Thursday / February 22

10 Math Hacks to Prevent Summer Slide

We can’t wait for the summer! Some students and teachers have already tucked away their book bags while others are scrambling to finish that last assignment. All can agree that the end of the school year brings mixed feelings, some sad, some excited, some anxious, and some downright exhausted. On a recent visit to a school, one of the teachers shared, “Look at us. We are just ghosts: transparent versions of our September selves.” While teachers look forward to the summer to recharge and reignite their passion for teaching and engage in professional learning, their students may have very different ideas about what they plan to do with all this newfound free time.

Summer slide, known as the learning lost during the summer break, is well documented. Over 100 years ago, White (1906) found that students lost substantial learning over the summer months. More recent research indicates that summer vacation can cost students up to two months of learning (Cooper et al. 1996). The news for mathematics is even more concerning; students lose more mathematics learning than reading learning (Cooper & Sweller, 1987) and children in lower SES groups may lose even more mathematics learning than their higher SES peers.

While summer slide can be daunting, families can do small, everyday practices that can keep students engaged in thinking and reasoning mathematically. Making math part of the daily conversation helps students see the relevance and importance of math in their daily lives. There are endless possibilities to have a natural and meaningful real-world mathematical conversation.

Integrate Math Into Daily Activities

The key idea here is to integrate math into everyday activities naturally. To get you started, consider the following examples, ranging from practical to intriguing:

1. Mix Math Into Cooking

You can invite children to cook with you or try out their recipe if they are older. Several of our favorite family recipes started in the more relaxed summer kitchen where we were able to experiment with new and old recipes. One of the high points about cooking is the opportunity to develop measuring skills and think about measurement conversions realistically and practically. Ask questions while cooking like, “How many ¼ cups do we need to measure 1 ½ cups of flour?” and “What if we don’t have the one-cup measuring tool?”

2. Make Slime

Don’t feel like cooking? Have the family follow a recipe to make up a double or triple batch of slime:

  • 2/3 cup of white glue
  • 1/4 cup of room temperature water
  • 2 1/2 cups shaving cream
  • 1 ½ tablespoon of contact solution for eyes
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • food coloring (optional)

3. Gardening

Ask learners, What is the area of that garden? How much is a cubic foot of mulch? How far apart should we plant the flowers?

4. Home improvement

How do we figure out how much paint we need? How long is this item? What measurement unit should we use to measure this?

5. Gas station

What is the difference in price per gallon for different kinds of gas, at various gas stations? Why is cost per gallon represented in the thousandths place ($2.962)?

6. Fast food restaurant

What is the difference in price between buying items individually versus in a meal? What are the most things I could buy for $5? Estimate how many French fries are in the small, medium, and large containers. What is the price per fry?

7. Grocery store

What is a unit price? How can finding the unit price help us find the best deal? Estimate the total amount we are spending today. (My family kept a record of this to determine the family winner over the summer.)

8. Bed time

Looking for an engaging and exciting routine that is easy to maintain throughout the summer? Check out Bedtime Math, a website designed to provide daily problems for all age levels, noted on the website as Wee ones, Little Kids, and Big kids. Children of all ages won’t be able to resist the engaging problems connected to real-world events and ideas.

9. At the Library

While checking out those books for the summer reading list, don’t forget to throw a few math books into your backpack. Books like Measuring Penny (Leedy, 2000) and How Tall, How Short, How Far Away (Adler, 1999), will have students comparing objects and measuring everything in the house in no time.

10. Play Some Games

Grab your favorite board game (Remember when those were a regular staple of our lives?) and at least one other family member and just play. Games invite all of us to solve problems, engage in logical reasoning, productively struggle, learn to lose gracefully (Okay, personally still working on that), and plan ahead. You can even ramp up the game experience by asking family members to explain their reasoning and strategies while playing. All of the tried and true games are great  (Jenga, Yahtzee, Connect 4, Monopoly), but if you are looking for some new, fresh ideas check out some of these motivating games:

  • SET: The Family Game of Visual Perception: While this game has been around for almost 50 years, its popularity experiences surges of interest. The object of the game is to make a set of three cards by identifying common or uncommon attributes, including a number of shapes, shape, and design. This is one game where younger family members easily excel over older family members!
  • Tiny Polka Dots (Math for Love): Young players have the choice of sixteen games in one to build visual perception, number recognition, counting, and logical reasoning skills.
  • Swish (Think Fun): Developed to enhance critical thinking skills and spatial reasoning, players examine sixteen cards at a time to hunt for colorful hoops and balls. All ages and skill levels can play together in the race to make the most matches.
  • Prie Club (Math for Love): Players 8 and up can practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division and then throw is some luck, strategy, and perseverance to reach 101 first.
  • Flash: The Lightning Fast Game (Blue Orange): Racing through eight dice games, 2-6 players compete to use basic facts skills, visual perception, probability, and speed to win.

Students don’t have to experience summer slide! Math is everywhere! The summer offers an incredible opportunity for families to build positive memories around mathematics. The key is to commit to making math a daily part of your everyday life.


Cooper, G., & Sweller, J. (1987). Effects of schema acquisition and rule automation on mathematical problem-solving transfer. Journal of Educational Psychology, 79(4), 347-362.

Cooper, H., Charlton, K., Valentine, J. C., & Muhlenbruck, L. (2000). Making the most of summer school: A meta-analytic and narrative review. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 65(1), 1-118.

Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, K., Lindsay, J., & Greathouse, S. (1996). The effects of summer vacation on achievement test scores: A narrative and meta-analytic review. Review of Educational Research, 66(3), 227-268.

White, W. (1906). Reviews before and after vacation. American Education, 185-188.


Written by

Beth McCord Kobett, EdD, is an Associate Professor in the School of Education at Stevenson University where she works with preservice teachers and leads professional learning efforts in mathematics education both regionally and nationally. She is also the lead consultant for the Elementary Mathematics Specialists and Teacher Leaders Project. She is a former classroom teacher, elementary mathematics specialist, adjunct professor, and university supervisor. She is the current president of the Association of Maryland Mathematics Teacher Educators (AMMTE) and chair of the Professional Development Services Committee of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). You can find her on Twitter @bkobett.

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