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Keeping School in View: Avoiding the Summer Slide, Part 2

Posted on 07/16/2021

The summer slide doesn't affect just reading; math is another area that often suffers during the summer. Why? Reading and math are both areas where skills build and develop over time. Even though year-round schooling makes sense educationally, it's clearly not the way the culture of the US flows. But don't worry; you do not have to resign yourself to sitting inside, drilling your kids with flash cards or torturing them with lectures; summer is really a great time for hands-on, practical math.

A Case for Practical Math

Summer slide or not, a huge contributor to lack of math fluency is the concept that math is just for school. According to Kathleen Lynch of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, "Many parents - and their children - don't think about math as existing outside of the classroom." Joanna Christodoulou, an HGSE faculty member, further explains the way the culture affects lack of math fluency: "Reading activities are often part of the fabric of a family's daily life. . . . The issue isn't that engaging math activities are not available outside of school, but rather that it is easy to overlook the presence of math in everyday activities, like measurement in cooking, calculation when dealing with money, or distance while driving."

A Case for Math Fluency

All too often, memorizing math facts is prioritized over math fluency in schools; and teachers have it tough, pressured to prepare their students for standardized testing. But consider this statement from Jo Bodler, Professor of Mathematics Education at Stanford University: "Math facts, themselves, are a small part of mathematics and they are best learned through the use of numbers in different ways and situations. Unfortunately many classrooms focus on math facts in unproductive ways, giving students the impression that math facts are the essence of mathematics." Like real world applications, the kinds of activities that lead to math fluency are relatively painless and can easily be integrated into your family culture and everyday life.

A Few Helpful Resources

Unlike books, math activity ideas and games may or may not be available freely at your public library; however, you don't have to break the bank to do this kind of thing. While it's designed to be used as a homeschool curriculum, Wild Math guides can be used during the summertime to encourage math fluency while out in nature. Simply start with the level of math your child has most recently completed and use some of the activities included to help avoid regression over the summer months. On the Wild Math blog, you can also find hands-on ideas like this DIY hundreds chart and links to level-appropriate games.

You can also find plenty of free printables on Pinterest, like this one for multiplication. You can find even more for very reasonable prices, developed by professional teachers, on the website Teachers Pay Teachers. And of course, there are plenty of math apps like the ones listed here to help as well.

Continue reading with Part 3.

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