Executive Functioning and Decision-Making
October 14, 2017
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Helping Your Child’s Brain Get Ready for Fall

  • “A review of 39 studies indicated that achievement test scores decline over summer vacation…”
  • “… the summer loss equaled about one month on a grade-equivalent scale…”
  • “The effect of summer break was more detrimental for math than for reading and most detrimental for math computation and spelling…”

These quotes (from Review of Educational Research) are no surprise. Who wants to do schoolwork over summer? There are far too many other fun activities going on. Yet a little extra focus on skills, especially in August, can boost students for the start of school in the fall.

Spelling & Math

Specifically, in the above-referenced study, the authors pointed out that spelling and math computation suffer the most. Skills are academic muscles- they need to be developed and constantly pumped or they lose steam. Fluency and speed in computational math – the basics in adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing – can dramatically change a student’s success in school as well as their self-confidence with math. Having these foundational skills being performed automatically (this is called “automaticity”) paves the way for higher level math concepts. On the other hand, I see students even in high school who struggle every day with math facts – for example counting by 7’s every time to arrive at “42” for 7 times 6. Some students legitimately struggle with memorizing facts, but most can nail them down with a little extra practice.

10 Minutes a Day

In August, only ten minutes a day spent with your child reviewing skills at their grade level can ease the entry into the school year. This doesn’t have to be done with pen and paper if you have a reluctant-to-do-schoolwork-in-summer child. Here are three simple ways to get in 10 quick minutes of practice (adjust as needed for age and level):

  1. Get a basketball, any ball, or a beanbag. Children’s brains kick into gear with movement! As you throw the ball to your child (or roll it, bounce it, whack it), shout out a math fact (2 plus 2) or a spelling word. When the student catches the ball, they give the answer. If their answer is not correct, give them the right answer – that problem will surely pop up again as many times as needed. Mix it up with a variety of levels of difficulty so your child feels successful but also challenged.
  2. Taking turns with counting up and then counting back down. For younger students, count in order and then count down. For example, the parent says, “one”, the child says, “two” etc. This can also be done with passing a ball, or with jumping or doing any movement. Make it as simple or complicated as appropriate: count up and back by 5’s, 10’s, 4’s, 12’s. Change it up by randomly switching to up or down. (For example, a back and forth turn-taking counting of 3’s could be: 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 12, 9, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 15….) Other ideas are to start with, let’s say, 23, and subtract 5 down as far as possible, or even move down into integers. The opportunities are endless. Spelling words can also be reinforced with turn-taking by saying the letters or the sounds. For emergent readers, the parent can say the letter and the child the sound, or spell out words with sounds then say the word. Be creative!
  3. I personally am a big fan of small whiteboards with erase-able markers and use them with practically every student. These can be available in your car (as long as your child doesn’t have a tendency toward getting carsick) and students can do a few mental math problems on the way. I like to mix it up with problems such as: number of days in a week plus pennies in a quarter, minus years in three decades (did you get “2”?). Straight-forward spelling words and math facts are great to do too. Kids usually like to doodle at the same time on their whiteboards – they can add flourishes to their answers or whatever works.

Please let me know if you have any questions! Also, check out August Math Boosters at www.bluemarblelearningcenter.com.

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