Elementary Math and Reading Skills: Important Predictors of Successful Adulthood

As July winds down and the start of the 2013–2014 school-year looms, our thoughts turn back to academics. A recent study puts new importance on the early elementary years, a growing cohort at The New Century School. This year, TNCS will expand to fourth grade, in fact.

The study, published in Psychological Science by researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, demonstrates that math and reading ability at age 7 years are linked with socioeconomic status (SES) in adulthood. Interestingly, although math and reading ability was also significantly associated with intelligence scores, academic motivation, and education duration, the association with later SES was independent of the family’s SES during childhood. Moreover, the researchers were not expecting to find that specifically math and reading ability were more important than general intelligence in determining SES. In other words, what we’re born with and what we’re born into may not be as important as what we learn in second grade.

They say that their findings emphasize the importance of learned skills. What this boils down to is really good news for students—the return on improving these skills at all levels is huge, from remedial to the most gifted. “Math and reading are two of the most intervention-friendly topics,” they say. “Practice improves nearly all children.”

The media has reported these findings widely, but often with a distorted perspective. Many have equated SES with financial success, and that’s not the whole story here. SES correlates with many measures of happiness and societal functioning in addition to what let’s call economic efficacy, to distinguish it from the mercenary-sounding “financial success.”

In any case, this is reinforcement that the elementary years should provide a solid foundation in how to learn. As much of the TNCS student body approaches or progresses through these critical elementary years, we’ll see the fruits of those Montessori methods come to bear as the kids transition from number rods and bead cubes to conventional ciphering, from tracing letters and learning phonemes to reading and writing. We can feel secure that TNCS students are getting this essential math and reading practice and then some. Their futures look very promising indeed.

Hard at work with the hundreds board rapt boy writing

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