Research has shown that spatial ability plays a key role in understanding STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) content, including chemistry. Conservation of Matter (CoM) is an essential but challenging topic for chemistry students of all ages to grasp; it is often taught in a way where students memorize it but do not learn what it means conceptually. This research explored the relationship between understanding spatial ability and conceptual understanding of CoM in middle school students. CoM was examined in two ways using the Conservation of Matter Assessment (CoMA): through questions on conservation of atoms and the conservation of mass. Spatial ability was measured using the Purdue Spatial Visual Test: Rotations (PSVT). Significant, moderate correlations were found between spatial ability and understanding of CoM prior to and after a chemistry unit including instruction on CoM; the correlation was stronger after instruction. Scores on the PSVT and CoMA significantly increased pre to post instruction. The data show spatial ability may impact students’ understanding of CoM, which contributes to the literature on factors that impact students’ understanding of chemistry. Additionally, it provides evidence that teachers should consider including spatially rich experiences in their chemistry classroom, such as making explicit connections between the areas of Johnstone’s Triad.

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Published in Education Sciences, v. 11, issue 1, 4.

Copyright: © 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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