The Correlation Between Reading and Mathematics Ability at Age 12 Has a Substantial Genetic Component

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A UK-led study into the genetic basis of cognitive traits has found that around half of the genes that influence how well a child can read also play a role in their mathematics ability.

The collaborative study, published in Nature Communications as part of the Wellcome Trust Case-Control Consortium, used data from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) to analyse the influence of genetics on the reading and mathematics performance of 12-year-old children from nearly 2,800 British families. Twins and unrelated children were tested for reading comprehension and fluency, and answered mathematics questions based on the UK national curriculum.

The information collected from these tests was combined with DNA data, showing a substantial overlap in the genetic variants that influence mathematics and reading. While mathematics and reading ability are known to run in families, the complex system of genes affecting these traits is largely unknown. The finding deepens scientists’ understanding of how nature and nurture interact, highlighting the important role that a child’s learning environment may have on the development of reading and mathematics skills, and the complex, shared genetic basis of these cognitive traits.

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