As they say, April showers bring May flowers… but what does May bring? For many of us, it brings the end of another school year. While summer is a time for rejuvenation, it is also a time for that often-lamented phenomenon: Summer Slide. As a teacher, you’re familiar with the regression when students tend to forget 17-34% of what they have learned by the time September rolls around. Yet how can you help prevent it?
Though spring has only just begun, it’s time to consider innovative ways that you can make the curriculum engaging and reduce the summer slide. As you know, math doesn’t have to be boring or abstract. In fact, it can be downright amazing. Here is one way to help your students see it the same way.
Engage in a Passion Project
Before students’ minds drift to sleepovers and sleep-ins, engage them in a passion project. The idea is that you’ll pique their curiosity enough so that they’ll be intrinsically motivated to keep exploring during the summer months. A passion project involves students determining an essential question that will guide their learning and then find various ways to explore the question. To zero in on math concepts, instruct students to include quantitative concepts. Once students identify a guiding question, help them determine creative ways to find answers.
Let’s say a student chooses a passion project about theme parks and wants to explore what makes a theme park profitable. To do so, the teacher may want to help them complete all or some of the following activities:
- Read articles about the most popular theme parks in the world;
- Determine the costs of various elements of a theme park, such as the cost of rides, labor, food, space, and so on;
- Graph the demographics of people who enjoy different types of theme parks;
- Recreate theme park rides;
- Develop a budget for various styles of theme parks;
- Design advertising for a fictitious theme park, including videotaped commercials, radio spots, and print advertisements.
While exploring a quantitative subject (money and profits), students have the opportunity to engage in numerous math activities while also crafting an interdisciplinary study. With the examples suggested here, students will incorporate literacy, geography, social studies, science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Moreover, there are endless ways this can branch out into other areas of study.
A student who plans to visit Disneyland over the summer, for instance, may want to create a scrapbook of the trip. While doing so, she can chart the time it takes to board each ride and how long the rides actually last. She can count the steps between rides and generate a physical map showing distance. She can take photographs and simultaneously learn about aperture, color, and positioning.
Teachers can then require students to submit a project shortly into the school year that demonstrates a particular concept, or they can simply inquire and allow students to discuss the learning they engaged in. The possibilities are limitless!