Background and Objectives: Spatial ability is an important notion because of its application in everyday life and its place in science and engineering. In recent decades, there have been many studies on spatial ability in the field of mathematics education. Parts of these studies have been conducted in the field of school mathematics, emphasizing the importance of the spatial ability in the process of teaching school mathematics. Of course, it should be noted that the number of research studies related to mathematics education in Iran is not very large and most of them have been conducted in the field of psychology. It is also stated in the educational documents such as the principles and standards of school Mathematics (NCTM) that students should use a variety of visual representations to analyze mathematical problems and issues. Numerous definitions of spatial ability have been proposed and various terms, such as visual thinking, intuitive thinking, and visual ability have been used to describe it and various factors and components have also been identified to explain its nature. The purpose of this study was to investigate the spatial ability of students with regard to their gender, grade, and field of study and also according to factors including spatial visualization, mental rotation, and spatial orientation.
Methods: The method of this study was the survey method and its participants were 901 students from secondary schools in Shahriyar studying in the 10th and 11th grade in the academic year 2017-2018. The measurement instrument was a researcher-made test whose formal and content validity was confirmed by a number professors and teachers of mathematics and its reliability was also confirmed by the approximate amount of Cronbach's alpha which was 0.83. In addition, descriptive statistics (mean and standard deviation) and inferential statistics (independent t-test) were used to analyze the data.
Findings: The findings of the study showed a significant difference between male and female students in the field of spatial ability. In addition, the performance of math students was significantly better than the students in the field of experimental sciences. Also, the performance of the 11th grade students was significantly better than that of the 10th grade students. This difference can be justified by the implicit teaching that takes place in the 10th and 11th grades, as well as the courses which are taken by the 11th grade students in geometry until the exam. These findings show that the growth of spatial ability depends on education, and because of its place in everyday and professional life, needs more attention in school mathematics. The qualitative findings of this study showed that tasks related to spatial ability are a good platform for developing mathematical thinking and mathematical processes, such as problem solving, reasoning, and proof. Moreover, teaching and increasing the level of education seem to have an undeniable effect on the growth of spatial ability and the improvement of students' problem-solving performance.
Conclusion: Although the problem-solving approach has clearly established its presence in Iranian mathematics textbooks in recent decades, little research has been done on the place and role of spatial ability in teaching the process of solving mathematical problems. Moreover, the field of school mathematics needs more research on spatial ability in different areas, such as curricula, teacher training, and methods of math teaching and learning. The findings of this study can be useful in modifying and strengthening the strategies, educational processes, curricula and appropriate educational instruments to improve students' spatial visualization.
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