Augmented reality activities for children: a comparative analysis on understanding geometric shapes and improving spatial skills

Gecü-Parmaksız, Zeynep
The main purpose of this study is to compare the use of virtual manipulatives such as Augmented Reality (AR) applications to traditional techniques (physical manipulatives) for teaching geometric shapes and improve spatial skills to preschool children. The lesson content was determined, and the materials were designed for children. A quasi-experimental study was conducted in a public primary school with 72 participants. The children were randomly assigned to the experimental and control groups. Spatial ability tests (Picture Rotation Test, Spatial Perception Scale), and Geometric Shape Recognition Task as pre-test were implemented to preschool children. As the treatment, experimental group children used tablet computers with AR applications that present virtual manipulatives supporting the learning of geometric shapes and improving spatial skills. The control group used physical manipulatives for doing similar activities. After four weeks of treatment to both groups, the post-tests were utilized. A sample of the children in both groups and their teacher and parents were interviewed to figure out their thoughts about the activities and manipulatives. The analysis of the collected data of Geometric Shape Recognition Task revealed that there was no statistically significant difference between the groups in the circle classification task, while statistically significant differences were found between the groups in triangle, rectangle, and square classification task in favor of the experimental group. In addition to this, spatial ability test results showed that virtual manipulatives had a statistically significant difference in children’s scores. The interviews with subjects revealed that not only children but also parents and teachers have positive thoughts about virtual manipulatives.