Summer dip, summer slide – call it what you want.  The research is compelling enough to cause concern. Most students will experience a significant decline in math skills during the long summer break.  The good news is that this slide is avoidable. The bad news, most students – and more importantly most parents – will do nothing about it.

This is not a new problem.  According to the National Summer Learning Association, “Since 1996, numerous studies have confirmed that children experience learning losses in math and reading without continued opportunities for regular practice.”  Nearly every school has put into place some kind of summer program to help limit the summer slide in reading, albeit with varying degrees of success.  Schools have been far less aggressive in promoting summer math programs.  Where they do exist, they usually consist of a worksheet or two with little to no accountability for completing them.

The simple truth is that the old adage, use it or lose it, applies to most of what students learn each school year. Because of the building block nature of math concepts and operations from year to year, the summer slide leads to weeks of lost instructional time as teachers are compelled to provide review of previously learned math concepts before moving on to new material.  Every math teacher I know dreams of welcoming their students back in August, secure in the knowledge that each has devoted some time to maintaining math skills over the previous two months.

Just as with summer reading, it is ultimately up to parents to make sure that the work gets done. Fortunately, there are many tools available to help parents and students avoid the dip.  While I’ll share a few ideas here, there are many more to be found with a quick Google search.

One of my favorites, and one that I use with my own son during the summer months, is Khan Academy. Khan offers lessons on a wide range of topics, from the most basic math operations to the most complex.  In addition to providing video instruction on demand, Khan Academy also makes it possible for parents to set up a teacher account and monitor what their kids are working on, how much time their spending on the site, and reports on their proficiency.  Khan offers all of this at no cost.

Other resources can be found online that offer a mixed approach – interactive lessons and activities, as well as more traditional printable worksheets.  Here are a couple of websites to get you started:  Math Goodies and  For those more attached to their iDevices than to their computers, the iTunes app store offers many applications – from simple counting to complex concepts.

Regardless of what your motivation is – higher grades, better FCAT scores, or just catching up before the next school year begins in August – do yourself a favor, do your child a favor, and by all means do your teachers a favor – tackle a little math this summer. You won’t be sorry.

By Stephen Veliz

Source: Tallahassee Democrat –