Maths - The gift of language

17th August 2012 at 01:00

What it's all about

"El doble de veinte es cuarenta. Que es el doble de veinticinco?" ("Twice 20 is 40. What is 25 times two?") The quiet boy at the back pricks up his ears. He consults the numbers on his special Spanish ruler and puts up his hand to answer. He rarely volunteers, but the introduction of Spanish into the equation renews his energy. Another half hour of arithmetic no longer seems a chore, writes Heather Martin.

Spanish also inspires confidence in children baffled by the inconsistencies of English, who find motivation in its simpler spelling. They see their own language in a new light, connecting superficially unrelated words such as "adios" and "goodbye" or "lunes" and "Monday".

Other languages get you thinking about different ways to describe the world. Learning a language frees us from fixed patterns of speech and of thought.

Research shows that core mathematical and verbal skills improve measurably with each year of second-language study and that language learning generates more neurons and neural pathways: the brain becomes busier and more productive, and managing the extra information pays dividends in terms of concentration and memory. Multilingual children become better problem-solvers.

Language learning feeds our brains. So if you want your children to get better at maths and English, don't just do more of them: why not try Spanish instead?

What else?

For Spanish sums, try inglesita87 `s numbers crossword or use rhawkes' Spanish maths logic puzzles to get pupils writing their own.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today