Studies show kids' math skills will deteriorate over the summer. In fact, children typically lose an estimated 2.5 months of learning over the break. The good news is, it’s easy to help your children avoid backsliding so they can hit the ground running in the fall. Learning math under the sun can be a blast for kids. Here are five fun ways to keep math top of mind for your elementary and middle school children as they soak up the rays:
- Ponder the Kiddie Pool. The same kids who probably can’t wait to dip their toes into the kiddie pool also need to cultivate the important and difficult skill of estimation. Before they wade in have them guess the gallons of water it’ll take to fill the pool past their ankles. How close did they come? For additional opportunities to measure consider throwing a graduated cylinder into the mix of water toys. Older kids can join the fun too. Challenge them to calculate the circumference, diameter and radius of the pool. Divide the circumference of the circle by the diameter to find pi. As the water flows this summer so do the opportunities to teach your children math.
- Grow a Math Garden. Your garden isn’t only teaming with life but opportunities to teach children math. For example, how much water and fertilizer will be needed to nourish the garden? How many pounds of fruit and vegetables the garden will produce? Or, pick one vegetable or flower to measure its growth over the summer and chart its progress. For older kids, you can overlay the garden with a grid to easily measure the square footage. Teach children how to multiply one of the side rows by the bottom row to determine the total number of squares. Visit the Math Gardener Foundation for extremely detailed instructions on making calculations and for more ideas.
- Keep Score. The next time you take your kids to the ball park encourage them to keep score. For younger children, you can use popcorn as a visual to aid in learning. You can kick it up a notch for the older kids by teaching them how to calculate a batting average. To make the fun more ongoing, track the record of your favorite team over the summer. Based on the numbers, will your favorite team make it to playoffs?
- Bike and Boost Math Ability. You can power your children’s math abilities as they pedal their bikes this summer. There are a number of incredibly inexpensive and easy-to-install bike computers online these days. Kids will be captivated with tracking how fast and far they travel without even realizing they are learning math. If you don’t feel like buying a gadget you can teach kids how to calculate their “revolutions per minute” or RPMs through counting. Each time their right knee comes to the top of a stroke within a 15 second period is a measure of their RPMs. Keep time while they count. Don’t forget to pack in one last lesson as you pump up the tires. What a perfect time to introduce the concept of pressure per square inch or PSI.
- Feed the Birds and the Brain. Hang up a bird feeder and let the learning begin. How much bird food will it take to fill the feeder? How often will it need to be refilled? Collect data about the types of birds that visit the feeder. Add the number of birds on a given day and calculate the differences day to day. How many more or less visited yesterday versus today? If 10 birds ate from the feeder and two were Finches what percentage of the birds were Finches?
Math doesn’t have to go out the window as kids play outside this summer. If you make math apart of the fun, it’ll be meaningful and memorable.
Kevin Judd is Vice President of Whizz Education, creator of the award-winning, online math tutoring program, Math-Whizz. He is also a former math teacher and Curriculum Director. For more information about Math-Whizz, visit http://www.whizz.us.