Everyone knows that children who are not reading at grade level by 3rd grade are fated to struggle academically throughout school. Concerns about early literacy skills are justified because reading skills at kindergarten entry predict later academic achievement.
But guess what predicts later academic success better than early reading? Early math skills. In "School Readiness and Later Achievement," a widely cited 2007 study of large longitudinal data sets, University of California, Irvine, education professor Greg Duncan and his colleagues found that in a comparison of math, literacy, and social-emotional skills at kindergarten entry, "early math concepts, such as knowledge of numbers and ordinality, were the most powerful predictors of later learning." A large-scale Canadian study from 2010 echoes those findings: Math skills at school entry predicted math skills and even reading skills in 3rd and 2nd grade, respectively, better than reading skills at school entry. Although the mechanisms underlying such associations are not yet understood, the importance of early mathematics, and thus of access to it for all students, is clear.