Long summer days invite the family to spend extra time relaxing, playing, and connecting. Many parents also look for ways bolster their children’s math skills, but family time should be fun, not stressful! We compiled nine fun family activities that help combat “the summer learning loss phenomenon” (a.k.a. “the summer slide”) in math and create lasting memories.
1. Play Board and Card Games
When you and the kids are ready to escape the heat of the midday sun, find a cool spot and break out the board and card games. They will think they are just having fun but playing these games will also improve your child’s numerical fluency, logic, and application of probability. Choose games that use money, keeps a running score, and/or requires strategy. Playing together is a great way to bond with your child.
Some of our favorite games for developing math skills are Monopoly,Ⓡ Blokus,Ⓡ blackjack, Scrabble,Ⓡ chess, and Life.Ⓡ
2. Make Yummy Treats
There are so many math skills used for cooking that there are entire math books devoted to culinary math. Following a recipe introduces math concepts like sequencing and counting. Young chefs will learn to measure precisely for baking and to estimate when a recipe says season “to taste.” If your kids are beginners in the kitchen, start with a simple smoothie or popsicle recipe. They will cool you down and they are hard to mess up.
Once they can follow a basic recipe, you may want to introduce scaling and/or converting recipes. Scaling a recipe means changing the amount that the recipe will make. Scaling requires thinking proportionally, a prerequisite for algebra. If children are scaling a baking recipe, they may need to adjust the size of the pan and/or the cooking time. Use this this handy chart (and math explanation) to help. Converting a recipe means changing it from metric units to standard units or visa-versa. Use this chart and calculator to make converting the recipe easier.
Don’t fret if kids make (safe) mistakes. Mistakes are opportunities to learn. If they try to double a cake recipe and the cake fails to rise, they will be motivated to learn how to multiply the measurements. When they follow recipes correctly, they get to eat, and share their creation.
3. Incorporate Music
Does your community have free summer concerts in the park? After enjoying a picnic at the park listening to a local band, extend the learning by incorporating music at home. Music is inherently mathematical. The patterns you hear and recognize in your favorite tunes follow a mathematical structure. Pattern creation and recognition is a basic component of elementary arithmetic. Pattern theory is a complex branch of mathematics.
Introduce your child to simple music theory and discuss concepts about fractions and proportions within music. The following activities are perfect for families that don’t have much experience with music:
- Clap the beat to a favorite song.
- Dance to music with various rhythms like waltz, cha-cha, and tango.
- Learn to read sheet music to a simple song, like “Mary had a Little Lamb.” It has a 4/4 time signature (a whole note gets 4 beats, a half note gets 2 beats, quarter notes get 1 beat). When you and your child both understand that, try a song with a different time signature.
Use these great websites as resources:
4. Draw Pictures
Many children need time during the summer to relax by themselves. Drawing can be relaxing, rewarding, and boost math skills. Explore topics such as geometry, proportional thinking, ratios, and patterns by drawing with your children. Talk about how using accurate proportions makes drawings look more realistic. For example, when drawing a face the eyes should be spaced in the middle from top to bottom and the space between the eyes should be equal to the length of an eye. You can try to draw the same objects from various perspectives to explore various curves, angles, lines, and shapes. You may also try enlarge a picture using “the grid method” to reinforce working with percentages and fractions.
Use these websites as resources for the grid method and other drawing techniques:
- How to Use the Grid Method
- Enlarge pictures with the Grid Method
- How to Draw in 3D using Angles and shading
- Use Math in Art to Create Perspective
- How to Add Depth and Dimension to Pencil Drawings
- How to Draw a Face
5. Do a Science Project
It is hard to do a science project without including math. Choose a project that interests your children. The Topic Selection Wizard is a great resource for choosing a project that matches your interests and abilities. The “wizard” assumes you are doing a project for school, but don’t let that deter you. Input how much time you and your child have for the project, your child’s grade level and general interests. The wizard will ask follow up questions about what your child likes to learn about and do for fun. Your child should help you answer those questions. You might learn that your child has a new interest they haven’t yet explored. After answering the questions the wizard comes back with a list of possible projects ideas tailored to your child.
6. Become Entrepreneurs
Kids like to have extra spending money during the summer to pay for trips to the pool snack shop and ice cream truck. They also have more free time than they do in the summer. That combination makes it a great opportunity to start a business. Teach accounting skills like counting money, using decimals, estimating and using patterns to make predictions by helping your child start a business. Easy summer businesses for children include babysitting, car washing, yard maintenance, lemonade stands, and dog walking. Earning spending money motivates kids in math. Calculate expenses and profit opportunities. Project future earnings.
7. Join the “Makers” Movement
Making things requires children to formulate a strategy and following through, just like they need to do with challenging math problems. Reinforce skills like problem solving, measuring, fractions, proportions and more. You and your child will create a keepsake to remember the fun you had. Kids and adults are joining the “makers” movement. If you have a little “maker” you could go to your local Maker Faire for inspiration. It is fun to experiment with different materials. One teenage boy we know found he liked working with chainlink, while his little sister preferred recycled materials.
See these links for project ideas:
- Popular Mechanics
- DIY Projects for Teens
- Projects on a Tight Budget
- Sewing Projects
- Woodworking projects
- Projects just for Summer
- Project using things from the Recycling Bin
- Fabric Projects
8. Plan a Trip
Strengthen children’s understanding of budgeting by letting them help plan your summer vacation. When kids take ownership of how they allocate money it helps with math skills, and it cuts down on whining for more! The kids can evaluate if it makes sense to spend money on airfare and hotels and have less money for activities. Maybe they would rather drive somewhere, camp, and have more money to spend on activities.
If you already have a destination in mind, try this online flying-vs-driving calculator to compare costs.
9. Throw a Party or Host a Barbecue
Support your children’s ability to add, subtract, and multiply with decimals by planning a party. Decide on a budget, and let them help suggest a menu and decorations. Ask questions like, “If we spend $30 on decorations, does that leave enough money for food?” If your children need help to get started on the menu calculations, these sites are great resources:
Whichever activities you choose, have fun and make memories you and your children will remember fondly. Math can be a part of activities they enjoy. Summer is also a great time to check out your local Mathnasium center. We have fun and prepare kids to succeed in math!