Longitudinal associations between reading and mathematics achievement

Dev Neuropsychol. 2008;33(3):410-26. doi: 10.1080/87565640801982486.


The association between early reading skills and changes in mathematics was examined in a large, low-income sample to determine whether students who have a greater level of reading skills in early elementary school exhibit more rapid gains in tests of mathematics. The longitudinal associations between third grade reading comprehension and changes in three components of mathematics achievement (Problem Solving and Data Interpretation, Mathematical Concepts and Estimation, Mathematical Computation) from third through eighth grade were examined. Latent growth models were fit to the repeated assessments of each mathematics component and the students' third grade reading and global mathematics scores were included as predictors of the intercept and slope. Gender, poverty status, and ethnicity were included in the models as control variables. The results showed males and African-American students tended to have shallower rates of change than females and non-African-American/non-Hispanic students. In terms of the effect of reading on changes in mathematics, third grade reading comprehension was found to be a positive significant predictor of change for each component of mathematics, suggesting students with a greater level of reading achievement in early elementary school change more rapidly in mathematics skills controlling for prior mathematics skills and student characteristics. The largest effects were shown for the Problem Solving and Data Interpretation test, a test focused on the applications of mathematics knowledge, and the Mathematical Concepts and Estimation test. Negligible effects were found for changes in Mathematical Computation. Thus, early reading comprehension was shown to be related to a conceptual understanding of mathematics and the application of mathematics knowledge. These findings lend support for the notion that early reading skills are important for success in mathematics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Adolescent
  • Aptitude
  • Chicago
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comprehension*
  • Ethnicity / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mathematics*
  • Models, Statistical
  • Poverty / psychology*
  • Problem Solving
  • Reading*
  • Sex Factors
  • Statistics as Topic