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Tips for Creating an Engaging and Impactful Elementary Summer Math Program

Unruly Math Pro
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An engaging summer math program prevents learning loss and can advance student math skills.

Over summer break, students have the potential to lose an average of 17-34% of the school year’s learnings. To combat this, summer math programs provide a great opportunity to help students avoid summer learning loss. They can also help students grow and advance in their math skills. Some programs even cite a six-week summer learning program that provides one-quarter of a year’s learning.

Creating an impactful program requires preparation. It also calls upon teachers to implement tactics that increase student buy-in and excite them to learn. We recently connected with elementary educator Talia Franklin of Clayton County Public Schools.

During our discussion, we talked about her tips and strategies for creating a successful and engaging summer program. 

Elementary educator Talia Franklin discusses her strategies for creating engagement in math and a successful summer learning program. Click the image to watch the webinar.

How to Prepare for a Successful Summer Math Program

Build Relationships

Establishing relationships with students and families is also crucial. Reach out to parents before the program starts to introduce yourself. Share your excitement for the summer program, and learn more about their child's needs and interests. Building that personal connection early on will help students feel more comfortable and engaged from day one. Throughout the program, celebrate success and growth by recognizing students' progress and achievements. Share these successes with parents to keep them involved and reinforce the learning at home. 

Get Familiar With Your Tools

Before the program begins, take time to explore and get familiar with the curriculum and any new tools or manipulatives. Practice using the technology and envision how you will incorporate it into your lessons. Having a solid understanding of the resources at your disposal will help you feel confident and prepared.

Prioritize Engagement

During the program, prioritize hands-on, active learning experiences. Students are likelier to stay engaged when they’re up and moving, exploring concepts kinesthetically. Incorporate games, challenges, and physical activities in your math lessons. Don't be afraid to get creative and have fun with it! 

How To Increase Summer Math Program Engagement

1. Use Manipulatives

Both physical and digital manipulatives allow students to explore math concepts in a tactile way. Toy Theater and other digital manipulative sites complement physical tools. Mixing digital and physical manipulatives, like writing on desks with dry-erase markers, boosts math enthusiasm. Manipulatives can also be tied to students’ interests. For example, 3D shape manipulatives allow students to create Baby Yodas (Grogu). 

2. Incorporate Productive Struggle 

Giving students a challenging problem and time to grapple with it, even if they struggle, builds critical thinking skills. As a teacher, it’s important to resist the urge to jump in too soon with help. Let students share different approaches with each other, fostering social learning and peer collaboration.

3. Utilize Small Groups

Small group instruction allows you to target specific skills and differentiate learning. Mixing up the groups and making it fun with chants or games to transition keeps things engaging. Unlike large group settings, small groups enable personalized interactions between teachers and students.

4. Use Technology Effectively

Digital tools can enhance math learning, not replace hands-on exploration. For example, Unruly Math allows students to play active games while reinforcing foundational math skills. The combination of movement, collaboration, and gamification helps build positive associations with math. Using technology effectively can excite students  about coming to school each day. 

Second grade students using Unruly Math to practice double digit subtraction.

With some creativity and planning, your elementary summer math program can boost engagement and accelerate student growth. Students may even discover that math is fun!

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