By Dr. Ray Huntington

Summer break can make math problems worse.

At Huntington Learning Center, we see it often: summer break causes more (and bigger) problems for students who find that math doesn’t come easy. After wrestling with the subject throughout the school year, they’re all too happy to turn in their textbooks and think about anything but math for a few months. As a result, they lose the skills they gained during the school year, which only exacerbates their problems.

And the same is true even for students who excel in math. The “summer slide” is another term for summer regression, and it is caused when students stop practicing skills while they are out of school. This can be especially problematic in math because each new school year introduces new material that requires students to draw on their cumulative knowledge. If they’ve lost some of that, understanding any new math becomes that much harder.

What can your student do to avoid the summer slide in math?

The best way to help your child improve math skills over the summer and avoid the summer slide is to sign them up for summer math tutoring. The right math tutor will assess your child’s math skills and abilities and develop a customized program of instruction that targets their weaknesses. This is the approach we take at Huntington. We help our students develop their skills and their confidence to continue to learn and succeed in math and other subjects.

Here are a few ways summer math tutoring can help your child maintain and improve their math skills :

• Tutoring will help your child build the skills they are missing. Because math concepts build upon each other, it’s critical that children fill in any gaps in knowledge. That’s where summer math tutoring can be incredibly helpful. Without the pressure of homework and other obligations, your child can focus completely on rebuilding skills. Their tutor can identify any missing math skills that your child will need going forward and get them caught up before the new school year begins. Every grade has levels of expectations as far as skills are concerned. At Huntington, we focus on foundational skills needed for your child’s grade level. Here are a few examples:
• Huntington tutors help students going into fourth grade rebuild their understanding of repeated subtraction (e.g., 15-5-5-5 = 0) to grasp simple division (15÷5 = 3) to prepare for more complicated division in fourth grade.
• Huntington tutors help students going into ninth grade solidify their understanding of geometric formulas introduced in eighth grade: Pythagorean Theorem, the volume of cylinders and cones, and the perimeter of various shapes.
• Huntington tutors help students going into sixth grade rebuild their understanding of fractions and what they represent visually in order to manipulate them to other numerical values. Once solidified, the student learns how to recognize equal fractions, add and subtract fractions, convert fractions with different denominators and more.
• Tutoring will prepare your child for deeper learning. Throughout elementary, middle and high school, students learn both math content and math processes. Generally, content includes numbers and operations, algebra, geometry, measurement, and data analysis and probability. These are the building blocks, but the ability to comprehend the purpose of specific math skills is critical for true proficiency. Process standards that teachers typically focus on are problem-solving, reasoning and proof, communication, connections and representation. Summer math tutoring can help your child develop not just the nuts and bolts of math, but also their conceptual understanding of what math is and how to apply it. This is needed at the higher levels.
• Tutoring over the summer can set children up on the right track with high school math. Middle school academics set students on a particular path for high school. Most advanced high school math classes must be taken in a specific order or sequence. If your child is interested in taking honors and Advanced Placement classes in high school, summer tutoring can help them get ahead. Switching the math track or pathway to a more advanced track in high school is usually based on teacher recommendations and with approval from the guidance counseling team at your child’s school. Your child might not know what their college goals are just yet, but they should know that some colleges/universities have strong transcript preferences when it comes to math classes completed in high school.