As a parent, there are few things more rewarding than witnessing your child learn something new. And when it comes to elementary reading and math, there’s even more reason to celebrate: Research from the University of Edinburgh has found that children who master these foundational skills are far more likely to prosper in adulthood.
Although early reading and math skills are something that adults can take for granted, they don’t always come easily to every child. Not to fear. With a little help and encouragement, a child can master these early learning skills, and by doing so, gain the confidence they’ll need as they continue to push themselves in elementary school, high school and beyond.
A Closer Look at the Research
The University of Edinburgh’s recent study demonstrates that reading and math skills at age 7 are directly linked to socioeconomic status (SES) at age 42. In other words, children who performed higher in these subjects in the second grade are more likely to be high income earners in their early forties - highlighting how crucial elementary learning is to a child’s long-term potential for success.
Researchers followed over 17,000 children throughout their lives and found that elementary reading and math directly affected SES. These results reject the common notion that only general intelligence determines success. While reading and math expertise certainly foster general intelligence, researchers agree that these basic elementary skills are the ultimate foundation for success.
How to Strengthen Early Reading and Math Skills in Your Child
Some kids are naturally drawn to reading and/or math, and for whatever reason, it just “clicks.” Others may need extra encouragement. No matter where your child falls on the spectrum, there are things that you can do to help them develop these essential skills.
Practice makes perfect: Help your child build their reading skills by consistently and routinely working on them. Set time aside each day to read together.
Appeal to their interests: Young readers are more likely to get excited about books that they can relate to. Keep them interested by helping them find books they enjoy. Show interest in what they’re reading. By staying positive and asking questions you’ll show your child that their interests are important to you.
Read at the right level: Help your child find books that are at their reading level. If you’re unsure if the book they’ve chosen is a good match for their reading level, use the “Rule of Thumb”: ask them to read a page of the book, holding up one finger for every word they don’t know. If they reach their thumb before the page is over (i.e. 5 words they don’t know), then the book is probably too hard for them to read on their own. Encourage them to try another book at a lower reading level, but about a similar subject.
Early math skills fall into three main segments: number operations, reasoning skills, and organizational skills. Here are some easy and fun ways to integrate math into your child’s day to help them develop these skills.
Numbers operations: Add a math twist to a game your child is already familiar with: for example, instead of playing standard “Go Fish” where the goal is to get pairs of cards that match, play a game where the goal is to get pairs of cards that add up to 10.
Reasoning: Reasoning is the “glue” of mathematics - it helps children make sense of all their mathematical skills and decide what to use and when to use it. To help develop this skill, ask your child to solve small logic problems - for example, if four quarters equals a dollar, what would six quarters add up to?
Organizational: Cooking or baking together is a great way to work on developing organizational skills. Break the recipe down: how many cups, quarter cups, and tablespoons, etc. are there in the recipe?
“Reasoning is the ‘glue’ of mathematics - it helps children make sense of all their mathematical skills.”
Remember, the more fun you can make these activities, the more your child will be excited to participate in them! Family game night is a great way to do this - by introducing more strategic thinking games like checkers, Sorry, and Clue you can keep it fun, while sneaking some learning in on the side. Dominoes and Mancala are also great for developing math skills.
So much of being a successful learner hinges on having a belief that you can learn. The sooner kids gain confidence in their ability to learn, the more prepared they’ll be to overcome obstacles in the future. We’ve found that one-on-one tutoring makes a huge difference—not just in accelerating learning, but in helping kids gain the confidence they need to succeed today, tomorrow, and throughout the rest of their life.