5 Math Activities to Do with Your Kids Before School Starts

Summer is kicking into full gear, and we don’t want you to lose that dedication to preventing the summer brain drain. Consider this a challenge to make the most of outdoor fun while the joy of summer is still alive and well.

A little bit of fresh air and exercise is great for learning, because movement encourages the brain to make more efficient connections. In the classroom, I found that the more my kids were moving, the more they seemed to learn AND retain. I asked our friend Matthew Peterson, Co-founder, Chief Executive Officer and Senior Scientist at the MIND Research Institute, a Getting Smart advocacy partner, why this was. He explains, “It’s well established that exercise enhances neural plasticity in the hippocampus. This makes sense given the importance of the hippocampus in building cognitive frameworks as we navigate and interact with the world around us. Thus powerful learning can result from allowing students to use their own body movements to close the loop of perception and action.”

There it is, movement is good for the brain, and summer is the perfect season to get moving. Here are 5 things that you should do with your kids this summer. Get out and make memories that are fun, engaging, and productive. Happy Summer y’all!

1. Plot Points and Graph Lines. Chalk has to be just about the best summer learning tool EVER, because it can take any sort of practice outside. For younger kids set up a number line, add a challenge with integers. For older kids try a coordinate plane or even a 3 Dimensional Plane. Plot points by throwing rocks or water balloons, get crazy by graphing lines. The sidewalk is just waiting to be your own personal graph paper.

2. Build Something, Anything. Fire up Pinterest, get out some tools and build something with your kids. Construction and project management are full of skills that build critical thinking. Walk your kids through the process, let them organize facts, set the shopping list, do the measuring and the hammering. Let them make mistakes and fix them. Help them better understand the design thinking process, and show them how great it feels to really create something. In case I need to say this, be age appropriate in your task delegation and take obvious safety precautions.

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3. Make a Mudpie, or Three. Cooking is a great way to practice measurement skills as well as build deeper understanding of fractions and ratios. Create a mudpie recipe, then cut it in half, double it, talk about what happens to the outcome when you do these things.

4. Build a Solar Panel for S’Mores. Burn ban in effect this summer? No problem. Build a solar panel and toast those mallows with scientific flare. Directions and ideas like this can be found on all sorts of parent blogs and Pinterest boards.

5. Go On A Scavenger Hunt. Find a couple friends and set up a fun competition, scavenger hunt style. Build your own list or use the web for ideas like this. You can search for shapes, numbers, percentages, examples of math in nature (personal favorite is always the golden ratio).

No matter what sort of math you are doing with your kids, make sure that you talk about it! Far to often the power behind the activity is lost because we don’t help our kids make the connections to the deep content behind the fun.

Looking for a more comprehensive experience, sign your kids up for a math camp. Camps, like this from MIND Research are a great way to take math outside of the classroom and foster a love of learning that encourages unique and innovative thinking.

  • Who: Open to students entering the 6th, 7th or 8th grade in the 2015/16 school year
  • When: August 17 – 21, 2015
  • Where: Irvine Outdoor Ranch Education Center
  • What:

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Space is limited, but registration is still open!

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