Cartography teaching and the development of spatial thinking in Brazilian geography textbooks
Spatial thinking has been recognized as closely related to tools of representation (NRC, 2006) and the maps have been widely pointed out as crucial for the development of that kind of reasoning. Furthermore, the scientific com-munity dedicated to the field of the spatial thinking has been asserting that the abilities encompassed in such a complex cognition can and must be fostered in school. Considering these groundwork, our research focused on the decision to assess the effectiveness of the contribution for the development of student’s spatial thinking, provided by the questions found in Brazilian middle school geography textbooks. The main concern was the proficiency regarding cartographic language.
To assure the possibility of comparing our results with some other investigations we decided to use a methodology that was strongly based on the Taxonomy of Spatial Thinking, designed by Injeong Jo and Sarah Bednarz (2009).
Counting on those powerful tools we analyzed 6.884 questions in the three most adopted geography textbooks sets in Brazilian middle schools (6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grades). For the purpose of enlarging the number of books and countries to be compared, we have also evaluated 2.073 questions that are present in a French geography textbook set edited for the same grades. Using the taxonomy enabled us not only to evaluate if the questions demanded or not the use of the spatial thinking by the students. It also showed us the three general levels of reasoning involved, allowing to discern between low, intermediate and high levels of spatial thinking.