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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.

Summer  provides a terrific opportunity to help your child master the school skills she needs more practice in… or an opportunity to forget everything she knows right now. But how can you make sure she gets stronger over the summer? How can you avoid the “summer slide”?

First, all children need to stay engaged in learning over the summer months, whether they are doing just fine in school or not. Children’s brains are still developing and 10 weeks of no-learning puts the brakes on brain development in areas needed for school success. The rustiness teachers complain that  students struggle with in the fall is real: old brain connections that have lain unused over the summer take time to revive themselves when school starts again. Keep your children’s brain connections nimble by incorporating challenging thinking during everyday summer activities.

Did you know that your membership to has a special section called SUMMER ADVANTAGE specifically to help keep your kids in grades 3-8 from falling behind over the summer. Login to, click on SUMMER ADVANTAGE on the home page. Happy summer learning!

But summer is also a good time to not just keep things warm but to actually help your child make progress in areas that have been a problem in the past. To do that, your child needs a tutor. But that tutor can be you. Here’s what to do.

Get a plan from your child’s teacher. Before school ends, ask your child’s teacher what he needs to learn over the summer. Knowing this will help you decide what to do. If you can’t get a plan from the teacher, ask your child. He will know what he needs help in.

Set daily goals for practice. Daily practice is the most important thing. It’s too easy to let things slide but there’s no way to cram 10 weeks of work into the last two weeks of the summer. So make working on school skills part of the regular routine of every summer day.

Round up practice materials. Every bookstore has workbooks and that’s a good starting point. But also try to locate instructional websites for kids and good books to read. Feel free also to write your own materials, incorporating school skills into a trip to the park, doing science experiments, and playing sports. Math, reading and writing are part of everyday life. Make opportunities to find these in the activities your child does for fun.

Plan a weekly tutoring session. This could be a professional tutor. Or it could be the college student next door or it could even be you. The idea here is that a weekly review session provides some accountability and a chance to notice progress made and progress not-made. It’s a chance to set goals for the next week. If you fill this role yourself, you might find it works best to hold this meeting with your child at the local library – someplace different from home. This makes this session more formal, less open to interruption, and assures that you and she will take the time needed to really review things.

If you decide to hire a professional tutor, be clear about what will be covered. Some tutoring services work to their own agendas and take a long time to start working on the skills your child needs right now. Make certain that while a tutor works on foundational skills your child missed years ago, he or she also works on grade-level skills your child will need when school starts in the fall.

The key here is to not use work on school skills as punishment. Don’t single out your child who struggled in school this year and let your other child who is doing well in school do nothing over the summer. Remember that every child needs to keep thinking over the summer. Make thinking part of every child’s every day.


© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.