new study has found that early math skills predict later academic success. In fact, math skills in K-5 were a stronger predictor than reading skills, attention skills or social skills. In a finding that flies in the face of earlier research, study author Greg Duncan found that behavior problems at that early stage were not associated with later performance in math or reading.
In a separate study, Duncan and a colleague have found that students with persistent math problems in K-5 were much less likely than their peers to graduate from high school or attend college.
Duncan has plans for the next round of research. “The next level of research should focus on why math skills – which combine conceptual and procedural competencies – are the most powerful predictor of subsequent achievement and attainment,” he said in a press release. “Experimental evaluations of early math programs that focus on particular skills and track children’s reading and math performance throughout elementary school could help identify missing causal links between early skills and later success.”
If we knew more about those links, we might do a better job of putting struggling students on a path to success later on.