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Keep Kids’ Math Skills Sharp all Summer Long

Our kids are at risk over the summer months for losing the skills they’ve developed during the year in math – and the risk is greater for losing math skills than reading skills. Summer is a time when children may lose gains in math learning if they are not offered educationally sustaining math activities. Research suggests this loss is greater than the loss of reading gains and is also partly responsible for widening achievement gaps as minority students progress through school.

I encourage parents and children’s organizations to help children overcome the summer slump in math. Here are some fun things you can do to avoid this summer slump and give your kids a leg up on math for the fall.

Money, Money, Money!

Kids are always on the lookout for ways to earn money during the summer months. You can hone their math skills by helping them set a goal for the total amount they want to earn, and make a chart or graph to track weekly progress. Encouraging them to budget an amount for saving as well as spending is another way to engage them with money math.

How Far? How Many? How Much?

As parents, we get asked these questions often enough, but how often do we turn them back to our kids and share a brief math moment? If we say, About how far (how many, how much) do you think it is? and then suggest ways to estimate, we can help them recognize those times when an answer that is ‘close enough’ is actually ‘good enough!’ Estimation (or making an informed guess) is a useful math tool any time a precise answer isn’t necessary to solve a problem.

Going to the Game? Guess My Player!

Number puzzles are a fun summer pastime, and you can make them up on the spot at a ball game. Take turns picking a player’s number and making up clues to see if the other person can figure out who it is. For example: “My player’s number is an even number. It is more than 10, less than 15, and is a multiple of 3.”

Get Active!

Summer is a great time to help kids develop good habits around physical exercise. As parents, we can help our kids choose a type of exercise they enjoy (swimming, riding bikes, hiking), and then set performance goals—bike or hike a certain distance in a given amount of time, or swim a set number of laps—to try to reach by the end of summer. The trick to success is to agree on an exercise schedule, and use a chart or graph to keep track of progress after each session. Keeping track helps kids measure progress, keep them motivated, and even predict how long it will take to reach their goals.

The Waiting Game: What’s My Rule?

Everyone spends time waiting, whether it’s at the doctor’s office, in line at the supermarket, or sitting hungry at a restaurant.  Before kids get cranky, here’s a fun and simple math game that helps build algebraic thinking skills while beating the boredom! Player A picks a number between 0 and 10 and says it out loud. Player B silently picks a secret rule (plus 3, for example, or minus 2), applies the rule to the number, and says the new number out loud. Keeping that new number in mind, player A says another number, player B silently applies the same rule, and gives player A the new number. The play continues until player A has enough information to guess the rule.

Frances Nankin — Executive Producer/Editorial Director, Cyberchase

Cyberchase offers fun episodes, web games and hands-on activities and events and free, fun resources to strengthen children’s math skills over the summer. Visit Cyberchase online at or on Facebook, to access sneak peeks at the new episodes, fan events, exclusive behind-the-scenes videos, photos and more related to the Cyberchase Summer Challenge. Watch Cyberchase on your local PBS Station.