Research has long found a gender gap favoring boys in spatial ability—considered vital to fields like engineering and physics—but a new study in the October issue of Child Development suggests that formal training in spatial ability can help girls catch up.
Education professor David Tzuriel and social-sciences lecturer Gila Egozi at the Bar Ilan University in Israel trained 60 1st graders over a three-month period. In each 45-minute session, the pupils were asked to draw and discuss shapes shown to them on flashcards. They were tested on their ability to visualize objects in a rotated form both before the training took place and five months later.
Boys in both the training and control groups outperformed girls on the pretest. But girls who took part in the lessons improved more than boys did, eliminating the gap between the genders in the post-test and scoring higher than the control-group boys.
A version of this article appeared in the September 22, 2010 edition of Education Week as Gender and Education