understanding symbology is common to reading and math performance

Fun with symbols! Can you read it?

In a 2002 paper, Dr. Gene Fitea concluded that “Students who can read fluently can do anything academically.” He cites a 1999 study by MacGregor and Price that concluded that “Vocabulary, number and symbol senses, as well as the ability to read and comprehend word problems are important factors affecting achievement in math.” They also stated that “symbol processing is the basis for both language proficiency and math achievement.”

This idea may seem strange at first. But as you read this sentence you are interpreting symbols to get to the meaning behind them. You’d have to do the same kind of symbol interpretation to understand any word problem in a math class.

Of course, the use of symbology in math goes beyond reading sentences, at least once we get to the pre-algebra level. Perhaps the most well-known math symbol is the Greek letter π. When math students see this symbol, they immediately think of circles. They know π represents the ratio of the circle’s circumference to its diameter. But kids who are poor readers are likely to have trouble with this and other symbols used in math because their brains have not had enough exposure to symbology in general.

The bottom line is that reading is key to math performance. Hopefully your children have had a lot of fun with their summer reading and are ready to apply their improved symbology skills to become better at math!

By the way, you get a gold star if you understood the message represented by the series of symbols at the top of this post!

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