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5 Ways to Use Math Over Summer Break

A student forgetting math over the summer; summer slide in math
Summer break can cause students to forget.

I've seen it all too often.

Kids begin to grasp concepts in math during the school year, then return to school after the summer break and have lost a lot of the progress they made. Here are some tips you can do over the summer to help ensure that the math"summer slide" isn't too painful in the fall.


If your child has learned any of the FOUR OPERATIONS (ADDITION, SUBTRACTION, MULTIPLICATION, DIVISION), incorporate them into daily life however you can. Some ideas include:

1. USE FOOD - You can cook or bake together with your child. If you need to double a recipe, this is a perfect way to practice addition and multiplication. Make sure to include your child in figuring out how much of each ingredient you need to include. You can also ask questions such as, "How do you think this would taste if we add more sugar than the recipe suggests?" to get your child to think proportionately and realize that if one ingredient deviates from the plan, the recipe will taste differently.

fractions, baking, recipes, math with food
There are many ways to use math with cooking.

2. MAKE A NUMBER - There are all sorts of ways to create a number. What do I mean by that? For example, if I say, "Make 20," I can arrive at 20 in any of the ways shown below. Encourage your child to come up with as many ways as possible to create that same number. You can pick a different number every day. You can keep track of all the numbers you created on a sheet of paper and keep it visible, perhaps on your fridge. This can be something your child can be proud about. If this becomes boring or too easy for your child, you can always tweak it to make it harder by asking to create larger numbers or requiring 3 or more numbers to be used (see my examples in the last row) or creating the number without using a certain digit or number at all (for example, make 20 without using the number 10). If your child knows how to multiply and divide, yet chooses to always make the numbers using strictly addition and subtraction, try to nudge your child to use multiplication and division also. Extra points for kids who use multiple operations in the same equation (for example: 6 x 4 - 4 = 20)!

arithmetic, mathematical operations
Some options of how to "Make 20" are shown. The possibilities are endless!


If your child has learned FRACTIONS, DECIMALS, AND PERCENTS, the summer is a perfect time to reinforce how these numbers can be converted from one to the other. This would be great for middle school and pre-algebra students. Some ideas include:

Math games can help kids use the skills they have already learned.

3. Play BINGO! - I have this BINGO game and have played it many times with students. It is a great way to use skills and make it fun at the same time. I have seen kids get really into it! Make sure they have a whiteboard or paper and pencil nearby when they play and encourage them to do the math when it's necessary to do a conversion. To play, a number is called out loud, for example, "one-fourth." The number "one-fourth" may be written on the BINGO card as "1/4" or it may be on the card as "0.25" or perhaps as "25%." Each player covers a number on the BINGO card with a chip if it's said out loud and written on the board in any one of its forms: fraction, decimal, or percent. The goal is to place five chips in a row on your board. Of course, the better you understand how to convert decimals, fractions, and percents, the better your chances are of winning. This game is a great way to nudge a child to try to find a number's equivalent. For example: "Are you sure you don't see "one-fourth" on your card? I think it's there, but not as a fraction." It may be hard to find this physical game, but I have also discovered this site that allows you to create and print your own free math BINGO printable board.

Math BINGO, percents, fractions, decimals, equivalent numbers
I have used this BINGO game with many students and it has helped them tremendously with converting fractions, decimals, and percents.

4. Fraction Talks - There is a wonderful free resource from Math for Love called Fraction Talks, which provides instructions to guide a child through recognizing fractions in colorful pictures. The various pictures vary in complexity. This exercise can be extended to students who have learned decimals and percents by asking them the proportion of each color in each picture as a decimal and percent. Once your child gets the hang of how it works, perhaps your child would enjoy making and coloring an original picture for you to figure out!

Fraction Talks, Math for Love, fractions, portions, part versus whole
Use fractions by asking questions like, "For each of these pictures, what portion is blue?"

5. Compare Numbers - If you're out shopping with your child, it's a great way to point out sales and percents. If your child is familiar with percents, ask which would cost more: the sale of 45% off or 1/2 off? Ask why. Explaining why an answer is correct helps form

percent decimal conversion, equivalent numbers
It's important to be able to understand things like 1/2 = 50% = 0.5.

a deeper understanding of the concepts and how they work. Plus, if your child arrives at the answer using a different approach than you do, this is a wonderful opportunity to talk about how math problems can be solved in multiple ways. There are also these puzzles from Open Middle that ask the student to come up with several ways to plug in numbers to make these fraction-to-decimal comparisons work (Puzzle 1 and Puzzle 2). Each can be printed out or you can easily remake them on a piece of paper or whiteboard.

If you're looking for other engaging activities to compare numbers, I highly recommend other offerings on Math for Love or Open Middle, especially for elementary and middle school students.

There are many ways to use math in everyday life. If you don't have enough time to play games, try to ask questions while shopping or cooking and try to get your child to create numbers in different ways. Reach out to me with any questions or for additional ideas. Let's keep our kids engaged and ready for the fall!


Melissa Agocs



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