While summer is a time for slowing down, it shouldn’t be a time for children to completely shut down.

Without some sort of learning taking place during summer months, experts say students forget many of the skills they’ve learned the previous year in school.

“That’s why it’s so important for parents to think about how they can incorporate fun learning activities into their children’s normal summer routine,” said Michelle Mueller, principal of Wisconsin Connections Academy, a virtual school for students in kindergarten through grade 12.

The more active their minds are, the less trouble they’re going to have getting themselves back in gear for school,” added Dr. Rick Bavaria, senior vice president for education outreach with Sylvan Learning, which has more than 900 learning centers located throughout the United States and Canada.

While ABC’s are equally as important as 123’s, here we’re specifically targeting math skills for elementary students.

“You don’t want to be backtracking what you know the previous teacher has already taught your students,” said Stephanie Imhoff, a former elementary schoolteacher who now teaches eighth-grade English and math in Waupaca and teaches Math Wizards, one of two summer math classes offered to elementary students in the Appleton Area School District.

With a little planning and insight, students can learn anytime and anywhere this summer whether they’re at home, on a road trip or visiting friends and family, Mueller said.

“The trick is to keep things interesting so they won’t even realize they’re learning,” she said.

Shopping, errands and more

Hate taking the kids shopping? Well, why not have them do part of the work.

Before heading out to the mall for back-to-school items, make a list of all the things that are needed, including school supplies, shoes, clothing and maybe a new backpack.

Tell the kids how much money you have to spend and then have them help you look for deals online or in the newspaper, Bavaria said. “Have them look for where the best buys are.”

Back-to-school shopping also is a good time to teach kids a lesson in economics: What’s the difference between wanting and needing?

“Let’s make a list of your wants and your needs and which one should we do first,” Bavaria said. “And if there’s any money left, how do you think we should be able to spend it? It’s a great way to teach kids about economics, and I might argue, politicians, too.”

Running errands? Claire Haas, vice president of education for Kiddies Academy, a national education childcare provider, suggests having your school-age child figure out mileage between stops or of your total route.

They can keep track of the grocery store total as you do your shopping. Older children also can help you figure out what the best deals are by figuring out the cost per item vs. cost for buying in bulk. They also can help calculate price with a coupon or percentage off.

If you’re hungry after all that shopping, why not take the kids out to eat. When at a restaurant, ask your school-age child to estimate the total bill based on the menu prices, Haas said. Older children can calculate the tax and check their math against the bill. And don’t forget the tip.

Take a class

Cody Golden, 8, of Appleton is one busy boy this summer. His mom, Renee Golden, signed him up for two reading programs at the Appleton and Menasha public libraries, and he’s more than halfway finished with his 80-book requirement.

Cody also is part of the AASD’s summer school program at Janet Berry Elementary School. He’s in the reading program and was told he could sign up for two fun classes, so he chose woodworking and Games Galore.

But a funny thing happened the night before summer school began. “He said, ‘Mom, can I change my woodworking to Math Wizards (the class Imhoff teaches)?’’ Is that crazy or what?’” said Golden, a substitute paraprofessional who is working the summer school program at Huntley. “He loves math.”

The AASD also offers a math practice class to get kids ready for the next school year.

Golden said she is proud of her son’s decision, knowing the importance of keeping his brain active during the summer.

Home skills

Your home also has loads of learning opportunities.

According to Cheryl Bastian, a Florida homeschooler and author, math can be a multi-sensory, hands-on experience, especially in the kitchen.

Reinforce math concepts such as learning fractions by folding a slice of deli-cheese. Or have kids prepare a recipe with you.

Have your child learn to reproduce patterns by preparing lasagna or making fruit, cheese and veggie kabobs. Arrange carrots according to length or weight or count just about anything.

Instead of watching TV on a rainy day, why not teach kids how to make change or count the change in their piggy bank? Or play a game like Monopoly or Junior Monopoly.
Imhoff suggests using a simple deck of cards.

“There’s old-fashioned war,” she said. “Instead of just having whoever has the highest card, you can do whoever says the addition of those two cards the fastest. You can do that with addition, subtraction and multiplication.”

Counting money, buying and selling and making change, the WCA says, also reinforce math concepts many students learn as early as kindergarten and first grade. Growth math is another option.

“Compare heights and measure them over time,” Bavaria said.

When kids get antsy for a special event, use the calendar by having them count the days that remain.

Finally, instead of drawing a traditional hopscotch board with chalk out in the driveway, create a giant calculator large enough for your child to jump on the buttons to answer addition and subtraction and later multiplication and division equations.

On the road

Taking a trip? Let kids figure out details such as where to spend the night for the least amount of money and still have some fun. And let them learn how to read maps, Bavaria said. If a half-inch is equal to 100 miles, and grandma’s house is 3 inches away, how many hundreds of miles is that?

Driving on State 47? Have them add the numbers together.

“It sounds childish, but it’s a simple thing,” Imhoff said. “Oneida Street is one mile away and 47 is a quarter mile away, how far apart are Oneida Street and 47? Use the numbers around you.”

And why not head out to a sporting event. Ball games are chock full of statistics and numbers.  Or head to the beach and count starfish and seashells and blue umbrellas. Dig holes (in the sand) and encourage children to fill one-quarter of the hole with water, then one-half, three-quarters.

Search the Internet

“There are so many different websites out there,” Imhoff said. “And honestly, they can just search.”

A second-grader going into third can search for third-grade math games, she said, adding simple flash card games online are way more fun than the hand-held kind because the child is typing numbers on the computer.

Here are a couple of other sites to check out:

» www.aaamath.com
» www.math.com
» www.aplusmath.com
» www.softschools.com

All of these suggestions have the power to keep kids learning until the first bell of the new class year sounds. And, as a bonus, they keep parent’s brains from stagnating as well.

“A lot of it is just use what you have around you instead of trying to create things,” Imhoff said. “Oh, there’s a number here, I should make a math problem out of it.”


» Find/identify numbers: Have your preschooler note and identify numbers in her world — on a clock, license plate, food box, magazine, etc.

» Counting: Have your preschooler count out items (snack food, toys, rocks, etc). She can group them by twos or fives or she can group them by characteristic (size, shape, texture, etc).

» Collect 100: The concept of 100 can be tricky for preschool to kindergarten-age children. With your child, count out 100 of a similar item; notice the size of the collection. Collect 100 of various items. Your child can compare weight, size of collection, etc. and discuss the reasons for the differences.

» Money identification: Have your child identify coins.

— Source: Claire Haas, vice president of education, Kiddie Academy


Children also can practice reading and writing skills during the summer months. Here are some options:

» Have your child read billboards and signs while in the car. For younger kids, have them identify a certain letter of the alphabet.

» Encourage your child to read descriptions and names of items in catalogues, which can build vocabulary.

» Comic books make it easy for readers to grasp what’s happening in the story, which keeps kids engaged. Magazines keyed to your child’s interests and an article or two in a newspaper are also good options.

» Pointing out landmarks on a map and reading different names of towns and cities improves reading and geography. Brochures are cool as well.

» As children get older, have them read the names of items on your grocery list, then find them in the store.

» Have kids invent a board game on a piece of cardboard. It’s an artistic way to boost logic skills. And don’t forget to have them write out directions, which supports reading and writing.

» Create a giant scale word search outdoors using sidewalk chalk. Kids will have fun reading and spelling while searching for words.

» Check out an interactive online educational activity that you can play with them. Connection Academy’s free online Quiz Bowl Challenge (at www.connectionsacademy.com/quiz) offers 20 trivia questions about fun and games.

» Play Scrabble and the Scrabble Junior Edition. The kids will never realizing they’re practicing spelling.

— Source: www.kiddieacademy.com/newsletter, www.connectionsacademy.com

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