Learning to Think Spatially: GIS as a Support System in the K-12 Curriculum

This 2006 report by the Committee on Geography of National Research Council can be viewed online for free, and is also offered for purchase as downloadable PDF files by chapter, and as a bound print volume.

Although GIS is an implementation focus, the report offers much useful analysis of a general nature. We have selected some excerpts and organized them in this ‘book’ you can page through.

Spatial Thinking

Spatial thinking is based on a constructive amalgam of three elements: concepts of space, tools of representation, and processes of reasoning. It depends on understanding the meaning of space and using the properties of space as a vehicle for structuring problems, for finding answers, and for expressing solutions. By visualizing relationships within spatial structures, we can perceive, remember, and analyze the static and, via transformations, the dynamic properties of objects and the relationships between objects.

It is the links among space, representation, and reasoning that give the process of spatial thinking its power, versatility, and applicability. Spatial thinking is multifaceted in its operation: just as there is no single recipe for how to think verbally or mathematically, there is no single way to think spatially. Instead, the process of spatial thinking comprises broad sets of interconnected competencies that can be taught and learned .