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Summer Math? Absolutely!

For many, summer days and weeks have become a time when children are involved in a seemingly endless array of camps and summer programs. In fact, families have been involved in arranging for and scheduling such activities for months! But there are also those wonderful non-scheduled, serendipitous days when trips to the zoo, a museum, or a walk on a nature trail, just happen. Summers are memory makers for everyone. And mathematics learning can be an important part of those memories.

How do you do this? First, potential mathematics problems are lurking around the corner of any summer day.
• What time does the pool open?
• How far will we drive today?
• How many free throws will we attempt at the basketball camp today?
• How many plates, glasses, and napkins do we need for the picnic if we all go?
• How far will we drive each day for our trip?
• How long is the flight? What time will we land?
• If we halve the recipe, how many will we serve? How much of each ingredient will be needed?
• If we widen the garden, how much more space will we have for planting?

The problems above may or may not connect with your own summer days. Create your own! This provides family or even community ownership for mathematics problems to be completed and also allows for a range of problems within a problem so that all members of a family or group can be involved. Provide such mathematics problems often. Importantly, note that such problems or tasks should engage children in doing mathematics and there must be time to talk about solutions or perhaps more questions.
• Will just widening the garden mean much space-wise? What’s the shape of the garden, anyway?
• Do you attempt the same number of free throws every day at basketball camp? How many shots were made today? Yesterday?

Spending time to both do the math and explore the reasoning behind solutions is so important. And, for children, such activities are certainly more fun than completing a packet of worksheets! This is not to imply that maintaining skills is unimportant. In fact, such maintenance and even extending skills can and should be an important element of summer math opportunities. A quick online math product search will produce many opportunities and tools that claim to maintain and extend skills as well as develop concepts. VTech for instance offers a variety of learning toys that help develop basic mathematics skills. The Tote & Go Laptop is good for long trips in the car and includes activities that teach counting skills and shapes. VTech’s Little Apps Tablet resembles a tablet computer and teaches “more or less”, number order and other basic mathematics skills. Then there’s the ABC Text & Go Motion which is more compact and helps children identify numbers and learn basic counting skills.

However, as you consider instructional tools, of any type, be critical. Not all such tools are backed by educational experts or are appropriate for your child’s developmental needs. Ask yourself, is the mathematics important for my child? Will the game, tool, tablet or app be easy to use and fun (not wild about electronic worksheets!). Will the context of the activities be developmentally and socially appropriate for my child or the children using the materials? As you consider these guidelines and the use of tablet-based or online tools, also think about how these activities can be used to supplement those regularly-paced problems that engage your children in doing mathematics. Together they frame summer learning opportunities that should engage, develop and extend important mathematics. Mathematics is not a school-only subject, it’s part of our lives, so do enjoy the summer and do identify and create opportunities to make math an integral part of it.

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