May is the month that I finalize all of our family’s summer plans and wonder how to fill the gaps. My kids are looking forward to the vacation trips, tolerating summer music lessons and swim team, and pretending not to hear the words “summer work.” We split the time in summer between summer reading and math practice, but I am just going to explore math here. I plan to share our summer reading lists at a later date.
What you see here are some of my finds for summer math work at various levels, and I hope you will share yours in the comments section. If we get enough dialogue going, perhaps all of our kids will have new, fun and enriching activities to try over the summer months.
For my lower school students, I’ve tried the books like Summer Bridge and Summer Express by Scholastic. For the paper and pencil crowd, both of these have solid practice so the kids don’t lose what they’ve been learning all year. These lessons are easy to track, and they are quickly completed.
But, honestly, it’s hard to get a middle school student to look at Summer Bridge. One of the best finds for my family has been Danica McKellar. We know her as Winnie from The Wonder Years. She was a struggling math student who learned to embrace (and love!) math problems. She has a series of books with titles like Math Doesn’t Suck and Kiss My Math that are targeted specifically to girls from 5th grade up to high school. She provides shortcuts and practice in every chapter.
For one of my kids, iPad math games were a must. She is a digital girl, and just holding a pencil in July was like a punishment. These games are fun and provide valuable practice without feeling like schoolwork:
Dragon Box Algebra 5+ designed by We Want to Know: I cannot say enough good things about DragonBox. For boys or girls ages 5 and up, this is the clear winner for fun and problem solving. The dragon is in the box, and the player must “isolate” the box for the dragon to eat. Graphics are appealing, and the levels gradually build in complexity. On the higher levels, the dragon box becomes the variable “X,” and by that point the player is ready for it. This game takes the mystery out of algebra early.
Sushi Monster by Scholastic (ages 5 and up): This game practices math facts, but not in the traditional way. Players are given a number on a plate of sushi and then must add up the sushi to make the number. Of course, the sushi monster eats it all if the player selects the right combination. It’s amusing enough that kids don’t realize they are memorizing their math facts backwards and forwards.
Operation Math by Spinlight (ages 5 and up): Players get timed practice as “Agent Prime,” a James Bond-like character who must stop Doctor Odd who is plotting to rid the world of even numbers. Players complete missions by solving problems as quickly as possible. This game gives kids practice in all four operations and higher levels combine all four.
Number Line 2 by Todd Bowden (ages 10 and up): This game is as basic as it gets in terms of graphics, but the practice it gives is the best for understanding fractions, decimals, and percentages. If you have a student who has a hard time with these concepts, Number Line 2 helps them see that they really are all the same thing. Players are given a selection of fractions, decimals, and percentages that they must drag into place on a number line from smallest to largest.
Angles by Naquatic (any age): Players are given an angle to create with two lines and a vertex. They can be timed or untimed, and they get the correct answer with the degree of variation from their response. You can’t fill up hours in the summer with this one, but it’s a good way for students to get a sense of the various angle values and recognize them on paper later.
Please share some of your favorite summer math activities below in the comments section.
by Kelly McKee