Tag Archives: engineering

Will teaching spatial reasoning eliminate the need for support strategies for women?

Math Linking Blocks
What if I told you that you could potentially improve the retention of your female students in engineering by almost 30% just by providing them with 12 contact hours of spatial reasoning education?

That’s what Dr. Sheryl Sorby of Michigan Technological University did.  Seventy-seven percent of women who took an introductory spatial skills course she developed under an NSF grant were retained in Engineering Design, compared to 48% of the women who didn’t take the course (Female n=251).  That’s a 29% difference!

There is a great deal of evidence showing that overall women and girls as a group have significantly less ability in spatial reasoning, a skill that is critical to engineering and other science disciplines.  There is also evidence that spatial reasoning skills and test scores can be easily upgraded in a short period of time.  You can read nine articles in our Proven Practices Library on this topic!

Hear from Dr. Sorby herself – the leading researcher on gender and spatial reasoning – in these U.S. Department of Education video interviews.

Sheryl Sorby

Sheryl Sorby

Want a tested spatial reasoning course and teacher’s guide so you can implement a course in your school?  This link takes you to the CD and workbook for students and this one takes you to the teacher’s guide.

Have you noticed a gender difference in spatial reasoning skills between your female and male students? Or have you experienced difficulty in this area yourself? Dr. Sorby, an engineer, tells how it was her own difficulty with spatial reasoning, despite being an A student, that led to her interest in this topic.  She wanted to make the path easier for the women (and men) coming behind her.

News flash – Girls and boys are different!

Recruiting Strategies 101: Which of these two educational toys do you think most girls would want to play with?

Lego Mindstorm

PicoCrickets

Both of the above toys were made by the MIT Educational Lab to teach kids computer programming, robotics and engineering skills.  LEGO MINDSTORMS® were developed first (naturally, sigh) and guess what? The lab discovered that while the toy was a big hit with boys, girls just didn’t care for it.  Now I know one of our readers out there knows a girl who loves LEGO MINDSTORMS® – however, if we are trying to appeal to the vast majority of girls, monsters just aren’t going to cut it – they’re a boy thing. MIT then realized they needed to develop a toy that interested girls and that’s where PicoCrickets comes in. Instead of monsters, girls can make a cat robot and program it to purr when someone pets it. Take a look at the video clip below that shows girls making a diary security system with PicoCrickets.


The only problem is that everyone knows about LEGO MINDSTORMS®, while very few people know about PicoCrickets. That’s why we’re around! Go to our webpage to learn more about PicoCrickets. You can see more video clips, photos and an explanation of how they work. I look forward to the day when PicoCrickets will come first and LEGO MINDSTORMS® second. Will that be in my lifetime?