The answer can depend on you. But, don't worry--no arithmetic worksheets need be involved. The school year is right around the corner. Time to oil those rusty brains. Here are some painless ways to ease your children's math abilities back into the forefront (and maybe even help dull their whines about boredom):

  • Get gaming. Remember that math is not just about numbers, especially at higher levels. Checkers promote thinking ahead and anticipating outcomes. The classic game Battleship encourages logical thinking, while Yahtzee works on grouping skills.
  • Make it active. Get everyone in the house a pedometer or step counter. Record totals at day's end. Let children graph everyone's progress. The person with the highest total at week's end gets to pick the DVD for movie night.
  • Dole out some cash. Let your child make price tags for toys to create a pretend store. Make play money and let them "shop.” Similarly, they can get more practice adding and subtracting money by playing restaurant. Have fun thinking up disgusting, overpriced items for the menu like $50 slug soup. Let your young waiter or waitress write the check and figure out a 10-20 percent tip.
  • Turn your car into a math-mobile. Drive exactly one mile in your car to give kids a sense of distance. Then, let them predict how many miles it is from your house to popular summer destinations, such as the pool or day camp. Show them how close they came with the starting and ending numbers on the mileage counter. Who holds the record in your house for most miles traveled over the summer? Find out by keeping a running total on a calendar.
  • Get cooking! Kitchens are filled with real-life math story problems. If the potatoes take an hour to cook but the chicken only takes 40 minutes, at what time do we need to put each in to get them done at the same time? For extra credit, let kids use measuring cups and spoons; fill beverage glasses 3/4 of the way full; and (for better or worse) calculate the total number of calories in the meal.
Bringing math alive in these ways can impact more than summer. When children realize that what they do in school has fun, useful applications, the equation is set for success.