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Help Your Teen Avoid the "Summer Math Slide"

Students Lose as Much as Two Months of Learning over the Summer

Jun 8, 2011

DALLAS, June 8, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Learning math is a lot like learning a sport; you have to practice to improve your skills. If you take three months off, you will get rusty. Students, especially teenagers, want a summer packed with fun, and typically academics aren't on the list of to-dos for the summer break. But there are things every student can do over the summer (and yes, they can be fun) to prevent losing the days and days of hard work they've already put into math during the school year.

According to the National Association for Summer Learning, across the board, all kids lose some math skills over the summer. On average, students lose approximately two months of grade-level math skills in the summer months if they do not participate in educational activities. Additional research, provided on the National Association for Summer Learning website, states losses in math are somewhat greater than those in reading, and teachers often spend four to six weeks re-teaching material. Time lost becomes crucial as students enter more demanding math classes in middle and high school.

But teenagers, with the help of their parents, can prevent the summer math slide.

"Students do not have to lose the math skills they developed during the school year," says Tom Reardon, a math adviser for Texas Instruments and a retired math teacher with 35 years of experience in the classroom. "Summer is the perfect time for teenagers to focus on tuning up skills, and it can be done in some fun and engaging ways."

Learning Outside of School

Students can explore opportunities to practice math in a variety of settings such as math or science related jobs including tutoring or working at science museums, Reardon says. This allows students to stay current on skills throughout the summer while gaining valuable work experience. Students also can attend local educational events.

Other students may want to seek out summer camps that integrate math and science with challenging hands-on activities. Also, local libraries, parks and recreation departments, and similar organizations offer a variety of educational camps and events during the summer months and are a great local resource for students and their families.

"Activities can range from part-time jobs to volunteer experiences," says Reardon. "Students who passed Algebra I might volunteer to tutor a friend who is retaking the course. Also, if a student did not do well in a math class he or she should consider taking a refresher course over the summer."

Learning at Home

Math skills can be maintained, or even improved, through activities at home. Math-focused websites, such as Illuminations, (http://illuminations.nctm.org/) sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, provide practice problems but also include interactive exercises to make math review more like a video game. Students can also experience interactive learning with WebQuests, (webquest.org) which allow students to explore the Internet and learn to use resources while solving math problems.

Students who own graphing calculators, such as the TI-Nspire™ graphing handheld from Texas Instruments, can download activities at the Student Zone. They can also practice math skills using TI-Nspire™ Student Software on their own computer. This summer TI will also be posting activities on the Texas Instruments (TI) Calculators Facebook page.

Visual learners can watch content-relevant videos available on TeacherTube.com. Even sport-fanatic teens can incorporate math into their summer by finding the statistics of their favorite player or team.

"Teenagers should have freedom to choose their style and method of learning during the summer," Reardon says. "Students need to remain involved in activities they enjoy that also focus on academic growth."

Other Learning Opportunities

Reardon recommends students keep previous math and science tests and take time to review last year's exams before returning to school. If students did not save their tests, many schools post curriculum outlines online, and students can use these as guides to review and preview for the fall.  

Parents can help their students get a jump start on this fall by taking time during the summer to become familiar with the materials and technology their teacher will be using. Many school districts post textbook selections online, and some publishers offer on-line content that can be reviewed before school starts. If a graphing calculator is not specified by a teacher, Texas Instruments provides a guide on its website to help students choose the one that is right for them.

Parents can take an active role in helping students prevent the academic summer slide by encouraging them to observe and practice math in day-to-day activities, such as:

  • Making learning an adventure by visiting science or art museums, libraries and places that stimulate critical thinking;
  • Creating a summer budget or practice investing in the stock market;
  • Planning the details for the family vacation such as determining the mileage of the trip, estimated time of arrival and amount needed for gas money;
  • Practicing mental math by doing simple math percentages such as cost per unit during trips to the grocery store.

"Summer learning should not be separate from summer fun," Reardon says. "Activities can be enjoyable while still adding educational value to a teenager's summer. Doing a little bit at a time and more often is much better than doing a whole lot once in a while."

About Texas Instruments

Education Technology, a business of Texas Instruments, provides a wide range of tools connecting the classroom experience with real-world applications, helping students and teachers to explore math and science interactively. TI's products and services are tested vigorously against recognized third-party research, which shows that the use of graphing calculators helps improve the mathematical skills of students and their attitudes toward mathematics. For more information, visit www.education.ti.com.

Texas Instruments (NYSE: TXN) helps customers solve problems and develop new electronics that make the world smarter, healthier, safer, greener and more fun. A global semiconductor company, TI innovates through manufacturing, design and sales operations in more than 30 countries. For more information, visit www.ti.com.

SOURCE Texas Instruments