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With the start of summer vacation, I thought it important to discuss strategies to help students work to maintain their math skills during the summer. Last week, I provided suggestions to help parents maintain a reading routine for the summer. This week, I’d like to suggest ways that parents can engage their lower schoolers in fun activities that provide real life opportunities to keep math skills fresh during summer vacation.
There are lots of real life activities that parents can use to keep math skills fresh during the summer. Like with reading, a student’s math skills will only improve through consistent and meaningful practice of the skills taught during the school year. During the sunny days of summer, there are plenty of creative, but simple ways to practice math skills while having fun with family and friends.
Decoding is an important first step to reading just like mastering one’s math facts is the equivalent for math. Having students build a solid foundation of math facts is essential in any Lower School math program. Therefore, the first thing I would ask parents to do during the summer is to work with your lower schooler on his or her math facts. Mastering these facts in the lower school creates a foundation that your child will use as he or she moves to the middle school and beyond.
Mastering math facts is only a fraction of what students need to learn in order to work confidently in math. We also want our students to develop “a true sense of numbers, an ability to solve simple and complex problems, to be able to reason abstractly and quantitatively, to build arguments and critique others’ concerning math, as well as develop the ability to create models with mathematics.” Ultimately, we want our students to be true math “thinkers.” According to former president of NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) Michael Shaughnessy, “true math learning goes way beyond rote flashcards and instead challenges the mind to new and exciting levels of reasoning.” We understand that as students are learning their math facts, we must simultaneously work to help them apply those math facts with in-depth math concepts (getting them beyond mere memorization to true application of number problems/concepts). This is why we aspire to find creative ways to help students learn the fundamentals of math so that they can use those skills in challenging, but developmentally appropriate ways.
In order to think about math and math concepts while keeping with their routine during summer vacation, here are some tips to use to help keep math fresh during the summer:
The most important tip that I can provide for parents regarding summer math is to make it fun and engaging. There are lots of opportunities to work with numbers all around us. Remember, the math games that you introduce to your child do not have to be hard but they should provide chances for your lower schooler to continue to work with numbers and number concepts. Get ready, now start counting!