchez, C. A., & Wiley, J. (2010). Sex differences in science learning: Closing the gap through animations. Learning and Individual Differences, 20(3), 271-275. doi:10.1016/j.lindif.2010.01.003
  2. Geer, E. A., Quinn, J. M., & Ganley, C. M. (2019). Relations between spatial skills and math performance in elementary school children: A longitudinal investigation. Developmental Psychology, 55(3), 637. doi:10.1037/dev0000649
  3. Ganley, C. M., & Vasilyeva, M. (2011). Sex differences in the relation between math performance, spatial skills, and attitudes. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 32(4), 235-242. doi:10.1016/j.appdev.2011.04.001
  4. Lindberg, S. M., Hyde, J. S., Petersen, J. L., & Linn, M. C. (2010). New trends in gender and mathematics performance: a meta-analysis. Psychological bulletin, 136(6), 1123. doi:10.1037/a0021276
  5. Geiser, C., Lehmann, W., & Eid, M. (2008). A note on sex differences in mental rotation in different age groups. Intelligence, 36(6), 556-563. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2007.12.003
  6. Schmitt, S. A., Korucu, I., Napoli, A. R., Bryant, L. M., & Purpura, D. J. (2018). Using block play to enhance preschool children's mathematics and executive functioning: A randomized controlled trial. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 44, 181-191. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2018.04.006
  7. Jirout, J. J., & Newcombe, N. S. (2015). Building blocks for developing spatial skills: Evidence from a large, representative U.S sample. Psychological Science, 26, 302-310. doi:10.1177/0956797614563338



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