Representing Space: Exploring the Relationship between Gesturing and Geoscience Understanding in Children

  • Bryan J. Matlen
  • Kinnari Atit
  • Tilbe Göksun
  • Martina A. Rau
  • Maria Ptouchkina
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 7463)


Learning in science requires the ability to think spatially and gesturing has been shown to ground students’ understanding of spatial relationships. However, despite theoretical reasons to hypothesize a relation between the use of gesture and science understanding, few studies provide strong empirical evidence of a link between these factors. In the present study, we explored whether spontaneous use of gesture is associated with children’s understanding of spatially intensive geoscience concepts. Eight- to sixteen-year-old children (N = 27, M = 11.79 yrs) were provided instruction about the causal mechanisms of mountain and volcano formation and were then interviewed for their understanding of these mechanisms. Analyses of children’s responses to the interview questions revealed significant positive correlations between children’s knowledge of geoscience and the spontaneous production of iconic, content-relevant gestures. These findings help to empirically establish a long hypothesized link between gesture and science understanding, and suggest that gesturing may facilitate understanding of difficult spatial science concepts.


Gesture Spatial Reasoning Geoscience Education Children 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bryan J. Matlen
    • 1
  • Kinnari Atit
    • 2
  • Tilbe Göksun
    • 3
  • Martina A. Rau
    • 1
  • Maria Ptouchkina
    • 4
  1. 1.Carnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Temple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  4. 4.CapgeminiChicagoUSA

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