Use these tips to Beat the Summer Slide in Math Skills


It’s so easy for kids to back slide in their math skills when they’re out of school in the summer months. Many students score lower on fall assessments than they had the spring before because of the summer slide.

Just being intentional about having kids use their math skills can help them beat the summer slide.

Luckily sharpening math skills doesn’t have to mean boring worksheets. There are lots of fun things we do that require math. Some of these are real life uses for math, others are fun activities that employ math skills.

What math skills should kids be working on? It depends on the age of the child, but you probably have a good idea of the skills they were working on during the previous school year. Choose the appropriate skills from the simplified list below.

  • naming numbers and naming what number comes after (and before)
  • estimating
  • adding
  • subtracting
  • telling time
  • calculating time
  • naming coins and their value
  • adding and subtracting money
  • basic fractions (1/4, 1/2)
  • adding basic fractions (1/4 + 1/4 = 1/2)
  • multiplying
  • dividing

Before you start, keep this in mind…

Math can be really hard for some kids. Don’t push too hard. We want math to be fun. Don’t inadvertently create a hatred for math in your child by pushing them farther or faster than they’re ready to go. If you see them struggling with a particular concept break it down into simpler steps and figure out which part is tripping them up. Work on it in a way that is fun for them or in a way that applies directly to them (calculating cost at a candy store).

Real Life Practical Math Application

You probably don’t even notice all the ways you use math in your everyday life. But try to pay attention to anytime you start to do a mental calculation, and instead of solving it yourself, see if your kiddo(s) can help you. I’ve included some sample questions for different scenarios below as well as the math skills needed to answer those questions.

Going on an outing: What time should we leave the house in order to make it to story time? If the parking meter costs .25 for 20 minutes, how much money do I need to put in for an hour? If the zoo costs $8/person, how much will it cost for our whole family to get in? How much money do you need to pay for admission to the pool and the concession stand?

Grocery Shopping: If this costs $1/lb, and I’m getting 3lbs, how much does it cost total? About how much is all of this going to cost? How much change should I get back? How many packs of hamburger buns do I need to buy for the family bbq? Does it cost less to buy two smaller bags of chips or one big bag? My recipe calls for 3 cups of cream, do I need the small container or the big one? (addition, subtraction, money, estimation possibly weight measurement and multiplication calculations)

Cooking and baking together: How much flour do I need if I’m going to halve this cookie recipe? Do we have enough butter to double the muffin recipe? If the recipe calls for 1 quart of cream, but I’m going to halve it, how much cream do I need? What time will it be when the brownies finish baking? The 1/2 teaspoon is dirty, so how many scoops do I need if I use the 1/4 teaspoon? (fractions, dividing, time, possibly capacity measurement calculations)

Earning and spending money. If I pay you $5/hr for yard work, but you only work 1/2 an hour, how much have you earned? How many hours do you need to work to earn $15? If you have $10, how many Minecraft coins can you buy? How much money will you have left once you buy that? (addition, subtraction, multiplication, money, possibly time calculations)

Ordering Pizza: How many people are we ordering for? About how many slices of pizza do we need? So how many pizzas do we need to order? How many extra slices will there be? How much will our order cost? (addition, subtraction, money, possibly fractions calculations)

Going on a road trip: How many miles is it to our destination? How long will it take us to get there if we drive 60mph? How much gas will we need? About how much will the gas cost altogether? How far can we drive before refueling? About how many times will we need to stop for gas? (addition, subtraction, time, measuring, multiplication, money, estimation)

Fun Ways to Practice Math Skills

Keep score while playing a board game or card game: How many points do I have now? Who is in the lead? How many more points do you have than me? Who do you think will win? (addition, subtraction, estimation)

Playing number games like dominoes: How much do you have? Is that a multiple of five? How many more do you need? (addition, subtraction, multiplication)

Building a birdhouse or play house together: How many inches of wood do we need? How much will it cost to buy the materials? How much paint do we need? What time will it be when the paint should be dry? (measurement, addition, money, time)

Once you start looking for ways to help your kids sharpen their math skills, you’ll see more and more opportunities. We use math all the time in our everyday lives, so like it or not, kids need to be able to apply it.

Put your kids’ brains to work by asking questions similar to those above, and you’ll help them beat the summer slide in their math skills.

Got any other suggestions for ways to help your kids sharpen their math skills? I’m sure other parents would appreciate your suggestions. Leave a comment to tell us how you work on math with your kids in the summer months.

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