Summer vacation is great when you’re a kid. A nice long break from school, plenty of time to play outside, and when you go back you can pick up your education right where you left off. Or can you? According to a study by Dr. Harris Cooper, Psychology Professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, students lose one to three months worth of learning over their summer vacation, especially in math. But the last thing kids want to do when that last bell of the year rings is spend more time doing anything resembling learning.
So how do we make learning, and math in particular, fun, and turn the summer brain drain into a summer brain gain? When I was in 3rd grade, my Dad and I would play Math Dice every night at the dinner table. This is a game where you and your opponent roll two 12-sided dice and multiply them together, giving you a target number, and then roll three 6-sided dice and use those numbers (through addition, multiplication, exponents, etc.) to try and calculate your target number - whoever gets there first, and can prove it, wins. In the space of a week, I had moved past the multiplication tables and learned exponents, so I could play the game at his level (and win!).
This wasn’t learning to me, it was play – and more importantly, competition. At that age my classmates and I didn’t walk from one building to the next for classes, we raced – it was constant competition. Introducing a little competition into learning and play can have incredible results for kids, particularly in math. We’ve proven this over the past decade working with Arlington VA schools – they host an annual Math Dice tournament that the kids prepare for and look forward to all year.
Any parent can do the same with their kid, dice or no dice. Tear off some strips of paper and write simple math problems at your kids learning level on them, and make the competition an evening activity (tip: bring ice cream). As you start to have fun and your kid gets engaged, sprinkle in some more complicated problems that they’ll struggle with; I guarantee they’ll come back the next night prepared.
Need more inspiration for summer fun? Check out some of our other games in the field of STEM Education / play.
-Compose Yourself lets kids compose their own music using transparent cards and our website, and then hear it played by an orchestra.
-Maker Studio can unlock your creative kids imagination through the joys of basic engineering.
-Gravity Maze is an insanely fun logic game / marble run that teaches reasoning and visual perception skills.