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Keeping Math Skills Sharp in the Summer: The Fun Way!

Summer reading gets much publicity, but summer slide affects students’ number skills as well. Keeping those number skills sharp is important, but no one expects parents to give math lessons during the summer. That would not be fun for most families!

Here are a few quick ideas on what you can do with your children to keep their number sense sharp and have fun.

Before we move on to the tips, look here to see what skills each grade level works on. Summer work should be at the right level for your child, not too challenging and not too easy. This is just a guide as you know your child best.

The above link is to a free online program called Khan Academy. The page the above link will take you to lists the skills each grade level should be working on. For an on-grade-level student, work on skills from the year past. For above-grade-level students, you can work on skills for the next year’s grade level. For students who are behind, work where they need it.

In addition to using Khan Academy to learn about the skills right for your child, your children can also create an account and do actual math work. This program makes it like a game and gives students badges and awards for completing certain levels and tasks.

Using Khan Academy is great for students. It is aligned to the Common Core, but not all students are going to want to do online math, even if it is gamified.

So another way to use this site is to look at the skills you have decided to work on and structure play or conversation around those skills, subtly.


  • During snack time, ask them to count how many Fishies or Cheerios they have (or whatever they are eating).

  • Take one piece away and ask them to count again

  • During playtime, do the same above with their Legos or Matchboxes

First Grade

  • During snack time, make 2 piles of Fishies. Ask them to count each pile. They ask them to count all of the Fishies (this is addition).

  • Or ask them to count all of the Fishies and then have them eat some (counting as they eat). Then they can count the remaining pile. (this is subtraction

  • During playtime, ask them about the shape of things. When they say square or circle, ask how they know that (it has 4 sides that are the same, there are no corners…)

  • During playtime, ask them about the lengths of objects. How many of this Lego will fit on this Lego and so on.

Second Grade

  • Play with fake money

  • If your child gets an allowance, talk about the different denominations of the bills and coins

  • Play store with them and have them pay for things with the fake money

  • Ask them to tell time. Ask them how many minutes until snack time or until something they are looking forward to happens.

  • Set timers for activities so they get used to how long certain chunks of time are

Third-Fourth Grade

  • When you order pizza, talk about the whole pizza and how it is divided into slices. It is typically in 8 slices- each piece is ⅛ of the whole. Or how many slices are in ½ the pizza?

  • If you are working on a puzzle or in the garden, discuss with them the area and perimeter of it. They can count the puzzle pieces or the number of footsteps on each side.

  • Ask them to estimate things for you.

  • When you need to do simple multiplication, ask your child to help you.

  • Look for patterns in numbers.

  • This is a great age for them to start doing fun math puzzles. Try this link

Fifth-Sixth Grade

  • Algebraic thinking is just doing math when there is an unknown. If you are having a party, and 6 people are coming and you are ordering pizzas and want everyone to have 2 slices, ask your child how many pizzas you should order. Let them draw or write out the problem.

  • For a craft or activity, ask them to draw a timeline of---their summer or their life. You can also use a video game or TV character’s life.

  • Use money to work with negative numbers. If your child wants to buy something, but is a few dollars short, discuss how they will owe money.

These are just a few examples of ways to keep your child’s number sense strong during the summer. Some children will be more interested in Khan Academy and other structured programs, but for others just talking about everyday math may be all you can do.

Here are some games that help kids of all levels work in numbers and patterns

  • Uno

  • Qwirkle

  • Sudoku

  • Connect Four

  • Go fish for pairs that make 10

  • Rummikub

  • Set

  • War (but with fractions)- Flip 2 cards in fraction form, figure out whose is bigger

  • Suspend

  • Jenga (more physics but still…)

  • Monopoly

  • Dominoes

  • Tic Tac Toe

  • Memory

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