Summer is a time for relaxing, family trips, summer camp, long bike rides, and maybe a few all-night video games. The last thing most children would want is to be subjected to school-type activities over the summer. Of course, there are also children who would happily go to school all year without a break, but even they need some down time once in a while.
Who Should Practice Math Over the Summer?
The main reason why you would consider having your child practice math over the summer is if your child NEEDS the extra practice due to low achievement in math. It should be a pretty easy sell if you keep a few things in mind:
- Starting a campaign of summer math work too soon and too frequently will shock and horrify your child. Take it slowly and give summer a few weeks before starting.
- Making it the child's idea can give them better ownership in what they are doing and can result in fewer arguments. Discuss the report card grades and ask your child what they could do over the summer to help them get ready for the next year. Ask them how you could help.
- Negotiate! Okay, this one can be tricky, but if pool time follows math time, there might be more incentive. Try not to promise them something you should/would buy them anyway, like a bike. You can make this more fun with fake money that they can use for real things like trips to the amusement park.
- It's not school, so don't use school hours. Depending on the age, try 15 to 30 minutes a day or each half day.
- Make it part of the routine for the day. Children do very well with routine. NEVER make it a punishment to practice math. It should always be a positive part of the daily routine.
On the other end of the spectrum are students who already do well in school. They may want a little extra practice, so they can build a solid foundation for their career as a rocket scientist--which by the way, is probably going to be more common than you think. Note the number of private companies that are currently getting into the aerospace industry. For these students, learning and practicing new skills will only help them to shine more.
What to Practice
Start with the basics and move on from there. Children who do well in math class are the ones who know their basic addition, multiplication, subtraction and division facts and can apply them to more complex situations without being burdened by a calculator, table or finger counting. The goal is to get your child to the point where they can do most of the easy stuff in their head which will go a long way to getting them through engineering school.
If you aren't sure where to start, start with the easiest skills you can think of. You will soon find out if your child has mastered the skill or not. Here is a suggested procedure to follow for each skill:
- Give students a pre-test to see what they know. If you are using a worksheet with 100 questions, ask them to complete the first row. You will probably appreciate their grasp of the situation after 10 questions, but if you don't, get them to complete the second row.
- If they aced #1, get them to finish the rest of the sheet, praise them and move onto the next skill. If you noticed some issues along the way, try to identify what those issues were and teach the skill. Teach, practice, teach, practice, teach, practice, etc.
- Once you are confident that your child knows the skill, give them a final test, mainly for the purposes of praising them and telling them how wonderful they are. This might also be where you give them one of those summer dollars that they can use on the family trip in August.
- One caveat about #2 is if your child does not learn the skill quickly, then you might have to back up a bit and come back to it later. Say you started with multiplication tables up to 9 x 9 and they got 9/10 incorrect on the first row .... you may want to back up and start with multiplication facts up to 5 x 5. The more success and praise you can dole out, the better things will go.
Use Your Creativity
Since it is summer, you don't need to limit yourself to seat work. Let's say your family is out camping and you want to throw a little math into a rainy day. Well, you COULD sit down with a math worksheet and learn things that way OR you could put on the rain suits and go have some fun. Find a big puddle of water and build five drainage channels from the puddle then branch out each of those five channels into five more each. How much is 5 x 5?! Bring out some measuring cups and figure out what 1/2 + 3/4 is.
Sitting around a campfire? Ask your child what 9 + 7 is. If they get it right, give them a marshmallow to roast. If they don't know, give them the whole bag and have them work it out with the marshmallows. Get them to make different rectangles and triangles with the sticks. Can you make a scalene obtuse triangle with marshmallow sticks?
Include your child in all your daily math activities. Let's say you buy tickets for that amusement park and they cost $24 for adults and $18 for children. How much will it cost for the whole family? If your child is a little older or sharper get them to calculate the tax too.
Using Math-Drills.com and other websites, you can be prepared for family trips, rainy days, screen-free summer evenings, etc. Print off a bunch of math worksheets that reflect skills your child needs to learn or practice and make a little booklet. If you are into scrap booking or you are otherwise talented and creative, think of a cool way to design the booklet. You could even put your child's name on it!
The Final Answer
The final answer to whether you should practice math over the summer is up to you. Helping your child be more successful in math does involve a little work but it pays off in better marks, more success in school and more options for your child in the long run.
Feel free to comment on ways that you help your child over the summer with math. If you are a teacher, what can you do to encourage parents to work on some math over the summer?