In a previous article, we went over some of the basic recommendations for ways to help prevent the “Summer Slump”. Reading and family activities are great ways to keep kids’ minds active and curious during the summer months. Math skills, however, require a slightly different approach.
Elementary Summer Math
There are about a thousand and games and apps available on your smartphone right now that are specifically designed to help your child with math. Choose programs for the grade they are currently leaving and only move up to the next grade if they finish with all of them or are obviously bored. Remember, you aren’t trying to teach new material, just prevent students from forgetting the concepts that they have already learned.
Aim for about an hour of play per week, which breaks down to about ten minutes a day plus a skip day for when they just don’t feel like it.
Math Apps for Elementary Students
In all honesty, with the wide variety of free math app games available for download the most important thing is to find an app or game that your child likes and wants to play on their own. Some of the ones that I have found to be most engaging that were also teacher approved are;
- Splash Math
- Komodo Math
- Rocket Math
- IXL Math
- Math Bakery
- Math Learning Center
- 4th Grade Learning Games (RosiMosiLLC – they have other grades as well)
Download three or four games for their level and put them in a folder on your phone or iPad. Let your kids choose which games they enjoy playing and, every week or so, delete any games they are not interested in and replace them with a new one. Some of the apps track gameplay within themselves, but you can easily use the ‘Screen Time’ feature in your phone to track usage in the games. About an hour per week is plenty for retention. Depending on how much screen time your child is getting from other sources you could go up to three hours per week (about 25 minutes per day) without it being excessive.
Desktop Math for Elementary Students
Computer usage is a little trickier to track, but the resources are generally more reliable (and have fewer adds). For really little kids I recommend checking out games available at PBS. For older kids, MathGames.com, MathPlayGround.com, or SplashLearn are all great options. You can also find a more comprehensive list of free online math games HERE.
Math Workbooks for Elementary Students
Some kids, and parents, just do better with good old pen and paper. Aside from contributing to less screen time overall, it is also easier to track a child’s progress in a physical workbook. And while these are not exactly free and not quite as much fun, they are generally pretty affordable. I’d recommend ordering one from Brain Quest, Highlights or School Zone.
There are a lot of other options out there, but these are the ones that are generally approved of by the schools and therefore likely to be consistent with their teaching methods.
Middle-Grade Summer Math
By middle school, most math classes begin to segregate depending on your child’s level of performance and the options offered at your school. Again, attempting to teach your child math independently over the summer is not something I can advise against strongly enough unless you are a licensed educator or working closely with one (i.e. private camps, online classes, summer school).
The idea of doing a little math over the summer is not to learn new material, but to keep kids engaged and help prevent them from losing what they have already learned. Work in the grade level or math subject that they just completed and don’t even consider moving on to take a peek at next year’s subject materials unless they are bored stiff, specifically ask you to, or a teacher recommends it.
That having been said, there are a couple of different resources and platforms that you can use to review the math that your student has already learned.
Online Resources for Middle Grade Math
Fun apps and math games obviously become fewer and farther between as the math increases in difficulty, but there are a few.
Prodigy, in particular, is a good resource for fun and engaging games. It is particularly useful as you may have noticed it on the list for elementary school level games as well. That is because this app actually ages up with kids from grades 1-8. It is fun and a little bit silly. There are a lot of in-game options for character customization so just looking at screen time is less helpful, but you can easily track progress within the app itself.
12 a Dozen all access is another app with multiple levels of games, puzzles, math exercises, and critical thinking. It provides a wide range of content and different types of games, but is geared towards older learners so it a little less cutesy than the Prodigy app.
The best resource for actual serious but easy to understand review, hands down, is Khan Academy. The caveat I will put here is that occasionally Khan Academy will teach math concepts differently than the teachers, which can cause some confusion when covering new materials. As a tool for reviewing over the summer, however, it is hands down the simplest and most straightforward option. Content is arranged by category with corresponding lessons and practice/review activities. If your student is familiar with the material, they will likely be able to skip to the lessons and go straight to the practice problems and assessments. This is a great way to coast through the material, jogging the memory, and only skipping back to review lessons if you are stuck or need a little reminder.
Workbooks and Study Guides for Middle Grade Math
Workbooks are possible to find but should be verified with your child’s school or math teacher if possible. Again, teaching methods and specific subjects covered matter here.
There is, however, one physical resource that I cannot recommend highly enough, but it is not a workbook.
“Everything You Need to Ace Math” is a reference book and study guide that you might have seen sitting in big piles if you happen to have a Costco membership. The book was created by the same people responsible for the BrainQuest workbooks and is a HUGE resource for middle school-age students. They have one for each of five subjects which, in theory, cover just about everything you need to know in middle school.
Between the two, the “Everything You Need” book combined with a little practical application practice online, an hour a week of review is more than enough to help students retain what they have learned in the previous year and be in a good place when fall rolls around.
High School Summer Math
At the high school level, math is highly differentiated by topic, and, again, unless you ARE a trigonometry teacher, it is really not something you should be trying to teach at home. For those determined to pursue summer mathematics, however, there are two main options.
Online Learning and Summer School
Did you child fail math the previous school year and needs to repeat a grade level or subject?
Is your child exceptionally gifted in mathematics and can easily push through to the next grade level and WANTS to do so?
Does your child have a unique academic circumstance or opportunity which absolutely requires their advancement in math beyond the academic year?
Summer School as you knew it, the terrifying construct that only bad or nerdy kids were sent to and locked them in school buildings all summer long, no longer exists. Beyond a few exceptions, the vast majority of summer programs have long since shifted online. Students login either on a regular schedule or at regular intervals to cover material and complete predetermined assignments. Some programs want you to login every day at 10 am, most require you to login at least once every three days at whatever time you want. Some programs are entirely virtual, with email as the only way to communicate with an instructor. Others offer face to face digital lessons and interaction with a real live teacher.
What programs you have available to you will depend on your school and geographic area, your child’s grade level and performance, but mostly it will depend on what state you live in. Most educational legislation is controlled at the state level, so while some states have broad reaching summer advancement programs available free of charge for students, others will only have nominal programs available for students who are struggling. While I cannot speak to every state, Florida has a vast array of online options available but are best navigated by actively working with your school.
If your state or school does not have an online curriculum option available to you, Khan Academy does offer math online by subject up through college. As before, the methods taught may be slightly different but should be cover the same materials. If your school does not have an online curriculum option during summer, it may still be possible to “test-out” of some math classes come fall.
Other Options for High School Summer Math
If your child did not fail math, does not intend to skip a grade, or does not have otherwise extenuating circumstances, the best recommendation I have for how to review for math over the summer is very simple –
High school is exhausting. Summer is short. They only have a few precious months each year to put algebra homework behind them. Encourage them to explore the world around them in other areas. Get a summer job, volunteer, check out computer programming, or painting, or creative writing, or any one of a million other things other than High School Trig.
Unless your child needs (and note, this is about their needs, not your wants) additional academic support when it comes to math, let them have their summer. If they do need that support seek guidance from a professional math service in your area. i.e. Online courses or private tutoring that gives them the support they need without endless amounts of busywork.