Spatial abilities and gender gap in mathematics (Matabì)

Last registered on February 07, 2023


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.


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Primary Investigator

University of Cagliari

Other Primary Investigator(s)

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 five schools in Turin (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 maths scores and maths anxiety.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Di Liberto, Adriana. 2023. "Spatial abilities and gender gap in mathematics (Matabì)." AEA RCT Registry. February 07.
Experimental Details


Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Pupils' visuospatial and mathematics scores.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The randomized control trial takes place in five primary schools located in Torino (Piedmont, Italy). Enrolment in the project is voluntary. The project involves around 60 classes of third and fourth-grade students (i.e., approximately 1200 pupils and 60 teachers). The treatment provides specific training to the teachers in class on the use of construction play to enhance pupils' visuospatial and mathematics abilities. Within each school, we randomly assign a third of the teachers to the control group, a third to the treatment group starting in the first half of the school year, and a third to the treatment group starting in the second half of the school year.
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?
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
60 classes/teachers
Sample size: planned number of observations
1200 pupils
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
20 classes control, 20 classes treated at the beginning of the school year, 20 classes treated in the second half of the school year
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