Staving Off Summer Slide
Illustration by Robert Neubecker
Every Sunday we get ice cream from the ice cream truck. If today is Wednesday, how many days until we get ice cream?
This is not the question of an impatient, sugar-seeking child. Rather, it was a math problem posed to young Baltimore elementary school students over the summer, part of a Hopkins-based academic offering online to help local students remember the math skills they’d acquired during the school year.
The Mayor’s Math Challenge, a partnership between the mayor’s office, the nonprofit Safe and Sound Campaign, and the Center for Summer Learning at Hopkins, was a citywide effort to prevent “summer learning loss.” Students typically lose 2.6 months’ worth of math skills over the summer months, when they’re outside of a classroom setting, less likely to practice math.
The online challenge (www.summerlearning.org/events/math.html) ran from June 27 through Aug. 13 and featured weekly math questions—written by city teachers in collaboration with the center—for three age groups (kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grade, and sixth through twelfth grade). Each weekly challenge had its own summertime theme, such as ice cream parties and baseball games, with references to local sports teams (the Ravens’ football training camp), events (Baltimore’s Artscape Festival), and places (the new Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture).
“It’s a great example of looking out into the community and finding creative ways to get kids engaged in math during the summer,” says Ron Fairchild, executive director of the Center for Summer Learning.
The website, geared toward parents and students, included answer keys and instructional guides for grown-ups to help students. At the end of the summer, students who completed each weekly challenge received citations from Mayor Martin O’Malley.
The center expanded the online challenge significantly last summer—its second year of the program—by tailoring it to the different age groups and aligning the questions with standards for grade-specific math skills. In the future, Fairchild says, “We’d certainly like to deepen the content of the challenge and also move into the direction of being much more interactive, so that kids could go online, register, complete the challenges, and have some way of generating certificates for themselves.”
—Angela Paik Schaeffer