The term summer slide is probably very familiar to many of you by now. But the question is, what are you doing about it? While summer reading programs that are offered by libraries and schools are pretty common place and an excellent way to buffer reading loss, what are you doing to address the loss of math schools in your child? In the article, “Math’s steep slide: how far behind is your child,” author Crystal Yednak shares researcher statistics that found the average child loses 1.8 months of math skills during summertime. How can this be and what is being done to remedy this serious academic issue?
First, let’s look at why there is such a steep slide, in terms of math skills during the summer. Yednak discusses how reading is much more naturally woven into a child’s day, as opposed to math skills. Children are often read to at night or may willingly-eagerly read a book of their choosing throughout the day. Reading is a fine, easy, and relaxed way to pass a rainy summer’s day or cozy, summer’s night! On that same rainy day, do most children run for their flashcards? –Not so much. Practicing math tends to be a much more focused and rigorous activity. Younger children do not get the “practice time” that we have as adults, when it comes to mathematics. On a daily basis, writing checks, paying bills, comparison shopping, cooking, etc. actively immerse adults in numbers and math. Children do not get this or have this regularly. The problem is even more pronounced for Middle and High School students since the math they are learning is generally not used in every day life…when is the last time you used a graphing calculator to figure out a Quadratic Equation for the parabolic path of an astoroid entering our solar system?
This slide is further exacerbated by the Common Core Standards as they are being instituted into you child’s school. The author discusses how this new curriculum assumes not only higher skills but also mastery right from the start of the school year. You have teachers who are being asked to go forward and not backwards to review last year’s skills. As a teacher, there is increased pressure to get through all the curriculum. Thus, the math work at school may be far beyond your child’s normal capacity even from where they left off at the end of the previous school year. Place deteriorating skills on top of this situation and you have a child who is very far behind academic expectation and in many cases their peers who may have been working on their math skills throughout the summer.
Fortunately, there are steps parents can take to ameliorate the situation. Ideally, before school ends, sit down with your child’s teacher. Find out where they are struggling most mathematically and discuss ways to address this over the summer. The teacher may have specific math sheets, a website, or an old book your child can use to practice her rusty areas. If your child’s teacher is unavailable during the summer, there are websites for parents to determine their child’s strengths and weaknesses in math. There are also websites that discuss how these fit in with the common core standards. Your child can review what they learned in the last grade and also do “preview work” in math for the grade to come. Some of these website s are listed in the embedded article.
Educators are taking increased steps to tackle this issue. Controversial for some, many schools are offering longer school years or even all year round school, with more shorter breaks built into the academic year. The thought is to not allow space –time for a slide. Still others are encouraging parents to work with tutors or send their children to math camps, to avoid this “slip and slide.” Other educators are hoping libraries will implement summer math programs, alongside their reading programs to address this need. While still other educators also point to specific websites like “Calculation Nation” for parents to use with their children. Such websites combine math problems with games. Lastly, parents are asked to look at where they can sprinkle math into the day. Perhaps Johnny or Janey can county their piggy bank change or money earned from a lemonade stand. Cooking is a fun way to work on both math and reading skills. Rest assured parents that such large learning loss does not have to be the case. It just takes a little forethought to combat and come out on the right side of this issue and forgo the slide…..