How learning a language can improve kids’ maths skills

3 min read

As the Co-Founder of One Third Stories, a company dedicated to inspiring more children to learn another language, it’ll probably come as a surprise to hear that I hated French lessons when I was at school. In fact, there was only one subject I hated more – maths. It was one straight after the other on a Tuesday morning, and the second day of the week still makes me feel queasy.

Schoolboy Jonny

Since leaving school, I’ve discovered a real love for languages and a begrudging respect for maths. Whenever it comes to splitting the bill with friends after a meal out, I feel a pang of regret for not paying attention in maths lessons. I’ve had to split the bill abroad with locals in Paris before, and that REALLY made those Tuesday mornings feel like a wasted opportunity.

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I didn’t know it at the time, but putting more effort into those French lessons actually would have improved my maths skills too. Psychologists conducted experiments on a group of monolingual and bilingual test subjects, which involved answering a series of arithmetic problems. First, the subjects got a bit of practice (anybody who has tried to do algebra for the first time since leaving school understands how essential this step is!) and then they answered more whilst having their brain activity monitored. Half of the problems were from the practice run, and half were completely new.

The psychologists found that bilinguals were able to answer the completely new problems about half a second faster than the monolingual test subjects. That’s a pretty big advantage when it comes to your child’s weekly mental maths test!

But why was this happening? Well, for starters it’s been well documented that learning a language improves your memory, making it much easier for bilingual people to hold all that information in their heads. The psychologists also reckon it was due to a part of the brain called the basal ganglia, which has the job of prioritizing new information. Learning another language gives this area a real work out as it develops the ability to switch between different vocabularies and grammatical rules, a skill that transfers nicely over to mathematics.

Of course, none of this is very useful if, like a young me, your child hates their languages lessons. Doodle Maths might have made maths more fun, but what about languages? Well, at One Third Stories, we’ve developed a way to introduce children to a new language simply by having them read a book that they love. 

We do this by creating books that start in English and end in a different language after gradually introducing foreign words in easy-to-understand contexts. We call this way of learning the Clockwork Methodology, and we reckon it can help kids everywhere to develop their language skills, which also means boosting their mathematic ability.

One Third Stories

We’re offering discounted pre-orders for our very first hardback books in French, Spanish, Italian and German. So if you want your child to be able to split the bill in multiple languages, come and check it out


Article by DoodleMaths

Doodle empowers learners to achieve confidence in maths and English. Our intelligent technology creates individual work programmes which are motivational, affordable and convenient to use.