How to Prevent Math “Learning Decay” This Summer

Summer vacation is a great time to relax, have fun, and take a break from rigorous academic study.
But “taking a break” comes at a price …
Homeschooling parents have taken full responsibility for their children’s education, so they often worry that too much fun and relaxation will result in their students losing the math skills they worked so hard to gain during the previous year.

It turns out that this is a valid concern.

In June 2011, researchers at the RAND Corporation published a study called “Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children’s Learning.”
Here’s what they found:

During summer vacation, many students lose knowledge and skills. By the end of summer, students perform, on average, one month behind where they left off in the spring.”

In fact, the study singled out mathematics as the area where students experience the greatest summer learning loss:

Research indicates that summer vacation may have detrimental learning effects for many students. On average, all students lose skills, particularly in mathematics.”

(You can read the full report here.)
So yes, students are more likely to forget what they learned in last year’s math class than any other subject!

This research confirms my own personal experience.

Over the past 25 years, I’ve taught math to over 5,000 students. It always amazes me just how much kids seem to forget over the summer!
So I’ve decided to do something to help prevent this summer “learning decay.”
At the request of many of our families, I’ve created a special 6-week “Math Readiness” course for each high-school math curriculum.
These live, interactive courses will meet once a week for six weeks, starting July 1st. They are held online in the Mr. D Math “virtual classroom,” so students can participate from anywhere.
Each course will review the core concepts from the previous year and prepare students for their upcoming math curriculum.
And I’ve designed each course to include many of the elements of highly-effective summer programs identified in the RAND Corporation study: small class sizes, differentiated instruction, engaging and rigorous programming, and aligned school-year and summer curricula.

Parents often ask me, “Mr. D, how do I know if my child is ready for Alegbra I?” (or Geometry, or Algebra II, etc.)

Here’s a quick-and-dirty overview of what a student needs to know to proceed into each math curriculum …
(HINT: These are also the skills we review in the 6-Week Math Readiness courses!)

Pre Algebra requires mastery in:

  • Basic operations (Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication and Division)
  • Practice, practice, practice multiplication!
  • A basic knowledge of fractions and decimals

(Note: I believe most students are ready for Pre-Algebra by grade 6.)

Algebra I requires mastery in:

  • Order of operations using whole numbers, integer and rational numbers
  • Basic graphing techniques
  • Clear understanding of prime factors

Geometry requires mastery in:

  • Solving equations
  • Having a capacity for deductive thinking
  • Working with square roots
  • Discovering angle relationships

Algebra II requires mastery in:

  • Solving linear and quadratic equations
  • Graphing techniques
  • Factoring, factoring, factoring! (This is a MUST for Algebra II and beyond.)

Pre-Calculus requires mastery in:

  • Graphing techniques for linear, quadratic and cubic functions
  • Factoring (factoring, factoring, and more factoring!)
  • Solving rational equations
  • Conic sections
  • Sine, cosine and tangent relationships

To assess their readiness level, you can simply ask your kids if they’ve mastered each of these skills. Or better yet: ask them to teach these skills to you!
That’s the best way to assess their skill level and determine which class they should register into next year.
If they haven’t mastered all of those areas, then you know what they need to review over the summer. And our 6-Week “Math Readiness” programs are designed to do just that!

I hope you have a terrific summer and that you take time to enjoy your family. I know the “normal” conversation out there is that teenagers are “hard,” but that is my favorite age group!
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share in this special time in their lives.

Dennis DiNoia ("Mr. D")

Dennis DiNoia, M.A.Ed.

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