21 June 2006

School's Out...Now Go Do Some Math!

There are lots of summer reading programs to be had...most of them with the "hidden curriculum" of getting kids to keep up their reading skills between school years. But maybe we should be more concerned about the deterioration of math skills over the summer. According to a recent USA Today article:

This year, as in the past, many teachers will slip a summer reading list into their students' backpacks as they send them off for vacation. The notion is admirable. Keep kids reading over the long break so their brains don't turn to mush.

But what teachers and parents really should be doing this summer is encouraging students to practice their math skills. Educators have long known that the summer break wreaks havoc on learning. Dozens of studies have found that students score lower on standardized tests at the end of the summer than just before the summer break.

But less well known is that these summer losses are heavily concentrated in math. According to a study published in the Review of Educational Research, students lose about 2.6 months of grade-level equivalency in math skills over the summer. This setback was similar among lower- and middle-income students.

In contrast, summer's effect on reading skills is less dramatic. On average, middle-income students actually made slight gains in reading performance over the summer break. Lower-income students tend to lose ground, but not as much as they typically lose in math skills.

The article includes several suggestions of ways for students to practice math over the summer.

Of course, most kids would rather be outside playing over the long break than inside doing math. But with so many great services available, parents can get their kids to devote a few minutes a day on the subject. The time needed is small, but the rewards will be substantial.

Parents: start your calculators!

1 comment:

Stephen said...

I have problem generators available for free on the web.
Addition and subtraction:
Multipication (and division - remember, it's the reverse):

These generate sheets of problems, optionally with the answers printed right away, or on another page. A practically infinite number of problems can be generated.

I use finger math to quiz my son while in the car. Just a few problems a day can keep the skills sharp. My Finger math tutorials are up on my blog starting here: