7 Tips for Keeping Students’ Minds Sharp This Summer

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Children love summer—mostly because it’s a break from school—but that doesn’t mean learning should come to a halt. ‘Summer Slide’ is a phenomenon where skills that have been acquired during the school year start to slip away due to lack of practice. Yet, summer presents some of the best times for practical math lessons. Here are some ideas for keeping students’ minds as active as their bodies this summer:

Transform Routine Activities into Mini Math Lessons. Teach your children the practical side of math by incorporating it into your routine activities, giving it an outside-of-the-classroom appeal. Try giving the kids a budget for grocery shopping, letting them keep track of the cost of items as you add them to the cart. Determine the total amount you’ve spent and how much money you have left over. Depending on their age and ability, you can ask them to multiply your state’s tax percentage and add to the total. Be sure to check their answers with your check-out receipt.

Use Math on Your Road Trip. Taking a family road-trip presents dozens of opportunities for children to keep their minds active. At the most basic level, ask your child to count the number of white or black cars they see, or keep track of the number of billboards you pass. Let more advanced children assist with the road-trip budget, calculating how much is spent on gas, food and fun family activities. Try adding all the numbers on other cars’ license plates. With older children, you can list the operations, such as “add the first two numbers, multiply the result by the next number, and subtract the last number.”

Give Them Instant Feedback. Instant feedback is proven to be a critical part of any math learning experience. When kids sit down to complete a summer math worksheet or go through a stack of flashcards, you have the opportunity to give them instant feedback on what they are doing correctly, and to praise them for successfully completing the task at hand.

Provide Summer Reading. Reading has always been associated with a pleasurable summer activity and even symbolizes relaxation. There are a number of exciting books that correlate with mathematical topics for all ages. If your pre-teen needs to work on area and perimeter, Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone: A Math Adventure, would be one among numerous good reads. For younger readers, Even Steven and Odd Todd or How Much is a Million? are great for number sense story-based activities, as are other books that should be listed by your local library under ‘math activities’. This approach can help to alleviate ‘math phobias’ that prevent children from enjoying a core life skill.

Use Deep Practice Methods. According to Daniel Coyle’s book, The Talent Code, breaking a complex skill—like mathematics—into manageable pieces, and mastering the individual pieces through trial and error, error correction and focused repetition facilitates math processing speed and strength. Enabling children to use deep practice tactics with math-oriented computer programs, lets trial and error and instant feedback push math skills along.

Bring Math to the Pool. If you dread the 15-minute lifeguard break at the community pool, use the time to practice math instead. Fill the sit-around time with math problems to help the time fly. A few ideas for ‘pool problems’:

·      If you and your friend each swam 2 laps in the three pools here, how many laps in all would that equal?

·      Estimate how many kids are waiting for the lifeguard to blow his whistle?

·      If it is 12:02pm now and the lifeguard will let us back into the pool at 12:15pm, how many minutes do we have left?

·      If each lap is 50 yards, how many laps would you need to swim to go 200 yards? How about 500 yards?

Whichever kid answers the most questions right gets to jump back into the pool first or earns a treat. Watch other parents gather around you!

Track Summer Activities. Encourage your child to keep a log of what they do this summer, and at the end of each week, turn the information from the log into a colorful graph or chart displaying how they spent their time. For example, if they complete their chores each morning, they can put a tally mark in the chores box. If they complete a bike ride, a check goes in the ‘road bike’ box. By the end of the summer, their activities can be made into a lesson in tally marks, counting, graphs and charts—and even percentages for more advanced kids. Remember, the human brain is a small organ that will only invest effort and energy into a task where it sees immediate results. Visuals like graphs reinforce the results of their efforts.

The activities suggested above are targeted to 1-5th grade students. Growing up, you may have experienced that learning math was drab and dreary, but with these fun math-centered activities, your child will learn to enjoy math. Math, science and technology-related fields are where the jobs will be in the future for today’s children. So helping to give your children a positive attitude about math is one of the best gifts you can give them this summer.

– Mon Patel

Mon Patel is an Implementation Strategist for Suntex International Inc., makers of the First in Math game series, a tool designed to make math appealing and accessible to children, teachers and parents nationwide. Patel comes from a rich background in Special Education and Applied Behavior Analysis. She is a parent advocate for Autism and devotes much of her time to helping children succeed at mathematics.