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Health & Parenting

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When Should Kids Learn to Read, Write, and Do Math?

Your child starting to read is just one of many educational milestones to watch for as a parent

When kids learn writing: Milestones that matter

Sheldon H. Horowitz, EdD, director of professional services for the National Center for Learning Disabilities, says, "Writing is a high-level skill, not as simple as sitting down with pencil on paper." It requires:

  • fine-motor skills to use a pencil or pen
  • understanding that letters make up words, and words represent things or ideas
  • organizational skills
  • grammar, spelling and punctuation skills
  • different kinds of memory

Horowitz tells WebMD that it helps for kids to learn the foundation of writing at the same time as they learn how to read. That's because reading and writing complement each other, says Steve Graham, EdD, professor of special education at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. "Each helps facilitate the learning of the other."

Reading problems are almost certainly also a sign of a problem with writing, says Graham, although good readers will not always become good writers.

Graham says that milestones are less standardized for writing than they are for reading, but the following markers may be helpful.

Ages 6-10: learning to write

Kids learn to:

  • write consonant sounds by the end of kindergarten
  • write legibly and with ease, with an understanding of words by first grade
  • write stories with a beginning, middle, and end and with a character, action, setting, and a little detail by second grade

Ages 11-13: learning to write

Kids learn to:

  • use the correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling most of the time
  • become more fluent writers, increasing in speed; handwriting becomes more automatic
  • use varied sentence structure, including simple, compound, and complex sentences
  • write different kinds of compositions such as reports and persuasive writing
  • use references from various sources to write compositions
  • use the computer for writing and research

When kids learn math: Milestones that matter

Math also requires a wide range of skills and involves a broad vocabulary and variety of concepts. Math skills often build on one another. Some kids are strong in some types of math but weak in others.

Think back: did you have an affinity for geometry, or algebra? Were you a whiz at fractions but winced each time you faced a word problem? Chances are your child has math strengths and weaknesses as well, although they may be different from yours.

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