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You’ve probably heard about the summer slide. Children tend to score lower at the end of the summer on achievement tests than they scored at the beginning of the summer on the same tests. This means students start school in the fall less capable than they ended the school year in the spring. But the slide is steeper in math.

Studies have found that students lose the most ground – more than two months of learning – in math. Two months of loss means that children returning to school in September have lost the math they learned in April and May. In comparison, some students return to school with similar (but smaller) losses in reading but middle class students typically return with small gains. What this seems to indicate is that moms and dads pay attention to summer reading. We enroll them in library reading challenges and set weekly reading goals. But math? Math gets ignored. And math gets forgotten.

So helping your child avoid the summer slide takes more than a stack of good books to read. It takes math and it takes a good attitude towards math. That’s where you start.

Whoever is home with the kids this summer and whoever decides how the kids will spend their time has to include math activities in the everyday plan and has to communicate that this is enjoyable. If you are not comfortable with math yourself, look on this summer as a chance to change that. This is the summer you and your child will learn math together.

Start with math books, since books are already what you’re likely thinking of for your child this summer. Books like I Hate Mathematics! and Math For Smarty-Pants are fun to read and include math tricks, puzzles and impressive ideas. Picture books by Mitsumasa Anno (like Anno’s Counting Book) are intriguing for younger children and older kids too. Find books of math puzzles and make working on these part of the daily routine.

Also, your Southwestern Advantage books have thousands of step-by-step math examples – and the online version has video tutorials on white boards.

Then, do math activities. Measure things, divide things up, add things. When you and your child go shopping this summer, ask her to keep track of the bill, rounding the cost of each item and guessing what the total will be. See how close she can get to the actual amount and see how she gets better at this over the summer. Ask your child to estimate the sales tax for purchases. Calculate baseball batting averages. Hold a backyard Olympics and measure long jumps and time sprints. Even Sudoku, card games and Monopoly can add math skills.

The key here is to keep math front-and-center this summer and avoid the summer slide. Let math add to the fun and it will add to your child’s achievement in the fall.

© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.