Unblock Me: game analysis

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One of my all time favorite ipod touch games is “Unblock Me.” I had always thought that I lacked necessary spatial skills because growing up I never played video games, sports, or any other daily activity most children do due restrictions put upon me by my father. Anyways, I knew that just like my intelligence, my spatial abilities and skills were malleable therefore I set on a quest to find a game that would help me solve puzzles while aiding me in acquiring spatial skills. Well, I had found it! Unblock Me.

Unblock Me can be very frustrating in the beginning if a person has not played such puzzles before. It definitely made me feel like I was so restricted in my movement that I literally had a minor anxiety attack when all I could do was move left or right and up or down. Nothing else!

This game has two game modes that a user can choose from. A relaxed mode is where the player is neither time nor scored. The other is the challenge mode where the player is both timed and scored. Each level of beginner, intermediate, and expert contains more than 800 levels therefore guaranteeing that the player will get enough practice to become an expert at this game.

With all its benefits, I think Unblock Me can be an excellent tool for classroom settings. This game can be played individually and with partners. It has great potential to instill team work but also independent desire to approach problem-solving as well.

Unblock Me challenges children and adults to solve the block puzzle, which tests their abilities to come up with the best solution possible. Incentive to find the best solution? Player will get a solution hint, up to 5 solution hints at max, that can come handy when one is almost about to give up. For me, preserving my solution hints means to see how far can I keep going without using them. Often times I make myself proud!

Overall, Unblock is a great tool to be used in the classroom setting! It can help promote spatial skills, critical thinking skills, and scientific inquiry amongst students and adults alike.

Check out the video in the link below! Children in Sub-Saharan Africa using Unblock Me to learn spatial skills and cooperation! http://sms.cam.ac.uk/media/1120700?format=mpeg4&quality=360p

The relation between spatial skill and early number knowledge: the role of the linear number line

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Gunderson et al. hypothesized that spatial skills play an important role in the development of numerical reasoning. Having spatial skills can aid children to create”spatially meaningful, powerful numerical representation: the linear number line.” Preschoolers’ ability to reproduce geometric designs and spatial scanning task, highlighting their spatial skills, is positively correlated with their “adaptive strategy in an arithmetic task.” Similarly, mental rotation abilities (spatial skills) of college students and “high-ability”middle school students predicts performance of these students on the math portion of SAT-M. The fact that spatial skills predict broad math scores such as SAT-M scores “suggests that spatial processing might be implicated in other domains of mathematics beyond those that are ostensibly spatial.”

This shows that we should take teaching of spatial skills to our children seriously because it can help them in the long run. Any play involving hands on experience should be promoted not only in home setting but in schools as well, by that I mean more mind engaging tasks than blocks.

Blocks are good for introducing spatial skills to children, however, we must not stop there. Rather we must enable children to have age appropriate toys that promote spatial skills (check out the wooden-puzzles post below).

When children’s “beginning-of-year number line knowledge, spatial skill, and math knowledge” were controlled for, verbal skills were not a significant predictor of “end-of-year number line knowledge.” But spatial skills were a strong predictor.

All in all, the study found that spatial skills have positive influence on early numerical development of children, which improves their “linearity of their number line representation” (Gunderson et al., 2012).

Wooden Puzzles that can help with acquiring spatial skills.

The ultimate puzzler's variety pack, this beautiful wood crafted collection contains some of the most popular and challenging puzzles of today. Including Falling Star, Star Puzzle, 3D Squares Cube, Snake Cube, Ball in Jail and Burr Puzzle, it will surely dazzle and delight everyone from the dabbling novice to the serious puzzler.

The ultimate puzzler’s variety pack, this beautiful wood crafted collection contains some of the most popular and challenging puzzles of today. Including Falling Star, Star Puzzle, 3D Squares Cube, Snake Cube, Ball in Jail and Burr Puzzle, it will surely dazzle and delight everyone from the dabbling novice to the serious puzzler.

Spatial Ability and Gender Differences

vector kids new styleWe all know that when interacting with our environment  spatial ability plays a crucial role in helping us navigate, recognize, and manipulate objects, as we helps us perform academic tasks, and recalling locations.

Among others, spatial ability is an “autonomous human intellectual competencies” (Gardner, 1983).

Gender differences manifest around the time children attend kindergarten or first-grade. It is the case that on average, boys compared to girls are much better and accurate on spatial tasks and score higher on the “Mazes subtest of the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence…gender differences in favor of boys are present on spatial tasks by age 4 1/2″ (Levine et al., 1999).

BUT there is a good news! Intervention programs that promote spatial ability can lead to improvement of spatial attention. “[F]ollowing training, females showed higher improvement than males on both spatial and mental rotation tasks” (Tzuriel & Egozi, 2010).

When study results were analyzed in the post intervention phase, the girls on the experimental group performed significantly higher than the boys in the control group. However, the initial gender gap that existed between boys and girls was not closed because the boys in the experimental group outperformed girls. We need to find better way to see how we can close these gaps.

From this, I believe that early training programs that aim to train boys and girls in spatial ability and spatial attention can bridge the gender gap even if the differences between the abilities are biological  or environmental in their inputs.

In addition, intervention had its greater impact when the task was higher in difficulty.

Children’s spatial thinking

istock_wsphotos-5-toddler-girl-concentrating-on-a-puzzle-cResearch has linked individual differences in children’s later language and literacy skills to variations in early language inputs.

The study at hand, “Children’s spatial thinking: does talk about the spatial world matter?” explored whether the use of spatial language by the mother not only influences and predicts spatial language in children but also their performance on non-verbal spatial tasks.

Current findings show that spatial thinking is an important predictor of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) achievement and careers. Therefore, it is important to explore the kinds of early inputs that are related to spatial thinking.

Interest between spatial language and spatial cognition grew out of a more general debate on the relation between language and thought.

Loewenstein and Gentner (2005) showed that when related spatial language was used to describe the target s location (e.g.  I m putting the winner on ⁄ in ⁄ under  the box , or  I m putting the winner at the top of ⁄ at the middle of ⁄ at the bottom  of the box ), preschool children were better at finding a target item in one of three possible locations used in the experiment than when the target s location was described with deictic, non-spatial language (e.g. I m putting the winner here ).

Dessalegn and Landau (2008) recently found that “4-year-olds who heard spatial language specifying direction (e.g. The red is on the left ) during a complex matching task were more apt to bind and remember color and location information than those who heard language not specifying directional information (e.g. the red is touching the green ).”

These experimental studies suggest, according to Pruden et al., that during various spatial-cognitive tasks, compared to children who do not receive or produce spatial language, children who do often perform better on such tasks.

The results of the study reveal substantial variability in the production of spatial language by both, children and their primary caregivers. In addition, a significant relation between parents’ spatial language utilization and children’ s spatial language use emerges when controlled for parent and child ‘ other talk’ . In other words, if the parent uses significant amount of spatial language then the children of that parent will most likely have a large spatial language repertoire as well.

These findings are consistent with the following developmental trajectory.

During everyday, parent–child interactions, parents vary widely in the amount of spatial language they use with their children. This variability in spatial language input is, in turn, predictive of the amount of spatial language children use. That is, between 14 and 46 months, those children who have been exposed to a lot of spatial language input are far more likely to produce spatial language themselves. Furthermore, children who produce more spatial language are more likely to perform better on spatial problem solving tasks somewhat later, at 54 months of age. The correlational pattern obtained from this naturalistic study is consistent with causal as well as non-causal explanations of the relationship between spatial language and their performance on spatial tasks.

The current findings indicate that children s early spatial language is related to parents’  use of spatial language.

In particular, such findings would indicate that an easy way to enhance young childrens spatial language as well as their spatial thinking is by talking about the spatial world with them.

Children’s Spatial Thinking: spatial-numeric associations in pre-reading preschoolers

I recently read a paper about children’s ability to think spatially.

We all know that spatial associations with abstract concepts are essential aspect of our mental life. Opfer et al., report that “when matching pictures to semantically identical sentences (i.e. ‘The girl kissed the boy’ versus ‘The boy was kissed by the girl’), English-speaking adults choose pictures where the thematic subject is depicted on the left and the thematic object on the right.”

The two main questions addressed in the paper titled, “Early development of spatial-numeric associations: evidence from spatial and quantitative performance of preschoolers,” in regards to the ‘mental number line’ was, ” Where do these associations come from, and what (if any) representational function might they serve?”

To test the spatial-numeric associations, three possibilities were tested:

Spatial-numeric associations emerge:

1. As soon as children learn numeric symbols.

2. After numerous years of reading practice.

3. as a result of visuo-motor experience of counting (tagging an item serially while reciting the integer list.)

It made sense that pre-reading preschoolers be tested on their directional biases when using the numeric information, how they use it, and if the spatial-numeric associations are linked to “mature representation of numeric value” (Opfer et al., 2009)

Overall, the goal of the study was to experimentally test to see if the spatial-numeric development occurred with the learning of numeric symbols, reading experience, or counting experience. Unlike previous studies that suggested that spatial-numeric associations were a result of reading practices (Dehaene et al., 1993; Hubbard et al., 2005), the results of this study showed that spatial-numeric associations develop in children before they begin any formal instruction in reading.

For me the fascinating link the study mentions between numeric and spatial coding is that the foundations for spatial-numeric association are laid down in early childhood as young children constantly engage with the physical world. Therefore, as an adult who is concerned about our future generation, I think we need to create an environment that will nurture children’s ability to bloom in their spatial abilities.