Author Archives: Jaclyn Russell

Moving and Imagining: Spatial Presentation at Early Math Symposium 2018

On Friday, April 22, 2018, at the Early Math Symposium, AIMS associates engaged participants in three presentations on early mathematics. Wilma Hashimoto and I presented “What’s So Special About Spatial”. We presented this twice and had a great time interacting with the two groups. Our goal of the presentations was to inform our participants about the importance of spatial language, movement (embodied cognition in spatial reasoning), and spatial visualization.

We started by answering the question, “Why should we be teaching spatial?”

Through our extensive research, we encountered work by Jae Eun Lee who stated that the scores of early education teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge of mathematics on number sense were highest, while scores obtained for spatial relationships were the lowest. We wanted our participants to see how valuable they are and how much they can accomplish just by expanding their knowledge. Another disturbing point we investigated was found in a report from the U.S. Department of Education that pointed out that the U.S. has been teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic as most essential subjects; however,  teaching on spatial thinking is critically important for the disciplines of STEM and is not as prominent as it should be. Spatial development is especially significant in the field of early childhood education and that formal instruction is necessary to ensure that children build on this knowledge. There is a strong need to enhance spatial thinking and develop individuals who are spatial thinkers.

Rotations in Presentation

After Wilma and I discussed the importance of and research on spatial reasoning we then went into our rotations. We created four rotations of spatial activities for all the participants to rotate through. Our goal was for the participants to engage in playful learning to explore how they could implement the spatial foundations in their classrooms. Each rotation encompassed embodied cognition, the use of language and visualization.

What is embodied cognition?

Embodied cognition challenges traditional notions of what cognition involves. Our bodies and motions are important; the ways we interact within and experience our environment shape our thinking.

Scholar and researcher Brent Davis stated; “Every act is an act of cognition.”

What is visualization?

Spatial visualization is a specific type of spatial thinking that involves our imagination to “Generate, retain, retrieve, and transform well-structured visual images.”

Provides learners with strategies to promote spatial ability.

We wrapped up our presentation by explaining that while spatial reasoning is a vast field it is mostly experienced in our everyday lives. Spatial skills encompass more than having a good sense of direction, however. Nora Newcombe, who leads the “Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center” describes spatial as the ability to read maps, diagrams, and charts; to correctly identify, transform and manipulate shapes; to understand how objects relate to one another in space; and to maintain a stable mental representation of an object as it moves.


Davis, B. (2015). Spatial reasoning in the early years: Principles, assertions, and speculations. New York: Routledge.


CCAEYC 2018 Keynote Speaker Reflection

I just returned from attending and presenting at the California Association for the Education of Young Children (CAAEYC). These three days were filled with learning, meeting new educators, sharing our love for early education, and spreading our knowledge from AIMS regarding early mathematics through play and spatial activities. On Friday I attended the keynote presentation:… Continue Reading

Families Engaging in Math Beyond the Classroom Walls

The Early Math team at AIMS recently had the opportunity to present at a Head Start site last week. Each Head Start site has monthly parent meetings. At these meetings, site coordinators, facilitators, and teachers present information to the parents/families. At this last meeting our team gave a presentation entitled, “Mathematical Language to Use at… Continue Reading

In Their Voices (Part 3)

As I walk into Mrs. Martinez’s preschool classroom, I am immediately taken in by a sense of warmth and sunshine instead of the cold, foggy January day outside. Inside the classroom, I see children working in small groups, huddled around adults, playing with objects, building towers, and reading books. I hear laughter, questions, and the… Continue Reading

Venn Diagrams and Early Childhood Teachers

My guess is most people probably wouldn’t say “Venn diagrams” and “preschool” in the same sentence. Here at AIMS, where the early math team has partnered with Head Start, I am working at a preschool site that has an amazing staff and loves implementing new math lessons and activities. The focus of the lesson this… Continue Reading

Be the Reason Someone SMILES Today

As a former kindergarten teacher, I must say I am a big Pinterest fan. When I was looking up ideas for classroom inspirational sayings and quotes, a recurring saying kept coming up, “Be the reason someone smiles today.” What does this look like in a classroom? Why is this important? And how in the world… Continue Reading