9 Fun Activities to Prevent Summer Learning Loss (and Boost Math Skills!)

Jun 11, 2018
Long summer days invite the family to spend extra time relaxing, playing, and connecting. Many parents also look for ways to 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” in math (a.k.a. “the summer slide”) and create lasting memories.

1. Play Board and Card Games
When you and your child 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, keep a running score, and/or require 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 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 child is a beginner in the kitchen, start with a simple smoothie or popsicle recipe — they will cool you down and they are hard to mess up!

Once your child 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 proportional thinking, 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 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 your child makes (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.

For kid-friendly recipe ideas, go to Food Network, Allrecipes.com, Delish, and Summer Recipes.

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 child. 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 different curves, angles, lines, and shapes. You may also try enlarging 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:
5. Do a Science Project
It is hard to do a science project without including math. Choose a project that interests your child. 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, and your child’s grade level and general interests. The wizard will ask follow-up questions about what your child likes to learn and what they like to 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 will come 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 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, and project future earnings!

7. Join the “Makers” Movement
Making things requires children to formulate a strategy and follow 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!

See these links for project ideas:
8. Plan a Trip
Strengthen your child’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! Your child can evaluate if it makes sense to spend money on airfare and hotels, but have less money for activities, or perhaps drive somewhere and camp, but 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 child’s ability to add, subtract, and multiply with decimals by helping them plan a party! Decide on a budget and let them suggest a menu and decorations to purchase. Ask questions like, “If we spend $30 on decorations, does that leave enough money for food?” If your child needs help getting started on the calculations, this site is a great resource: Favorite Food Calculators.

Whichever activities you choose, have fun and make memories you and your child will remember fondly. Math can be a part of the activities they enjoy!

Summer is also a great time to check out your local Mathnasium Learning Center, where we have fun and prepare kids to succeed in math!


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