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Performance on Middle School Geometry Problems With Geometry Clues Matched to Three Different Cognitive Styles


M. Beth Casey, Program in Applied Developmental and Educational Psychology, Lynch School of Education, 201 Campion Hall, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02492; e-mail:


ABSTRACT— This study investigated the relationship between 3 ability-based cognitive styles (verbal deductive, spatial imagery, and object imagery) and performance on geometry problems that provided different types of clues. The purpose was to determine whether students with a specific cognitive style outperformed other students, when the geometry problems provided clues compatible with their cognitive style. Students were identified as having a particular cognitive style when they scored equal to or above the median on the measure assessing this ability. A geometry test was developed in which each problem could be solved on the basis of verbal reasoning clues (matching verbal deductive cognitive style), mental rotation clues (matching spatial imagery cognitive style), or shape memory clues (matching object imagery cognitive style). Straightforward cognitive style–clue-compatibility relationships were not supported. Instead, for the geometry problems with either mental rotation or shape memory clues, students with a combination of both verbal and spatial cognitive styles tended to do the best. For the problems with verbal reasoning clues, students with either a verbal or a spatial cognitive style did well, with each cognitive style contributing separately to success. Thus, both spatial imagery and verbal deductive cognitive styles were important for solving geometry problems, whereas object imagery was not. For girls, a spatial imagery cognitive style was advantageous for geometry problem solving, regardless of type of clues provided.