Thirty minutes a day of hands-on learning can help stop the summer slide. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Thirty minutes a day of hands-on learning can help stop the summer slide. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Doing math at home: Now’s the time to stop the summer slide

A former teacher shares her favorite resources for mathematics that she’s used with her own children.

It might look like summer, but all across the country kids are still doing schoolwork. Kids like my daughter, who gives me a sideways look every time I mention long division. She’s 9 years old and going into fourth grade this fall. Her third-grade teacher was great, but the classroom was packed with kids. According to my daughter, they never got to practicing long division with remainders.

It feels cruel to force my daughter to do arithmetic when she could be riding her bike outside, but it would be even worse to let her struggle with fourth-grade math in a few months. It’s much better to do 30 minutes of review every day and help her start September like a rock star.

I know a lot of parents buy their kids math workbooks for the summer, and busywork makes the former teacher in me cringe. Drill and kill is the worst way to teach math. The mom in me, however, is tempted by the convenience. It would be nice to hand over a workbook and set the timer.

But kids need teaching, not workbooks. Children almost never get 30 minutes of one-on-one instruction in a classroom environment. Summer is the opportunity to change that. Here are some of my favorite resources for math that I’ve used with both of my children:

Algebra can be fun. Hands on Equations is a math manipulative set that lets kids as young as third grade learn algebra with chess pieces. It’s one of the easiest, most enjoyable ways to learn algebra. More at

Just say no to flashcards. Right Start Math offers a collection of card games that help master math facts and other concepts like fractions, decimals and money. They also have the AL abacus, which lets kids solve multiple-digit equations in a tactile way. Learn more at

A great choice for online gamers. DreamBox Learning delivers big results and enthusiastic smiles. Curriculum is tailored to a child’s ability level and adapts with them as they learn. Parents get detailed reports about mastered concepts at the click of a button. While it doesn’t offer one-on-one instruction, DreamBox is a great choice for parents who want their child to “do math” while Mom or Dad cooks dinner. More at

Need structure and a lesson plan? Discover why Singapore Math’s Primary Mathematics curriculum is so popular with homeschoolers. It’s the constructivist aka Common Core math that parents often struggle with, but presented in a way that makes sense to everyone. Kids love the color pictures. Parents appreciate the clear explanations. Find out more at

A note about special needs. All kids learn math in their own unique way, and some ways of teaching math work better for different learning styles than other. My son loved DreamBox when he was 9, but my daughter has dyslexia and she finds it frustrating because it’s so visual. If a math approach doesn’t work for your child, drop it and move on. You’re in charge this summer — not a dreaded homework packet. The best way to stop the summer slide is to zero in on exactly what your child needs to succeed.

Jennifer Bardsley is author of the books “Genesis Girl” and “Damaged Goods.” Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal.

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