Making Sense of Spatial Sense

Geometry and Spatial Sense. We all get the concept of teaching students about 2 and 3D shapes, but what about the other stuff? What is spatial sense, and why does it matter? I will admit that it wasn’t until the last few years that I really grasped the importance of this strand and how it really does relate to more than a couple of lessons on transformations and movement on a grid.

Have you ever noticed a student that has difficulty copying off the board, despite having great vision? Who frequently confuses letters that are similar; like b and d? Or who always seems to be bumping into objects or people? It is possible that this child has poor spatial sense. Spatial sense is developed in the early years; through crawling, stacking objects, shape sorting toys and playing with building blocks. When a child enters the education system without these skills they are at a disadvantage. Fortunately, these skills can be improved through several games and activities.

I have incorporated full body movement in mathematics over the past few years, with great success. In addition to increased student engagement, and decreased behaviour issues, students have demonstrated a greater understanding of math concepts taught.

When students are given the opportunity to shift from paper to full movement experiences they are able to develop their spatial awareness and reasoning skills. Strengthening these skills will have benefits across multiple subject areas. 

Some examples of off the page math activities include;


  • Gardening
  • Cooking
  • Movement on a grid (taped on the floor) and a number line
  • Creating dance phrases to demonstrate transformations
  • Acting out word problems



Modelling transformations on a grid

The video clips below show students creating short dance phrases that show transformations. The mini lessons leading to this activity included:


  1. Whole group instruction of movement on a grid, where we used verbs to describe movement; eventually agreeing on common language (translation, rotation, reflection)
  2. Individual movement on a grid; responding to teacher commands
  3. In small groups; students created dance phrases on a sentence strip; including all three movements
  4. Music was added and students made revisions as necessary
  5. Early finishers added solo’s to their dances
  6. Students performed their dances for their classmates; who were asked to identify their movements


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