Phonics *Are Interesting
The highlighted verb is wrong (The Times, 30 November 2009). Since phonics is the name of a subject, it should take a singular verb, is. It is puzzling that the teacher — if she was indeed quoted correctly — chose a plural verb for phonics but a singular one for maths. (And while we’re being pedantic, there should be a semicolon and not a comma after excellent.)
Words like mathematics, economics, acoustics and politics take singular verbs when they refer to the name of a subject or topic of study, but they take plural verbs when they refer to aspects, attributes, qualities and so on. Hence:
Politics is my strongest subject at university.
The politics at work are unbearable.