The school year is winding down out here in Seattle; the calendar is getting crammed with end of year activities and the lunchbox that mysteriously vaporized in February has been excavated from the deep recesses of the classroom cubby (complete with a now-fuzzy PBJ). My own offspring are looking forward to a break from homework, tests and journals.

While it is indeed wonderful to relish the downtime, academic skills don’t stay sharp unless they are practiced. So here are Zeno’s Top Ten Tips to avoid a summer slide in math:

  1. Plant a sunflower or bean (easily sprouted on the kitchen windowsill, then daisytransferred to a pot outside) and have your child water, measure and chart daily growth.
  2. Take a trip to the library to check out some math-tastic books. Some of our favorite authors for elementary kids include Greg Tang and Stuart J. Murphy. More information and a list of titles can be found here.
  3. Have kids count by 2’s, 3’s, 5’s or 7’s as they jump rope, hula hoop or skip down the sidewalk.
  4. Pull out a paper map (remember those?) and have your child plan a driving route on a real or imagined road trip. Have them use the map scale to estimate the distance. Older kids can also track actual distances traveled on the odometer, and calculate gas mileage of the vehicle.
  5. What’s a googolplex? Post a new math-powered vocabulary word each day on the refrigerator. For a list of definitions, go here.
  6. Make a game of the dreaded grocery shopping by having kids compare prices. Point out that unit costs on similar items are not always the same and show them how deceptively some items are packaged so that they appear to be larger volumes, but are actually sold by weight.
  7. Go on a shape walk around town. Search for geometric shapes in the architecture you see and be sure to include trickier shapes such as rhombuses and parallelograms.
  8. Give kids a large handful of change, and see if they can “measure” the height of something small (such as a toy car) by stacking pennies next to it. Then encourage them to expand their findings to estimate the sizes of larger objects. For example, ask, “If it takes 30 coins to measure the height of your car, how many would be needed  to measure the height of this stool?”
  9. Limit screen time to 1-2 hours per day, and if children do go online, steer them towards math games and apps. Some free or low cost apps are reviewed here and here.
  10. Play games! Some mathy family fun can be found around the Monopoly, cribbage and Othello boards. Logic games and tangram puzzles also keep those gray cells active.

Feel free to add to our list; tell us about the activities you do at home during the summer break!

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1 thought on “No more teachers, no more books?”

  1. Thanks so much for these very clever tips! Summer starts tomorrow when school is out and we want to make the most of summer and these are terrific ideas to keep us learning all summer long.

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