Summer is upon us and students across the country are getting a well-deserved break from the rigors of academia. The pleasant weather and time off makes summer a favorite season for children and adults alike, but learning doesn’t have to stop just because school is on summer break.
The dreaded “summer slide” in learning impacts all students, with low-income students feeling the biggest hit – losing 2.5 to 3 months of grade level equivalency over the summer months. The impact of summer learning decay is felt largely in mathematics, setting some students up for failure once they go back to school in September.
But all hope is not lost. Aside from implementing proven alternatives to traditional summer learning programs such as online math programs, students can continue to think mathematically over summer break by learning to turn everyday activities into opportunities to learn math.
We agree, children should be playing outside during the summer, but that doesn’t mean they can’t also learn math. Using a stopwatch, students can exercise their brains as well as their muscles as they try to beat their best times at running, hiking trails, swimming, biking, etc.
Gardening by the Numbers
Gardening can be used as a curriculum tool helping kids understand how math is applicable in everyday life. In order to plot out a garden, you must first measure the area and identify which herbs, vegetables, and/or flowers will be planted within the space. Each item will have a specific need for space and sunlight, turning the gardener into a mathematician. Things to help incorporate math into gardening including pencil and graph paper, measuring tape, and a journal. Advanced math students can also calculate the volume of soil needed for a planter box using geometry and algebra will come in handy when calculating the amount of fertilizer to add to water for each plant.
Be the Change
Teaching kids how to save money is a useful way to keep math skills developing in the summer and throughout the rest of the year. Start saving for your next family vacation by tossing spare change into a community piggy bank. Kids will stay interested in math by having them guess how much money is in the “vacation fund” and then counting the change.
“Are we there yet?” Get kids involved in planning a family road trip by mapping out the route and routinely asking them where they are on the map. The little navigators will learn direction, map reading, and how to read road signs, skills that will really pay off in adulthood.
Keeping track of wins/losses or basic statistics can be useful in measuring progress as well as developing a child’s math skills. Stats can be added to a graph for more visualization. These skills can be used across the board from a kid tracking their own batting average to following trends in the local professional teams. Sports can be a fun way to get the whole family involved in learning math.
Baking the Difference
Culinary activities not only teach kids how to feed themselves, but also a series of mathematical skills they can use throughout their entire lives.
Baking is a science of its own and following the steps of a recipe are important to producing a successful, and edible, final product. The baker must learn to follow a recipe, which is essentially a mathematical algorithm, requiring a good bit of math knowledge including various units of measure and conversions, fractions, volume, temperature, etc.
- 1/3 Cup Oil (Coconut, Olive, or High-Quality Vegetable)
- ½ Cup 100% Pure Maple Syrup
- 2 Eggs*
- 1 Cup Mashed Ripe Bananas (or 2.5 to 3 bananas)
- ¼ Cup Milk (Coconut or Almond Milk) or Water
- 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- ½ Teaspoon Sea Salt
- ½ Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
- 1 ¾ Cups Whole What Flour
- Optional: ½ Cup Chopped Walnuts, Raisins, and/or Other Dried Fruit and Nuts
Vegan Egg Alternative:
For each egg, combine 1 tablespoon of crushed chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water. Refrigerate for 15 minutes until it develops the consistency of eggs. Do the math. How many tablespoons of chia seeds and water would be used for this recipe?
- Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (165 degrees Celsius) and grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oil and maple syrup. Add eggs (or vegan alternative) and beat well. Then add mashed bananas and milk.
- Add baking soda, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt to the mix and blend well. Then stir in flour, gently folding until somewhat mixed.
- Pour batter into the loaf pan and lightly sprinkle more cinnamon on the top.
- Bake the banana bread for 55-65 mins – depending on your oven – until it passes the “toothpick test” and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then pull it out of the pan and place it on a wire rack for additional cooling for another 20 minutes before slicing (this is the hardest part).
Celsius to Fahrenheit Conversion Formula: T(°F) = T(°C) × 9/5 + 32