Five Ways to Promote Summer Lovin’…of Math!

Five Ways to Promote Summer Lovin’…of Math!June: time to hang on by our fingernails, but also time to set families up for summer learning success.

Families all hear us saying that reading logs and library cards are keys to summer reading growth.  But what about math?  It’s easy enough to say, “Get your kid practicing those math facts, maybe on an app, because automaticity blah blah foundational blah blah blah.”

The problem for some is that key word, there: blah. Engagement matters.  Engagement leads to growth.

Math is more than building automaticity. But some kids aren’t in on that secret yet.  Let’s help their families spend the summer getting their kids to fall in love with math.  That’s right: summer is perfect for a good rom-com movie, and this summer we’re casting MATH as the love interest.  Here’s the montage:

Scene 1—Ice cream combinations. Try this one on a hot afternoon or evening when you could all use a couple scoops. How many different ways are there to get two scoops, you ask your kids, when there are 11 flavors available?  How do you know?  Show me.  Let kids find a creative—even colorful–way to keep track of each possibility.  Hit enough ice cream parlors, and you can watch those methods of tracking combinations refine, become more systematic.  Watch out for this, sooner or later: “Dad, what if we got three scoops?”  It doesn’t matter what answers you can or can’t provide; the fun of inventing ways to solve for permutations and combinations is what makes kids’ hearts start to swoon.

Scene 2—Free range data.  Most kids have at least a block they are allowed to roam. But what do we know about that block, and how can we show it?  How many windows are on the block, and how many front doors?  What’s the average number of kids per household?  Capitalize on what kids do anyway: running around, sleuthing, and getting creative.  Picture graphs, summary statistics—ask for a presentation of data after dinner using whatever is in your kid’s toolbox.

Scene 3—Road trip number sense.  Hour two on the road, and you hit traffic.  That peace-making electronic device is down for the count, and if you hear that one kid CD again you might die. But what do you have in spades? License plates! Pick a target number and have kids race to find a license plate that can make that, using the numbers and any operations.  Target number is 24?  6 + 2, times 3, for the win! (Can your kids tell you where the parentheses go, in order of operations?)

Scene 4—Story teller logic. Maybe you have a kid who loves inventing stories, characters, towns.  Why not ask them to add some deductive reasoning, and create their own logic puzzle?  “Princess FruFru cannot live in a shack, and Mr. Funnybones lives next door to the Princess. The shack is on the end of the block, at the opposite end from where Dr. Mayhem lives.  Mom, can you correctly show the four houses on the block and who lives in each one??” (Here’s where you say, “I bet I can solve it before your brother can.”)

Scene 5—Splashy, wet liquid volume.  The beach, the city pool, the garden hose: what do they have in common? They all captivate and mesmerize the (sunscreened) kids for hours on end. Math here, you ask?  Add an empty plastic pint glass, a gallon jug, a spare beat up measuring cup, and–voila! An instant learning lab for exploring liquid volume. Add a couple tall and skinny containers, and let kids play around with Piaget’s concept of conservation: could it really be that it’s the same amount of water there, when it looks so much taller now?

(By the way, if you want to get ahead of your child on any of these math areas: each of the 5 scenes has a link to a short video demo on Khan Academy.  Khan lessons are not just for kids who take MAP!)

We want kids to come back to school in fall ready to show growth.  And nothing sets a kid up for math growth better than a burning love.

What ideas do you have to share for summer lovin’? Tell us on Facebook or tweet us your best ideas on Twitter (@NWEA).