Education Letter to the Editor

Language Skills Are the Precursors of Math Skills

February 28, 2006 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

As a linguist and teacher for more than 25 years, I am concerned by the policies being applied to improve reading and math education in the United States (“White House Suggests Model Used in Reading to Elevate Math Skills,” Feb. 15, 2006).

It is true that phonics instruction, which stresses the relationships between sounds and letters, is the appropriate strategy to teach reading. But phonics is not just a mechanical tool to be learned by kids. There is much more than simply decoding to be considered under this strategy.

The development of linguistic skills is a highly delicate task, since the development of the brain’s left hemisphere—an area that controls analytic thought, logic, segmentation, symbolism, and so on—depends on how well our first language was learned.

All of the skills necessary for the development of facility with language—analysis, logic, symbolism, and so on—are also needed for understanding math. As a result, a poor linguistic development will inevitably lead to a poor math development. Linguists and bilingual experts have long considered math another language; in learning a second language, we need our first language firmly in place.

Arturo Celis

Armenia, Colombia

A version of this article appeared in the March 01, 2006 edition of Education Week as Language Skills Are the Precursors of Math Skills


Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: November 17, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Nearly a Million Kids Vaccinated in Week 1, White House Says
Experts say there are signs that it will be difficult to sustain the initial momentum.
4 min read
Leo Hahn, 11, gets the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Last week, U.S. health officials gave the final signoff to Pfizer's kid-size COVID-19 shot, a milestone that opened a major expansion of the nation's vaccination campaign to children as young as 5. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Education How Schools Are Getting Kids the COVID Shot, and Why Some Aren’t
Some district leaders say offering vaccine clinics, with the involvement of trusted school staff, is key to helping overcome hesitancy.
5 min read
A girl walks outside of a mobile vaccine unit after getting the first dose of her COVID-19 vaccine, outside P.S. 277, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Education Biden Administration Urges Schools to Provide COVID-19 Shots, Information for Kids
The Biden administration is encouraging local school districts to host vaccine clinics for kids and information on benefits of the shots.
2 min read
President Joe Biden, and first lady Jill Biden walk to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Biden is spending the weekend at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)