According to the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), there is a considerable achievement gap for students of all ages during the summer months.
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NSLA reports that when students aren’t learning over the summer they lose some of their skills. In research that spans 100 years, the NSLA reports, that “students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer.”
The NSLA also found that most students lose about two months of grade-level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months.
Discovering what parents and students can do to lessen the impact of the achievement gap does not require a lot of research and homework on either part. Finding inspiration can be as simple as utilizing math resources online, taking a trip to the local library or getting advice from local math organizations, such as MathCounts.
Dan Matonak, 61, of Hagerstown is the chairman of the Hagerstown chapter of MathCounts, a national club dedicated to enriching middle school student’s achievement and confidence in math. February 2013 will mark Matonak’s 30th year with MathCounts.
The program exists in almost all Washington and Alleghany counties schools. It also partners with the Maryland Society of Professional Engineers to host annual math competitions for students.
How can you help your kids remain involved with math during the summer months?
MathCounts has many resources on its website that are easily accessible to parents and kids.
“The website is an excellent place to hone skills in math,” Matonak said. “When you can visit a website, play games and work problems, it gives kids incentives to want to do better. A lot of this is considered fun; it’s a challenge but you get enjoyment out of it.”
A few summer vacation-friendly options provided by the MathCounts program are:
Problem of the Week
Found on the MathCounts website, www.mathcounts.org, the Problem of the Week is a set of math problems with a fun theme or math concept. A new problem set is posted on Monday of each week, and the solutions are available on the Monday of the following week. This can be an excellent resource for kids to get their neurons firing during the summer.
The Math Arcade features creative and engaging math games for children to practice math skills. Kids can choose to play on any level — beginner, intermediate or advanced — all the while working on their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. They can play by themselves or compete against partners. Games online include a puzzle game called RushHour, links to other games on Math.com and CalculationNation, among other sites.
The School Handbook resource includes handbooks from past years of MathCounts competitions dating as far back as 1985. Luckily, math problems are timeless. Each handbook contains more than 300 math vocabulary words, formulas and problems that meet National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) standards for sixth grade through eighth grade. Children can review these problems with their parents or friends while relaxing on the beach or eating an ice cream treat.
In addition, parents can consider getting inspiration to create opportunities for their kids to learn math from everyday life.
“Math is all around,” Matonak said.