How reading comprehension can boost math scores

May 7, 2015 by Natalia Radic, Ohio University

High school students who want to ace the math section of the ACT should brush up on their reading skills, according to an Ohio University study.

Dywayne Nicely, assistant professor of math at Ohio University Chillicothe, says the link between and math skills seems logical, but it's also backed up by research. When a student struggles to solve a math word problem, poor reading abilities are often the cause.

But while most solutions to the issue start at the elementary or middle school levels, Nicely wanted to test an intervention at the high-school level.

"Our pitch was that we wanted to get them college-ready," he says.

With a grant from the Ohio University Baker Fund, Nicely enrolled 63 juniors at Chillicothe High School in his study. He gave the students regular assignments to improve reading comprehension, using online test preparation programs such as Study Island, then set them on ACT-style math questions.

After a course of reading comprehension practice, Nicely found that students in algebra II and pre-calculus improved their scores by 14.8 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively, over the course of a year.

Those results show that it is never too late to improve ' , Nicely says.

Explore further: No math gene: Learning mathematics takes practice

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not rated yet May 07, 2015
Verbal skills in general are more highly g-loaded (better indicators of intelligence) than math, particularly of the sort tested by the SAT and ACT. This means that it is easier to increase math skills than to increase verbal skills such as reading comprehension. If you have already done a great deal of math training and little verbal training then more math will help relatively little, so working on the less-coached verbal skills will then potentially be a better investment than continuing to put all the effort into math.

Either way, though, the limits to performance are set by native intelligence with coaching being only capable of getting students close to their ultimate potential and not capable of increasing performance beyond that level. Since students differ more in intelligence than teaching differs in the amount of improvement it can induce, even unequal education favoring the less able will not close the performance gap
not rated yet May 08, 2015
Indeed, i had trouble understanding most maths problems, and even theorems, because of a lack of reading comprehension during high school. While i was rated far below the average back then, i can now tackle any problem, having read a few books since then.

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