Gender, Video Game Playing and Kindergarten Children’s Mental Rotation Abilities



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Strength in spatial abilities, specifically mental rotation abilities, has been consistently associated with increased mathematical achievement (Casey, Nuttall, & Pezaris, 1997). This particular skill, mental rotation, has also been consistently stronger in males than females (Linn & Peterson, 1985). This ability may develop at a very young age and early childhood play experiences may influence mental rotation abilities (Serbin & Connor, 1979; Voyer, Nolan, & Voyer, 2000). Video game playing is becoming increasingly pervasive in young children’s lives. While video game playing appears to improve mental rotation skills in adults (Cherney, 2008), there is little information on young children’s informal video game playing habits and no information on the relationship between this type of play and mental rotation abilities among kindergarten children. To address this issue, this study evaluated kindergarten children’s mental rotation abilities and their video game playing habits. Whether these abilities and habits differed for boys and girls was also explored. The study used archival data collected as part of an experimental study conducted by Andrews (2009) to examine the development of spatial skills and reasoning in kindergarten students. The participants were 96 kindergarten students (51 girls and 45 boys) randomly selected from two public elementary schools in a large urban school district in southeast Texas. Parents of the participants completed a questionnaire designed to measure children’s home play activities (Andrews, 2009). The questionnaire included items related to their children’s home video game playing habits. The participants’ mental rotation abilities were measured using the Mental Rotation Task, a developmentally appropriate measure designed by Casey and colleagues (2008). These two scales, the questionnaire responses and the scores on the Mental Rotation Task, were the measures used as the dependent variables for this study. Chi-square tests for independence, multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA), and univariate analyses were used to analyze within-group and between-group variances on these dependent variables and assess the strength of association between the variables. The results of the study indicated that boys are significantly more likely than girls to play video games and spend significantly more time doing so. There was no significant effect for gender on the mental rotation task scores. Among kindergarten children, the amount of time spent playing video games per week did not significantly affect mental rotation abilities. The study also provided data on an area not yet explored in early childhood research: the interaction effects of gender, amount of kindergarten children’s home video game playing, and its association with mental rotation skills. The result of the analysis indicated that for this age group there was no significant interaction effect for gender and video game playing on mental rotation task performance.
This study provides empirical data and adds to the limited body of information on young children’s mental rotation abilities and involvement with video game playing



Mental rotation, Kindergarten, Spatial abilities, Video games