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John Monfredo: Summer Resources For Better Math Skills

Saturday, July 06, 2013


Beat the summer slide by engaging your child in brain-stimulating activities.

Last week I cited that there is a real crisis in education due to the “summer slide.” According to Ron Fairchild, founding CEO of the National Summer Learning Association, "Kids who don't have educationally rich summers will be nearly three years behind their peers by the time they reach the end of the fifth grade…Much like we would expect an athlete or a musician's performance to suffer if they didn't practice regularly, the same thing is true for young people when it comes to reading and performance."

Thus, summer reading loss is real and the best predictor of whether a child reads is whether or not he or she owns books. Again, that has been the main reason behind “Worcester: The City That Reads” annual book drive. We collected over 30,000 books this year and as of today are still giving out books to schools and agencies for summer reading. As mentioned last week, children need to read during the summer time and engage in meaningful learning activities.

Research shows that more than half of the achievement gap between lower and higher income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. Most students lose about two months of grade-level equivalency in mathematical computation skills as well as reading skills during the summer months. Summer learning loss happens with all subjects, but math and literacy are often the biggest cause for concern. Without regular practice, these skills tend to diminish over the summer months, especially in high-poverty communities.

Taking action

This week I’d like to suggest what parents can do about the loss of math skills, for when it comes to the loss of these skills over the summer months, all students are equally affected—regardless of socio-economic background. There has been no equivalent of the summer reading list for math, no equivalent of the summer library book program.

Those parents who have children attending the Worcester Public Schools received a grade level brochure on “Summer Math Activities” for parents to consider. If you haven’t looked through your child’s backpack, do it now. These activities are worthwhile and can involve members of the family in fun-math activities. Here is an example from the grade two brochure:

  • A player shuffles the ten cards (use only the one’s with numbers on it) from a deck of cards and places the deck number side down on the playing surface.
  • Each player turns over two cards and calls out their sum. The player with the highest sum wins the round and takes all the cards.
  • In case of a tie, each player turns over two more cards and calls out their sum. The player with the highest sum takes all the cards from both plays.
  • *For easier Top-It, use cards 1-5. For harder facts, use cards 1-10. For Multiplication Top-It, players call out the product of both cards and the player with the highest product wins the round.

Also, listed are a number of websites for parents to check out…

In addition, the brochure has a list of calendar activities for July and August. The student can then check off the event when completed. Here’s an example of the fifth grade brochure…take 2 dice. What is the probability of getting a sum of 8? (Child figures out the answer and checks it off.)

If you need an additional brochure contact your school or the Administration office at the John Durkin building…here is the number of the Chief Academic officer, Dr. Marco Rodrigues, 508-799-3018.

Check on the website for there are additional math opportunities for the children. Math Missions is a relatively inexpensive math tutorial video game. It was introduced more than a decade ago, but it still stands out as a high-quality educational game, and kids seem to think it’s fun. It comes in two volumes—Math Missions: The Race to Spectacle City Arcade Grades K-2 and Math Missions: The Amazing Arcade Adventure Grades 3-5—and presents kids with real-world math problems to solve. You can buy the software from Amazon—but check to see that it’s compatible with your computer.

Other great challenges…

Figure This! Math Challenges for Families: This Website, a project of the NCTM (national Council of teachers of Mathematics) and the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, includes 80 printable math challenges for middle school students and their families, with additional helpful resources in the Family Corner.

Math: Everyday Uses: This page provides links to a variety of sites with real-world math connections.

Fun activities to promote math skills: This page suggests real-world math activities for families of third-graders; the site includes similar pages for grades K-2.

Enjoy sports? Then look at this…Sports Math: Can you solve these student-created logic and math problems involving sports?

Multiplication Football: This student-developed ThinkQuest site is a bit of a hodgepodge, but you might enjoy the math-rich fact pages on football, skateboarding, baseball, basketball, and a few well-known sports figures.

Mathletics: This web site shows how to calculate a batting average, a basketball players field goal and free throw percentages, bowling scores, and distances on a football field.

The Math Forum Math Library–Sports: Some of the resources here are geared for students and some are for teachers.

IXL: This site has all sorts of math programs by grade level (Pre-K to grade 8) with a variety of math skills to work with your child. Another cool site is Math Blaster for playing with numbers can be fun! This site helps kids develop an interest in math by engaging them with exciting math games.

In addition, right at home there are many ways of having math fun, too…There are many games your child can play that involve math. Beginning in the elementary years, students can learn to enjoy math by playing games such as chess, dominoes, cribbage, checkers, Yahtzee and backgammon.

Functional fun

Encourage your child to solve problems involving math outside of school. In the grocery store, ask him to figure out the price of pounds of apples. In the car, ask him how long it will take to travel to your destination based on your speed. In the toy store, ask him to calculate the price of a discounted toy and how long it will take to save up him allowance to buy it.

Learning to count change is an important life skill, but it is also a skill that many children have difficulty mastering. One way to assist your child is to build on his knowledge of counting to 100 by ones, fives and tens…use pennies, nickels, and dimes. Review counting to 100 with your child by ones, fives and tens. Explain that counting to 100 in the various ways is similar to counting money. Give your child a small number of coins to begin with, such as 12 pennies, six nickels, and three dimes. Show him how to count the pennies by ones, the nickels by fives and the dimes by 10s.

Separate the pennies, nickels and dimes and have your child count the coins by ones, fives and 10s. Mastering this skill requires a good bit of time, so don't expect your child to grasp it the first time. This is a good activity to spread over a period of time, doing it for 10 minutes or so in one session.

The kitchen is a great place to practice math, as long as there's an adult home to supervise. How many tomatoes will you need to double the recipe for sauce? If you put 10 slices of mushroom on the pizza, ask your child to put to twice as many olive slices. How many is that? If there are three people in your family and 15 strawberries to divide equally among them, how many strawberries will each person get?

Never hear "Are we there yet?" again

While driving in the car have mental math fun by asking your child to multiply, add, or divide numbers and make it a game.

Are you planning a road trip?

  • Use a map scale of miles to estimate distances and travel times.
  • How many miles per gallon does your car average on highways? In town?
  • What are the highest and lowest gas prices you can find on your trip? How much money can you save by filling up your car at the lowest price?
  • How much is the trip likely to cost, taking into account gasoline, tolls, meals, lodging, recreation, and souvenirs? You might compare the actual costs of the trip to your prediction.
  • License plate math: Add or subtract or multiply or divide the numbers you find on license plates. You can work with as many digits as you wish. For instance, you might treat the first number on a license plate as a divisor and the next three numbers as a three-digit dividend.

Beat the heat

Then there is the Water Balloon Toss. Children love the water balloon toss! It can be a great way to practice math skills and cool off at the same time. Take turns throwing the balloon and challenging the other player with math facts. You might say, “4 x 6 = ?” When the other person catches the balloon, he or she must say the answer. Each time he or she answers correctly, the player must take a step backwards. How many equations can you solve before the balloon breaks?

You get the picture…Parents are their child’s first teachers, and all parents have the ability to teach their children. Everyday activities can turn into math lessons, so engage your child in a number of fun math activities, and continue throughout the summer time. The results will pay off come this fall.


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