The Reading-Math Connection
While reading failure dominates the news, math failure comes in as a close second. The recent headline in the Seattle Times "New-age math doesn't add up" is but one of the many examples that appear almost daily, highlighting the weaknesses in the math education offered to our children.
Aside from the issue of failure, the two spheres of reading and math are rarely linked. Nevertheless, reading problems are a major contributor to math difficulties.
One of the clearest signs of the connection is to be found in what are termed "word problems." These are not the simple, straightforward operations found in activities such as 8+4=? or 3 x 7= ? Instead, "word problems" are the activities where the items are expressed solely in language, leaving children to figure out what the key numbers are and what to do with them. A typical problem might be "Tom had 42 boxes and Mary had 29 boxes. How many more boxes did Tom have than Mary?"
Once you look at a "word problem," the reading connection is obvious. If a child is not a fluent reader and has to figure out the words in slow, often inaccurate, manner, there is little or no chance for the problem to be understood. But the connection goes deeper than this.
Even when a child can read every word accurately, math problems require that children know how to deal with language when it is used with tight, precise meanings. Math language may share the same set of words that appear in everyday language, but the two types of language represent very different worlds.
That is why Phonics Plus Five, unlike any other reading program, has been specifically designed to teach children not simply everyday language, but also the language needed to understand the intricacies underlying math skills. The end result is excellence not simply at reading but at math as well.