Summer is the time for fun in the sun. But…it’s also the time when academic gain can become academic loss. In fact, the summertime loss of mathematics skills equates to 2.6 months of previous learning. Research shows that for high school students, half of the achievement gap in reading and language can be related to the “summer slide” that happens during a student’s early school years (Entwisle, D., Alexander, K., & Olson, L. 2000. “Summer Learning and Home Environment.” In R. Kahlenberg Ed., A Notion at Risk: Preserving Public Education as an Engine for Social Mobility pp. 9-30. New York: Century Foundation Press).
WHAT PARENTS CAN DO
The summer slide is not urban legend – the loss of knowledge is reality. The good news is that there are things parents can do to turn the loss into a gain.
For openers, the Internet overflows with help. Parents can find learning activities for children at all levels. For younger children, there are numerous activities to be found at this site: www.kidzone.ws/math/ If you don’t have a computer at home, most libraries offer assistance.
Additionally, you can devise some fun mathematical learning activities of your own. For example, try a variation of “What I did on my summer vacation.” Have your child explore what she didn’t do. She can “blue sky” or investigate her dream vacation. Have her explore vacation wishes by asking, “If money were no object, what would be the best possible vacation you could have?”
A trip to Disneyland? Sharpen math skills by having him calculate the distance between the theme park and your house. Find out what it would cost for your family to pay admission costs. Hotel costs. Travel costs. Ask your child to blue sky winning the lottery and then subtract the Disney costs from the lottery income (after subtracting taxes for Uncle Sam).
The same math calculations can be applied to any wished-for trip: to an astronaut camp, to France, et cetera. And, to offset any grumpiness that might evolve from wishes-that-can’t-be-realized thinking, plan a special family event.
This might also be a good time to talk to your child about the fact that parents, too, have wishes that can’t be realized. Instead, they are appreciative of what can be done. You might even talk to your child about the uses to which you are putting your income – saving for his college education is more valuable in the long run than a trip to a theme park.
Before the school year ends, ask your child’s teacher to visit TeachersPayTeachers.com. There, she will find free downloads for exercises such as “Solve Quadratic Equations by Factoring GCF,” or “Contrived Math,” or “Calculator Puzzles.”
Finally, be sure to visit www.khanacademy.com . There you will find a wide assortment of free math videos – yours for the taking.
If internet or independent learning is not a good match for your child, seek the help of professional instructors who can provide structured math programs. You have many options available: in-home tutoring, learning centers with individualized programs, or groups and classes. A google search will show you many options in your area.
Yes, it’s time to slide into summer but there’s no reason to let your child’s math knowledge slide.