Spatial abilities and gender gap in mathematics (Matabì)

Last registered on February 06, 2024


Trial Information

General Information

Spatial abilities and gender gap in mathematics (Matabì)
Initial registration date
February 06, 2023

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
February 07, 2023, 11:37 AM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Last updated
February 06, 2024, 12:47 PM EST

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.


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Primary Investigator

University of Cagliari

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
University of Cagliari
PI Affiliation
Politecnico di Torino
PI Affiliation
Politecnico di Torino
PI Affiliation
Fondazione Agnelli
PI Affiliation
Fondazione Agnelli

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Male students typically outperform their female classmates in maths test scores. The literature finds that one of the sources of gender inequalities in mathematics is related to differences in the acquisition of visuospatial abilities between girls and boys from a very young age.
Existing works find that playing with specific toys facilitates learning in subjects such as maths and physics and that boys usually gain more experience than girls because of different parental beliefs on the gender-specific suitability of toys. In addition, the literature stresses that self-confidence and anxiety are not gender-neutral and can affect educational outcomes.
This project is finalized at enhancing the spatial abilities of third and fourth-grade students, and at reducing the gender gap so that girls can improve their learning of mathematics and reduce math anxiety in comparison to boys. The randomized control trial involves several primary schools across Italy, where students will acquire visuospatial abilities via construction play (i.e., by using Lego Duplo kits). Using the bricks should help students process abstract concepts, while the playful approach should reduce math anxiety. By improving these abilities at school at a young age, girls should therefore be able to catch up with their male counterparts both in terms of visuo-spatial abilities, maths scores and reduction in maths anxiety.
We run a pilot study in the school year 2022-2023 and plan to scale up the intervention in the schooling year 2023-2024. In the following years, we plan to follow the students in the sample and link information on standardized test scores from administrative data to evaluate treatment effects in the long run.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Ballatore, Maria Giulia et al. 2024. "Spatial abilities and gender gap in mathematics (Matabì)." AEA RCT Registry. February 06.
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Outcomes: student data collected via questionnaires, which includes test scores in visuo-spatial abilities and cognitive abilities in mathematics and geometry, math anxiety; student data on standardized test scores from administrative sources; teachers data collected via questionnaires on basic demographics, teaching practices and self-efficacy, attitudes and personality traits.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The randomized control trial takes place in several primary schools across Italy. Enrolment in the project is voluntary. The project involves around 60 to 80 classes of third and fourth-grade students per round (i.e., approximately 1200 to 1500 pupils and 50 to 65 teachers). The treatment provides specific training to math teachers on the use of construction play to enhance pupils' visuospatial and mathematics abilities. Teachers are assigned to the treatment or control group randomly. Randomization is stratified within school and grade.
The study will provide evidence of the effects of teaching methods that exploit the use of construction play. The primary research questions are the following:
i. What is the impact of the treatment on the spatial abilities of pupils?
ii. How does the impact differ by gender?
iii. How does the treatment affect the gender gap in mathematics and math anxiety?
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer
Randomization Unit
Teachers/classes within schools.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Around 50 to 65 teachers in each round
Sample size: planned number of observations
Around 1200 to 1500 pupils in each round
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
About two thirds of the sample are assigned to the treatment group, one third is assigned to the control group
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Commissione etica, Università degli Studi di Cagliari (Italy)
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number