Are reading skills important for mathematics development in primary school

Are reading skills important for mathematics development in primary school?

During primary school, students develop abilities and skills that lay the foundation for later academic and work achievements, and health outcomes.

Young students develop and learn many functions and skills in different domains, including speech, oral language, reading, quantitative, spatial, causal, and social abilities.  These functions and skills do not develop in complete isolation from each other.

Common sense suggests that reading skills are important for at least some mathematical tasks (e.g. understanding written word problems). However, the relationships between reading and mathematics development are complex and not fully understood.  

Some studies suggest that mathematics is a strong predictor of subsequent reading; some indicate that reading and mathematics domains are associated; and some suggest that reading is a predictor of mathematical skills or growth. 

A recent, large study by Hübner and colleagues looking at primary school students in the UK suggests that reading is a predictor of future mathematics in primary school, and that reading is an important skill for subsequent changes in mathematics from early on. 

Interestingly, the Hübner study also suggests that high early achievement in mathematics may be negatively associated with growth in reading. (As students get older, the relationships between reading and mathematics might change. But we don’t know yet.)

Taken together, the evidence suggests that acquiring good reading skills is highly relevant for developing mathematics skills.

Source: Hübner, N., Merrel, C., Cramman, H., Little, J., Bolden, D., & Nagengast, B. (2022). Reading to learn? The co-development of mathematics and reading during primary school. Child Development, open access via

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Hi there, I’m David Kinnane.

Principal Speech Pathologist, Banter Speech & Language

Our talented team of certified practising speech pathologists provide unhurried, personalised and evidence-based speech pathology care to children and adults in the Inner West of Sydney and beyond, both in our clinic and via telehealth.

David Kinnane
Speech-Language Pathologist. Lawyer. Father. Reader. Writer. Speaker.

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