Told you so! In previous posts (here and here) I’ve explained that using fingers helps the ability for maths. Now, a team of psychologists have come to the same conclusion but with some science to back-up their claim. They say using building blocks and jigsaws develop spatial skills and cognitive ability.
This means STEM subjects like science, maths, technology, engineering are being learnt at an early age. Why using fingers may be important is due to the fact, as the authors report,
None of the other types of play (e.g., drawing, playing with noise-making toys, and riding a bicycle, skateboard, or scooter) or the parent-child activities (e.g., teaching number skills, teaching shapes, playing math games, telling stories) included in the survey data were associated with children’s spatial ability.
None of the above exercises involve finer finger skills. Remember; fingers are called digits in medicine, and for a good reason!
Boys seem to be more interested in STEM subjects and this seems evident from an early age. Again, as the authors tell us;
In line with previous findings, parents reported that boys engaged in spatial play — playing with puzzles, blocks, and board games — more often than girls, even after spatial ability was taken into account.
So perhaps they are better because they are more interested in STEM subjects, shown by the fact they play more when younger – or they are better because they played more. But not all of maths is dependent on spatial awareness and are boys better at maths?
In a recent survey (don’t ask me where) it was found girls are no worse at maths than boys. It’s a caricature. Only in Turkey for example do boys perform better than girls, and that is down to an educational/cultural reason. Even then, there wasn’t much in the difference.
On a related topic, Dame Mary Archer, who has just become chair of London’s Science Museum, told the Evening Standard, single sex schools enable women to become scientists because there’s no-one to tell them they shouldn’t be in a lab. She said,
We were rare birds — quite literally,” she said. “I think I quite enjoyed that. It wasn’t until I became a lecturer at Cambridge that I [saw] glass ceilings. But by then your temperament is set: you’re unstoppable.
Among the things that can turn [girls] off are very daunting role models: we can’t all be Marie Curie, nor do we all want to be.
For girls aged 12 to 14, a feminine self-image is important. There’s a sense that ‘I can’t be as womanly as a scientist as I could be as a beautician or a journalist.
Playing With Puzzles and Blocks Could Build Children’s Spatial Skills: click here
Thomas Eakins [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons