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The Surprising Secret to Improving Math Skills

January 29, 2014
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The Surprising Secret to Improving Math Skills
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A new study found that a quality language arts education means better math scores in the future.

With the emphasis on preparing our youth for careers in science, technology, engineering and math, it seems like reading and writing have fallen by the wayside. But according to the Hechinger Report, there’s hope for lovers of the written word. In a new paper from Stanford University and University of Virginia, “Learning that Lasts: Unpacking Variation in Teachers’ Effects on Students’ Long-Term Knowledge,” researchers studied 700,000 third-through-eighth graders over eight years and found that students with good English teachers had better math skills in the long term. Interestingly, having a good math teacher did not have the same long term benefits on a student’s English skills, the report said. It’s unclear why English helps boost math scores, but it’s suggested that English is necessary for other subjects (word problems in math, for example) whereas you don’t need math to write essays or read books. This news comes shortly after a promising report from the Association of American Colleges and Universities finding that liberal arts majors close the salary and unemployment gap compared with their STEM peers over time. So to educators and policy makers everywhere—if we want a brighter future, let’s have our kids read great books, too.

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