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Scaffolding Young Math Learners to Be Effective Spatial Problem Solvers

Presenter: Beth Casey
This presentation is based on a program of research documenting the key role of early spatial skills as important factors both in students’ early acquisition of arithmetic and in their later math reasoning skills. One focus of the presentation is on identifying critical developmental changes in spatial problem solving in young learners, and another focuses on strategies for effective scaffolding of spatially based math learning. Videotaped examples of effective spatial scaffolding used by parents and teachers are presented as examples of ways that various scaffolding methods can be applied through the use of spatial problems posed through stories, guided questioning, and design of activities.

Beth Casey, Research Professor and Professor Emeritus, Boston College
Beth Casey’s research has focused on the early development and teaching of spatial skills in young learners as an important factor in the acquisition of later math reasoning skills, with a particular focus on the effects of individual differences in spatial skills on girls’ success in STEM. Currently, Casey leads the NSF-funded grant, Two Studies on Long-Term Changes in the Relation Between Spatial Skills and Math Achievement in Girls. Casey coordinated the Early Childhood Program at Boston College for many years, where she implemented a model for teachers on how to scaffold young learners’ problem-solving skills. She developed an NSF-funded six-book early childhood storytelling/math series entitled Round the Rug Math: Adventures in Problem Solving, published by McGraw-Hill in 2002. The books are designed to develop spatially based math problem-solving skills through the medium of storytelling. Casey conducted a series of research studies showing the effectiveness of this approach for teaching young children. She worked with PBS as a math script advisor for Curious George, which was awarded an Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Animation Program. Within PBS, she is on the Math Advisory Board of the Ready-to-Learn project, helping to develop its math frameworks. As their math advisor, she worked for the multimedia projects Cat in the Hat, CloudKid, SciGirls, Peep and the Big Wide World, and Portfolio Entertainment. Most recently, she served as a consultant to the University of Chicago on the new Pre-Kindergarten Mathematics Assessment. Casey received her master’s and doctoral degrees in Developmental Psychology from Brown University.