learning through play
When we learn a new skill and then go several months without performing it, the skill tends to atrophy. To prevent what’s referred to as the “summer slide,” it’s important to help your child practice newly acquired math skills over the long summer months.
Show them the value of money
One of the best ways for students to practice math is by learning to control their own money. For older kids, you may give them more control over saving and spending. For younger children, you may need to mentor and monitor more closely. Either way, allow your child to earn money and then practice spending it in ways she chooses. Ask your child questions about the purchases she makes—if she buys a candy bar, how much money should she expect to have left? What could she purchase with her money? Is there a larger-ticket item she wants to save for? Help her meet her goal by setting up a weekly budget.
Play summer games
While there are plenty of games specifically designed to build math skills, you probably already have a few options sitting in your garage. For instance, a yard game like cornhole requires on-the-spot addition. Monopoly also requires players to count. Connect Four, Ticket to Ride, and Rush Hour are just a few others that help foster math skill building.
Rely on your resources
There’s a lot of time to learn over the summer, so why not practice math in a more conventional (but still fun) way, too? Make some paper flash cards or find some online and go through them with your child every once in a while. Make it part of your Wednesday breakfast routine or Tuesday/Thursday free time before dinner. There are lots of great resources both in bookstores and online that will make math reviews quick and easy so you can build math practice into your routine.
Get in the kitchen
By asking your student to help prepare meals, you’re also developing his math skills. Choose a recipe that has a lot of measurements, and halve or double it for an added math challenge. For younger kids, this may require a bit of assistance. It’s a great way to visualize different measurements, perform some calculations, and end up with a tasty treat—all in just an hour or so!
Take a trip
Many families choose to take trips over the summer, and this presents a great opportunity for children to practice math skills. Get a paper map or find an electronic one, and ask your kids to calculate potential distances. You might even involve your student in planning a route or comparing distances, choosing the best routes based on traffic or construction, or adding up the legs of a journey.
These creative ideas will have your student learning and practicing math before he even knows it!
Heather Hamilton is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.
More posts by Heather Hamilton
I love messy play. You might think I’m crazy — but simply put, messy play is how small children learn.
Though children learn something from any form of play, messy play is particularly suited for teaching creativity, encouraging scientific thinking, developing motor skills, building language, and providing sensory stimuli.
There are many reasons why I love messy play, but my main reason is that it encourages the development of scientific thinking. While engaged in messy play, young children act as scientists — posing questions, gathering data, and answering their own questions about the world. A toddler who dumps rice over and over is usually not making a mess for the sake of it. He is wondering — what happens when I dump this rice? Does the same thing happen each time I do it? While smearing paint across a canvas, a child is investigating texture, movement, color mixing, and pattern making. As a former science teacher, I feel it is important to give children these experiences so they can develop this scientific way of thinking while they are still young and it comes so naturally.
Experts in early childhood development are also fans of messy play. The big and small motions children make while engaged in messy play fine tune their gross and fine motor skills. All the interesting textures and engaging nature of messy play make it a great way to playfully build language. And since messy play often involves several senses, it is great a great way for little ones to gain experience integrating sensory information.
Allowing your child to engage in messy play doesn’t mean your whole house has to be involved, nor does it mean you will spend hours cleaning up after. You can choose a space that is easily cleaned — such as a bathtub or driveway — or you can set some boundaries and ground rules to contain the mess in your home. For further tips and tricks, you can check out my post on managing messy play on my blog.
Asia Citro has her Master's in Education and is a former classroom teacher who now stays home full-time with her son (a toddler) and her daughter (a preschooler). She shares fun and easy activities on her blog Fun at Home with Kids and has released three books; 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids, The Curious Kid's Science Book, and A Little Bit of Dirt.