What’s the summer slide? It’s when students experience a significant learning loss over summer break. The phenomenon has been researched across all major school subjects over decades and shows substantial erosion of knowledge over summer vacation. When it comes to math, students return to school in the fall having lost on average 27% of knowledge from the previous year—that’s almost 50 school days of lost learning!
That loss is a serious setback for teachers, who must spend time reviewing old material before moving onto the current year’s curriculum, and a disadvantage for students, who experience a snowball effect each year as learning loss accumulates. Those gaps between student achievement start to show in higher elementary grades, especially for students from lower-income households. The compound effect of the summer slide makes it difficult for some kids to ever fully catch up and thrive.
According to a Harvard study, many parents think of math as something confined to the classroom and are unlikely to present kids with opportunities to practice math in their everyday lives. Bedtime stories, summer reading lists, and trips to the library are all parts of regular summer routines, but what are the math equivalents to those experiences? After all, who winds down at the end of the night with a math riddle?
Math facts and skills recede without frequent practice. Consider how easy it would be to forget the newly learned parts of a fraction or the methods of long division when mathematical thinking is shelved for an entire season each year. In today’s environment of school closures, we expect the summer slide to be even more pronounced.
Most kids have been away from their classrooms and typical learning routines since late winter, and it’s still uncertain when they will go back to school. The good news is that there are a few simple things you can do to prevent the summer slide in math.
- Spend just 30 minutes 2 times per week with Dimensions Math, Primary Mathematics, or a supplementary program. Try using the same grade level your child just finished, but with a series your child doesn’t normally use during the school year. For example, making Dimensions Math your summer curriculum if your child learns with Primary Mathematics at school. This keeps things varied and separated from the school year, while adding novel perspectives on familiar concepts. Regular review will go a long way towards fending off the summer slide
- Highlight math moments. If your kids are into sports, cooking, or another activity that involves numbers, find ways to expand the conversation to include math. Halving or doubling a recipe can be great practice with multiplication, division, and fractions.
- Return to favorite math games and activities from last year’s curriculum (this one does require some preparation). If you’re not sure what games your kid enjoyed from the previous year, you can make a note to record those during the upcoming school year for next summer. Marking up a Dimensions Math Teacher’s Guide with sticky notes, you’ll have a range of games and activities that cover most of the year’s topics, and that are individually matched to your child’s interests.
- Play math games. Games involving addition, subtraction, and logic can help your kids stay mentally sharp in the math zone. Yahtzee, Sequence, Monopoly, and Sudoku are a few fun options.
According to the data, parents would be wise to keep math learning active year-round. It keeps momentum going and sets kids up for long-term success. If that’s not an option for you, don’t worry. Simply work towards bringing math into your family time a little bit more than usual. Anything you can do to maintain an awareness of math over the summer will make returning to the classroom in fall a breeze!
Learn more about the summer slide: