Thesis Title

Gender Differences in Spatial Ability: A Mixed-Methods Investigation of the Solution Strategies Used by Boys and Girls to Solve Problems Involving Spatial Tasks

Date of Graduation

Summer 2007


Master of Science in Mathematics



Committee Chair

Linda Plymate


Earlier research has established that gender differences in spatial abilities exist with males consistently scoring higher on tests of spatial ability. The present research investigated the types of problem solving strategies of a sample of 26 male and 32 female high school College Algebra and Trigonometry students. A redrawn version of the Vandenberg and Kuse Mental Rotations Test (MRT) was used and the participants completed a survey regarding participation in leisure spatial activities. Interviews were conducted while participants solved spatial problems and solution strategy use was listed and categorized by gender. Significant differences were found in the mental rotation ability of males and females in these classes, with males having significantly higher mental rotation test scores than females. Also, significantly more males than females were able to solve both spatial problems correctly during the interview portion of the study. Furthermore, girls with low Mental Rotation Test (MRT) scores used completely incorrect processes in their problem solving, and their ability to solve the two spatial problems was significantly lower than boys with low Mental Rotation Test scores. Thus, a gender gap in spatial ability was present, with low MRT females in need of the most assistance. This could have consequences for the development of spatial training and differentiated instruction to assist those students who have reduced mathematical ability.


gender differences, spatial ability, spatial reasoning, problem solving, mathematics, mental rotation, solution strategies

Subject Categories



© Melissa Marie Wittmer