Summer is one stealthy thief. In the two and a half months that your teen spends kicking back with her friends, she could be losing as much as two months of learning. Math concepts and skills are particularly vulnerable -- bad news, especially when the SAT is just around the corner. So how can you help your teen avoid the 'summer math slide'? Tom Reardon, a math adviser for Texas Instruments and a retired math teacher with 35 years of experience in the classroom, offers these tips to keep teens flexing their math muscles all summer long.

Take it Outside Your community offers lots of opportunities for summertime learning. Check out these ideas to get started:

  • Get a job. Teens who tutor over the summer can actively brush up on the subjects they've learned over the past few years. Even working in the mall will keep your teen's brain filled with numbers. She'll be shocked to see how much is taken out of each paycheck for taxes and social security. Ask her to figure out the percentage! You can also help her come up with a weekly budget or savings plan.
  • Sign up for an educational summer program or camp. Your local library and recreation department offer affordable group activities for teens. Talk through the options with your teen and let her choose.
  • Take a class. If your teen never really grasped logarithms, she can retake Algebra 2 at a local community college this summer. Community colleges also offer fun electives like dance, music, and art to round out her summer education.
  • Volunteer! Museums, libraries, and most non-profit organizations are a great place to explore future career possibilities and keep your teen thinking all summer.

Math on the Net

Believe it or not, the Internet is more than a portal to Facebook. Get started with's worksheets, activities, and study help. Don't forget to set participation goals with your teen. As Tom reminds us, "Doing a little bit at a time and more often is much better than doing a whole lot once in a while."

The Daily Grind

Sadly, not all summer math activities can be fun all the time. A few of the most important ones will not make any teen's list of exciting things to do. Fortunately, they don't have to take up a huge chunk of time in order to be effective. Throughout the summer, help your teen make time to:

  • Review last year's math and science tests. Have your teen re-do problems for practice and go over any concepts that seem to be on their way out.
  • Go over last year's syllabus to review core math concepts and skills. She'll need them for next year.
  • Preview next year's textbook. Many schools post textbook excerpts online, and some publishers also offer previews.

Day-to-Day Learning

Looking for real life ways to implement math lessons? With a little creativity, daily activities can be turned into opportunities to learn. Here a few ideas to try:

  • Help plan the family vacation. Get your teen involved calculating gas mileage, estimating costs, and even coordinating day trips to somewhere she'd like to go.
  • Take a trip to a museum, observatory, or library. Critical thinking, even if not directly math related, is a good thing. Expose your teen to lots of interesting new ideas to think about.
  • Work math into a favorite hobby. Into sports? Compare the statistics of two teams or players. Business? Practice investing in the stock market or create a summer budget. Music? Explore the fascinating connections between harmonics and math.

The more interesting and relevant you can make math to your teen, the better it will go over. Keep it light and remember to let your teen pick the direction. As Tom Reardon reminds us, "Summer learning should not be separate from summer fun."

Adapted with permission from Texas Instruments Education Technology.