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Building Summer Math Skills

Updated on July 1, 2013

Retaining Math Skills... or Building Them

Math doesn't have to be left behind at the classroom door. It is possible for kids to re-enter school in the fall without having lost ground. In fact, it's possible for them to re-enter with more skills than they walked out the door with!

There are multiple routes you can take to enhance summer math learning, depending on the time and resources you have, as well as on your own teaching inclinations. Many parents get a little more time with their kids during the summer. This is a great opportunity to show them the ways that you use math on a daily basis. A trip? Shopping? Food prep? It all adds up to math time. This not only keeps computational skills sharp, but can give children an edge in the problem solving department.

Many children struggle with complex word problems and with relating skills to the real world. It's so much easier to remember to ask yourself, "Does it make sense?" when there's a real world problem to solve.

There are also a lot of fun activities and games that keep math skills pencil sharp. Organizations like the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics have online resources to help you.

And if you do need math packets or more structured learning? I've got some suggestions there, too.

Image Credit: wintersixfour, Morguefile

Math is All Around Us

A Context for Math

The following are all math learning experiences -- if we resist the temptation to do too much for children. I think often we do the problem solving and computation for children until they're ready to do it on their own. This is more efficient, time-wise, but we lose important opportunities for practicing... and for thinking.

  • Sewing/ crafts
  • Sports
  • Board games
  • Shopping
  • Gardening
  • Cooking

Math Calendars

Math is indeed all around, but it helps to have some structure, and to know what real-world skills are expected at each grade level. Here, math calendars can prove helpful.

A math calendar gives you a daily activity that uses math. Each activity is written in a small square just like on a regular calendar. You can hang it up in a central location like your refrigerator.

If students do most of the activities, they have practiced fundamental skills from their grade level -- and vital skills are less likely to drift away in the summer breeze.

Some districts/ schools have put a lot of work into creating math calendars. They're letting families know they're out there! If your district doesn't have one, though, you can still find them on the internet.

Real World Math: Rethinking the Lemonade Stand

It's not safe everywhere, I know, but here in Seattle, you will see kids with old-fashioned lemonade stands in the fair months. Think measurement! Think money! You can also teach some complex computational skills.

Here are some ideas for extending the lemonade stand experience. You can also hold a lemonade stand to support a very important cause: fighting childhood cancer.

A Math Challenge

Have a whole day (or more) to spend with your kids, doing errands, household chores etc. ? Here's a challenge: How many times a day do you use math? Score a point for each instance that you can identify. (Yes, it can turn into a competition!)

Cooking as Math

Here's a resource book for the busy parent-mathematician: You can read it on the go on your Kindle (though you might need to spend some time in a kitchen to perform the activities).

The math activities aren't necessarily all at the same level. I think it would be a good choice for the summer between 3rd and 4th grade. Some concepts will be review at that point. Some kids may need to grow into!

Goal Setting... and Math

Is your child participating in a summer reading program? Do you have one of those charts where you record reading with stickers? For very young children, this can be a math learning experience as well.

Ten is a very important benchmark number. Teachers of young children often use "ten frames" to teach sums to ten and to teach the relationship between addition and subtraction. Goal-setting/ recording charts can serve the same purpose, especially if you verbalize: "You have eight! Wow, you just need two more!" If you have several charts of ten, you can reinforce place value -- counting your tens and then adding on your ones. Charts that go up to higher numbers will stretch children's thinking further into the primary school years.

This doesn't just work for reading. Chore charts, behavior charts...

Enokson, Flickr Creative Commons

Summer Math Camps

A person can't always spend days at home with the kids. You're at work. They're in day care. Or day camp. Math camps -- yes indeed! Some math camps are for talented adolescents. The ones I'm showcasing here, though, are for younger kids. or children who might be struggling a bit.

Themed camps for the elementary set are often day camps, so they tend to be geographically based.

Problem Solving

Just because she's using a calculator, it doesn't mean she isn't doing math! By automating some steps, the calculator frees the child to focus on problem solving or on each step of a multi-step process.

It also allows little ones to work with some big numbers. Planning a road trip? Adding up those miles? Chances are your kids can do the math, even if it involves some major computation.

Image Credit: kakisky, Morguefile

Summer Math Packets

Some districts release packets of summer math work. These may be required or optional. You may want to visit your district site -- there can be a surprising amount of resources. You can also find math packets released by other districts.

Math Fun for the Middle Grades

I tutored a sixth grader who loved this book. The word problems are challenging, but there's a game element (tic tac toe) built in. The pages can be reproduced for a classroom of students, but you can also play with your own child -- right in the book. You can opt for coins or counters instead of x's if you like.

There's a version for third and fourth graders, too, but I haven't played it.

Don't Let the Economic Gap Create a Math Gap

Some children re-enter school in the fall knowing more than they did when they left; some enter having lost ground. Sadly, quite a bit of it comes down to economics. Enrichment activities build math skills, but we don't all have the same resources. Not everyone goes on vacation, or off to camp, or lives in a lemonade stand neighborhood.

Be aware that there are resources! What are some places where you may find free tutoring? Your library. The Boys and Girls Club. And don't forget online services!

If you can't find free or affordable tutoring services, and you feel that your child really needs support, look for online resources that come from school districts and professional math organizations. You may want to download a math calendar.

Math Thoughts?

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    • EdTecher profile image

      Heidi Reina 

      6 years ago from USA

      All wonderful suggestions for sneaking some math into summer fun. I love using math for the garden. My kids have measured, divided, calculated costs, estimated profit from selling, and learned to give by donating.

    • amberchina profile image


      6 years ago

      The real world applications of math here are what really got me excited. My brother and I used to do a summer math retention packet program called GRASP, and even though I dreaded the time of the week we scheduled to work on them, I could tell I retained more than my peers over the summer. Your lens fits perfectly with a lens I just created ("The Best Summer Learning Activities and Projects by Subject") and I featured it there. :)

    • writerkath profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi Karen! These are great ideas. I confess to having been an extremely poor student when it came to math. It scared me! It wasn't until college, when I HAD to take a math course in order to graduate, that I learned about how practical math is in day to day living. I was lucky enough to find a professor who taught a class that seemed hand-designed for people like me! It was all about using math in practical applications. I'm no longer afraid of it! You could teach that course! :) Of course, I still don't understand stuff like Trig or Calculus - or what it's even about - but numbers are now my friend! Good job on this. Your ideas can truly help a LOT of math-phobics! *Blessed!* :) Kath

    • flycatcherrr profile image


      6 years ago

      Well done! Math does seem to come easier to kids when it's integrated into "real life" tasks like this.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Wonderful creative math tips. Congrats on a great lens! It has been my experience that a lot of kids have problems with math because some teachers are not able to accommodate their learning style. Ex: (pictorial learners, some kids learn by doing, methods used, etc.)

    • wcjohnston profile image


      6 years ago

      I love Maths, Great Lens,

    • AndrazP profile image


      6 years ago

      Amazing lens! Thanks for all the tips! :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I love math

    • peggygallyot profile image


      6 years ago

      Good ideas. Thank you for sharing.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Good ideas for the holidays.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great lens! When I was in school, math was one of me favorite subjects.

    • intermarks profile image


      6 years ago

      Good education info. This will be really helpful.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice Lens...

    • Spiderlily321 profile image


      6 years ago

      Very good lens. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great ideas - most teachers spend the first few weeks doing a review because kids forget everything over the summer.

    • MisterJeremy profile image


      6 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Great stuff. Thanks for collecting these math resources and ideas. I've now got a bunch of tabs open and will look through them for things to recommend to my students and their parents.

    • marisun profile image


      6 years ago

      i love this lens!:)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I agree we need a lot of refresher courses in the summer, nice lens

    • theholidayplace profile image


      6 years ago

      I quite like maths, i think your lens is very good and helpful

    • jordanmilesbask profile image


      6 years ago

      I love your lens...I teach my son maths in various way for him to understand it. I include outdoor activity, too as this really helps a lot..Nice lens!


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