Preventing Summer Slide
The days are getting warmer, the smell of sunscreen is in the air, lazy days are ahead, and no one is thinking about math—except maybe teachers. This is a typical summer scenario, and one that educators struggle to overcome at the start of every new school year. Although summer vacation provides an essential rejuvenation for both students and teachers, the loss of previously learned math skills continues to present problems in classrooms at the beginning of each school year.
One key to retaining math skills during the summer is to familiarize parents with ideas that incorporate math into the daily life of vacationing students.
In the information to parents, start by providing simple solutions that all parents, including the mathematically challenged ones, would feel comfortable implementing at home:
- Play with math flash cards
- Explore websites with math games and practice problems
- Purchase a grade level appropriate math workbook (with the answers in the back) and have students work on 15 to 20 problems at a time, two or three times a week.
- Hire a tutor one or two days a week. (During the summer, many high school and college students are looking for ways to make additional money.)
Then introduce other activities that can be categorized into inside activities, outside activities, and community activities. Being able to convert any activity into a math game is easier than you might think, and all students love games!
Inside activities involving strategy, estimation, telling time, addition, and statistics:
- Play a game that requires students to use strategies, patterns, or numbers, such as sudoku, backgammon, checkers, Chinese checkers, chess, tic-tac-toe, mancala, or Yahtzee. These are perfect activities for a rainy summer day!
- Ask students to estimate the amount of time it will take them to do a GOOD job on their chores. If more than one child is in the home, the one closest to their estimation wins. There is nothing like a little sibling rivalry to ignite excellent math skills.
Outside activities involving patterns, multiplication facts, estimation, averages, percentages, and addition:
- Sidewalk chalk: write multiplication problems for students to solve on the sidewalk; or for younger students, create patterns to complete.
- On the sidewalk: draw a hopscotch board and place math facts in each box instead of numbers. As the student lands on the box, they must give the answer to the problem.
- At the pool: students can jump off of the side or diving board as someone calls out a multiplication fact. The jumper must answer it before they go underwater. Create teams and the team with the most correct answers wins! (Bring flashcards for quick ideas or assistance.)
- In the car: have students develop a map that represents the number of miles the family will travel while on vacation, and then have them estimate the travel time, use addition to tally the gas bill, and compute the miles per gallon during the trip.
Community activities involving unit rates, addition, estimation, percentages, averages, and patterns:
- Grocery store: let students make decisions about which products are the better deal. This will involve using unit rates, and maybe you’ll even save money!
- Eating out: estimate the total bill at dinner and calculate the tip using mental math.
- Offer to be the statistician for a baseball, soccer, or lacrosse team. Compute batting averages in baseball and shooting percentages in soccer or lacrosse.
While parents are working hard at home, schools can also participate in preventing summer slide:
- Allowing students to have home access to an online math program throughout the summer gives them the opportunity to continue working where they left off at the end of the school year. Teachers can create a summer syllabus as a guide for the students to follow while using the program.
- Schools can hold summer camps, a week or two at a time. Camps can focus on math remediation and transitioning into the next grade level.
The bottom line is to make math fun in the eyes of the student, as well as teach them how to integrate it into their daily lives. The more they practice, in whatever form, the more they will retain, and the more successful they will be as they start the next school year. A win for all involved!