Puzzles, numbers, and the abstract functions of physical forms

We could say that cognitive development in any domain (movement, language, mathematics, etc.) is a process of literally and figuratively putting the pieces together. Different domains may involve different pieces, but perhaps the underlying patterns are really the same.

Especially in the area of mathematics, should it be surprising that some of those pieces would be real puzzle pieces? Other studies have found that puzzles and related activities can improve children’s spatial reasoning skills. However, the research described in this article also found that these types of activities improved children’s abilities with symbolic numbers.

It’s clear that there are connections among physical and mental object manipulation, spatial reasoning, and symbolic number representation. But how should we think about those relationships and their implications for teaching and learning? What sort of pattern do these pieces suggest?

Children who can fit shapes together to make recognizable objects are better at learning the number line and solving math problems …

The work is further evidence of the value of providing young children with early opportunities in spatial learning, which contributes to their ability to mentally manipulate objects and understand spatial relationships, … [The paper is also] the first to connect robust spatial learning with better comprehension of other aspects of mathematics …

“These results suggest that improving children’s spatial thinking at a young age may not only help foster skills specific to spatial reasoning but also improve symbolic numerical representations[.]”

Spatial skills hone kids’ number sense | Futurity