4 Summer steps to better math proficiency

Jun 25, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. ET

What’s on your children’s summer reading list? What about their summer math list? For years, students have gone home for the summer with either district-approved or parent-approved reading lists. But math has somehow been left out.

Boy working on math

Contributed by Rohit Agarwal

Typically, math isn’t an area where parents excel themselves as we tend to forget what we don’t use on a day-to-day basis. In fact, the majority of American adults struggle with math past fourth grade level.

Luckily, widespread focus on common core curriculum and STEM is bringing new light to mathematics in the United States. President Obama and other education-minded leaders have also talked up a math- and science-focused education system. They realize that a math-centered education develops high-order thinking skills required for competitive and lucrative careers, helping America compete in the future.

Even though 46 states are adopting common core math as part of their curriculum, the foundation skills gap is still widening over the summer in math. Studies show a 14 percent drop in math proficiency between fourth and eighth grades, and we can attribute much of that loss to the “summer slide.”

At TenMarks, our focus is on increasing mathematics achievement in a measurable way. From that focus, we have compiled four steps to help your child not only retain math skills, but actually increase competency before the fall.


Run your own diagnostic test

Before the school year ends, talk to your child’s teachers, even if you are happy with his/her grades. Go over their assignments, tests and notes to identify where they are and where they might be deficient, or where they may have room for growth. Since math concepts build on each other, much of your child’s lost proficiency could be due to failure to understand core concepts. After that, do some research and find worksheets or workbooks that focus on those weaknesses.


Build a personalized curriculum

No two children learn exactly alike. It’s important to understand the different ways your child learns before you invest in materials. One child might prefer lots of written instruction while another learns better working out problems on her own. Use what the teacher told you during your conference to find the resources that will work best for your learner. You can supplement the teacher’s suggestions with worksheets found online or at your local bookstore.


Offer support

It’s very important for you to help your student with her lessons so that, if she starts to struggle, you are there to immediately intervene. In TenMarks’ research, we have found that timely intervention and tips are crucial to improving competency. In fact, after a 10-minute intervention using the TenMarks adaptive learning program, students improved understanding by an average of 28 percent. Also, using videos and visual aids can be another key, particularly for visual learners.


One hour a week is enough

Data collected from the TenMarks Summer Math program last year, where students averaged an hour a week online, suggests students can actually make math gains over the summer months, demonstrating that regular at-home practice can make a big difference in preparing students for success in the next grade. Compared with many reading programs, which suggest dedicated time each day, retaining math competency with a diagnostic based, targeted program is very effective.

For most households, helping your child with complex math might seem daunting at first, but educational resources have advanced substantially in the past couple of years, particularly with more adaptive educational technology. Customized instruction is not out of reach, and with that — along with some focus — students can arrest the decline in math skills this summer.

About the author:

Rohit Agarwal is the co-founder and CEO of TenMarks Education, the creator of a cloud-based, adaptive learning environment for mathematics, in use at more than 25,000 schools.

More about summer learning

Help your child avoid summer learning loss
How to keep your child learning all summer long
How to homeschool through the summer