Vivian Singer and Kathernie Strasser
Many studies of school achievement find a significant association between reading and arithmetic achievement. The magnitude of the association varies widely across the studies, but the sources of this variation have not been identified. The purpose of this paper is to examine the magnitude and determinants of the relation between arithmetic and reading performance during elementary and middle school years. We meta-analyzed 210 correlations between math and reading measures, coming from 68 independent samples (the overall sample size was 58923 participants). The meta-analysis yielded an average correlation of 0.55 between math and reading measures. Among the moderators tested, only transparency of orthography and use of timed or untimed tests were significant in explaining the size of the correlation, with the largest correlations observed between timed measures of arithmetic and reading and between math and reading in opaque orthographies.
Implications for Instruction
The reported findings have practical implica-tions for the teaching of arithmetic and lan-guage. Specifically, they show that, although there may be some skills specific to language and to arithmetic performance, those specific factors can only partially account for the vari-ance in either of them. This highlights the im-portance of teaching general skills such as lan-guage processing and problem solving. Based on these findings, we consider it essential that, to make better educational decisions, educators as well as clinical practitioners take into account the wide arrange of possible factors that deter-mine performance in arithmetic and reading in school, instead of visualizing learning problems as the result of isolated deficits. In the curricu-lum, arithmetic and reading are presented as dissociated domains, but our results suggest that it may be beneficial to focus on their relation, be it from the perspective of common cognitive factors that influence both of them, or from a causal perspective where one of them influences the other. One corollary of the conception of arithmetic and reading as very separate domains may be the assumption that, because language is key for literacy development, it could not play a vital role for arithmetic learning, downplaying the importance of language for arithmetic learn-ing, and limiting the interventions available for teachers and special educators
Keywords: arithmetic, reading, schoolchildren
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