Avoid Summer Learning Loss

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Children work hard during the school year. They learn math concepts and practice math skills daily. Don’t let those hard-won gains slip away over summer vacation.

  • Summer Learning Loss is a Real Problem

Professor Karl Alexander of John Hopkins University discovered while studying disadvantaged schoolchildren that summer learning loss was real and cumulative. For example, about two-thirds of an achievement gap between ninth-graders of different income levels was explained by learning that did or did not take place over summer vacations in the earlier school years. Furthermore, children who accumulated these summer losses for many years kept falling behind and were less likely to finish high school and go on to college.

  • Summer Learning Loss is more in Math

Summer losses can be more profound in a subject like mathematics, where skills are sequential and cumulative. Every year of math instruction builds on the skills learned in previous years, so any loss is a problem. Lack of automatic arithmetic skills will slow a student’s learning of more abstract math such as algebra. Forgetting introductory algebra skills will hamper learning of more advanced concepts such as polynomials and the manipulation of logarithms. Fortunately, summer learning loss is not inevitable.

  • Summer Learning Loss is Preventable

Children who did not experience significant losses over summer break had some common experiences: trips to the library, concerts, and museums; organized sports or camps; family vacations. In other words, these children had environments conducive to natural, lifelong learning and were thus less dependent upon classroom learning to keep their skills sharp. Does this mean parents of humble means cannot help their children? No!

  • Math is a part of life, every life, every day.

Any child can be involved with food preparation, grocery shopping, home repair projects, and arts and crafts. Any activity that requires measurement, fitting pieces together, estimation, or budgeting is a math activity. Since word problems are often difficult for students, these concrete, hands-on experiences are essential for helping the brain connect math with the physical world. So double a recipe, knit a scarf, build a birdhouse, or measure a window and buy curtains–all are math activities!

Are you unsure what skills your child has mastered or needs to practice? Consult with the child’s last math teacher or look at the detailed breakdown of scores on a recent standardized test. A low score in a skill such as decimals and percentages or multiplication of integers, for example, gives you a place to focus your efforts.

  • Summer Learning Help is Available Online

Most parents are not math teachers, but that is not a problem with great online resources like iPracticeMath. This user-friendly website offers skill-building worksheets, activities, and more. Activities are organized by grade levels and by specific skills. If your student needs to work on fractions, go straight to the fractions links, for example. Grades 1-8 are covered thoroughly. There are also higher math options organized by subject: algebra, trigonometry, and even calculus. The site can provide progress reports for parents and awards for students, to keep things on track and motivating. iPracticeMath is even usable on mobile devices for families on the move.

Who knows? Perhaps your students will experience a summer learning gain this year!


(1) Alexander, K.L., Entwistle D.R., & Olsen L.S. (2007a) Lasting consequences of the summer learning gap. American Sociological Review, 72, 167-180.


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