The ability to think clearly, logically, and sequentially is a prerequisite for success in math/science. This skill is acquired, and is not innate.
Currently, reading is thought of as an innate, inborn skill such as walking or talking. It is believed that students will pick up this skill automatically if they are taught a few letters, but words are learned randomly, as a whole. Phonics is taught implicitly, and students are encouraged to guess at unknown words: Implicit Phonics Skill-based instruction and precision in reading are thought to be redundant to reading and comprehension.
Stastics on illiteracy rates clearly show otherwise. There is increasing evidence that systematic, skill-based instruction is indeed vital not only to the reading process but in our very ability to think logically and reason clearly. Sometimes it’s the brightest students who experience the most difficulty because they need to perceive patterns and relationships, and see how things fit together. Their minds rebel against a system that has no logic.
On the recent News Hour a savvy teacher said students don’t fail in high school, they fail in second grade because they have not been taught explicit phonics and are subsequently just carried along through school. She is absolutely correct!
When students learn the sounds and spelling patterns comprising over 95% of the English language in an incremental, progressive fashion math scores frequently improve without tutoring. Spelling improves dramatically! (Example: Why do we double some endings and not others in words such as “submitted, visited, marketing” and “compelling”? One simple rule covers over 90% of these words.)
Reading and reasoning develop simultaneously and synergistically. Moreover, brain imaging shows that dyslexia frequently disappears after students are taught how to read accurately with explicit phonics!* Accurate reading trains students to extract meaning from text, rather than insert meaning into text: Explicit Phonics
Skill-based reading instruction is urgently needed and long overdue, but for the most part has not even been included in teaching colleges for over 50 years. Most of the old phonics texts have long been out of print. Once we provide this missing link in today’s reading curricula math/science skills will follow as has been demonstrated, because students have been taught to think logically and sequentially.
As the old Greek Herotimus once said:
“We are dragged on by consistency—but a thing may be consistent and yet false!”
*Dr. Guinevere Eden, Nature Neuroscience, 5-18-03