Loughborough University

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Kindergarten children's sensitivity to geometry in maps

journal contribution
posted on 2013-06-06, 08:17 authored by Elizabeth S. Spelke, Camilla GilmoreCamilla Gilmore, Shannon E. McCarthy
Geometrical concepts are critical to a host of human cognitive achievements, from maps to measurement to mathematics, and both the development of these concepts, and their variation by gender, have long been studied. Most studies of geometrical reasoning, however, present children with materials containing both geometric and non-geometric information, and with tasks that are open to multiple solution strategies. Here we present kindergarten children with a task requiring a focus on geometry: navigation in a small-scale space by a purely geometric map. Children spontaneously extracted and used relationships of both distance and angle in the maps, without prior demonstration, instruction, or feedback, but they failed to use the sense information that distinguishes an array from its mirror image. Children of both genders showed a common profile of performance, with boys showing no advantage on this task. These findings provide evidence that some map-reading abilities arise prior to formal instruction, are common to both genders, and are used spontaneously to guide children’s spatial behavior.


We thank Veronique Izard for advice and Sang Ah Lee for valuable discussion and comments on the manuscript. Supported by grants to ESS from NIH (HD-23103) and NSF (REC-0337055) and a British Academy Fellowship to CKG.



  • Science


  • Mathematics Education Centre


SPELKE, E.S., GILMORE, C.K. and MCCARTHY, S., 2011. Kindergarten children's sensitivity to geometry in maps. Developmental Science, 14 (4), pp. 809 - 821.


© Blackwell Publishing Ltd


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Publication date



Closed access. This article was published in the journal, Developmental Science [© Blackwell Publishing Ltd] and the definitive version is available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7687.2010.01029.x




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