Summer math loss is real. As much as we like children to embrace the summer holidays with sheer abandon, unshackled from routine and workbooks, all the fun can come with an unintended consequence. If children are not engaged in intellectually stimulating activities over the summer break, they can experience a reversal in their maths and reading skills.
Summer math loss, summer slide or summer brain drain is a phenomenon where the lack of regular practice causes a slide in the children’s skills and abilities acquired over the academic year. Decades of studies reveal children can lose up to 25-50% of knowledge or 2.6 months of learning in maths during the extended summer break.
The 'use it or lose it phenomena' is not restricted to maths alone. It can apply to language and literacy skills as well. However, research suggests the impact is less for literacy skills and conceptual knowledge as the memory decay is more severe for fact-and-procedure-based subjects like maths.
Now, what can you do to keep their math skills sharp during the holidays?
According to summer learning expert and associate professor at Harvard University, James.S.Kim, assigning worksheets without mentoring or guidance does not essentially correct summer math loss, as expected. Although further research is necessary to establish the specific interventions, the best way to tackle summer slide is to integrate intellectually stimulating math-related activities in their holiday schedule, without making them dread the work.
Here are some simple activities to help kids exercise their skills and knowledge without bringing in boring worksheets to ruin the vacation fun.
1. Create Mathematical Story Books
Encourage the children to put their math skills into a meaningful and engaging context and get them to create their own mathematical storybook. Help them come up with a plot and characters based on a mathematical concept such as fractions or the time tables or square numbers for older children.
Check out the Young Mathematical Story Author Competition by MathsThroughStories.Org for some amazing inspiration. The annual international competition is also a brilliant platform for 8-13-year-olds to exercise their creativity and turn their mathematical knowledge into fascinating stories and picture books.
2. Read Math Based-Stories at Bedtime
Studies suggest reading math-based stories can go a long way to help children improve their maths scores at school. Some of the books to try out are:
Alien Even and Alien Odd by Kathleen L. Stone (4+ years old)
Pink Tiara Cookies for Three by Maria Dismondy (5+ years old)
All the Little Ones by Mary Murphy ( 6+ years old)
Mr Base Ten Invents Mathematics by Bethanie H. Tucker (7+ years old)
Lemonade for Sale by Stuart J. Murphy (8+ years old)
The Pool Party by Marcie Aboff (9+ years old)
Anno’s Three Little Pigs by Mitsumasa Anno and Tuyosi Mori (10+ years old)
Sir Cumfrence and Sword in the Cone by Wayne Geehan (11+ years old)
3. Include Maths in Everyday Activities
-Talk about players’ statistics and analyse the scores when watching sports on TV -When cooking with children, halve or double recipes and get them to work out the new proportions -Let the children pay for the shopping and calculate the change
4. Get the Children Involved in Planning Family Trips
Involve them in planning the budget for a family trip. Get them to do the research, look up hotels, work out the transportation, food costs and activities.
5. Play Math Games
Anything from the classic hopscotch to board games like chess and monopoly is excellent to encourage math and reasoning. You can also try out online educational games like the stock market game which is perfect to get the children to apply their knowledge in math, economics, social studies and English and understand the fundamentals of investing. The online game is endorsed by education experts and has been proven to increase academic performance and test-scores in children. Check out the SIFMA foundation website for more details.
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