3 Tips for Maximizing Your Summer Math Instruction

3 Tips for Maximizing Your Summer Math Instruction

The majority of the students that fill summer school classrooms have seen the content that you are going to present multiple times already. These students listened to their teacher share the content, then were pulled into a small group to walk through it again. Presenting the content to your students again, in the same way, is a disservice to your students and a waste of time and summer sunshine.

Teachers need to approach the content from a different direction. To take the time to cultivate the deep understanding needed to gain mastery in math.

Even if you use the same curriculum from the school year, you can enhance the lessons and put a fun spin on them. No matter what you do with a lesson, be sure to give students time to explore the content and a safe space to share their thinking. 

Student Looking at the Board in a classroomThis isn’t always easy in this time of acceleration and fast-paced gap closing. But in this rush, we need to remember that there are some great ways to let students explore the content and develop their own understanding of the mathematics you will present.

You can maximize your summer math instruction by:

  • Allowing students to explore concepts and “see” the math first.

  • Facilitating conversations that lead to deep understanding.

  • Making real-world connections to mathematics.

Summer school is a limited time to close the remaining gaps. But this small window is a perfect time to slow down and revisit the practices that allow students to flourish in math class.


1. Allow students to explore concepts and “see” the math first

Concrete, Representational, Abstract (C-R-A) Instructional Sequence

Elementary Students working with math blocksAs soon as you start to plan for the summer, be sure you are considering how to reteach those focus standards by first starting with the use of manipulatives (concrete). Students need to be moving counters, connecting cubes, and using number lines, so that they can gain a deeper understanding about what is really happening with the mathematics. Once they can “see” the math, give them the paper and pencils to draw what they are seeing (representational). Once students start to make those connections, your lesson can shift to using numbers and symbols. 

Beans, notecards, rocks collected by students outside, cut up paper; basically, anything can be a math manipulative, so don’t let a lack of formal tools stop you. If you bring in baggies of grapes or candies, students can have edible manipulatives. Just remind them not to share.

Be sure to always keep manipulatives out. This reinforces the understanding that they are a tool to be used whenever students need them. This includes paper for drawing their work. Students are all on different paths to mastery, and having all these items available reminds them that their journey is equally valid.


2. Facilitate conversations that lead to deep understanding

Mathematical Discourse

Vygotsky’s Cognitive Development Theory asserts that cognitive abilities are socially constructed. Summer is a great time to allow math understanding to be developed socially. Give students a task to figure out with a partner, flip a lesson upside down and start with the hardest problem first. Then have groups of 2-3 students talk about their solution paths. Students do not have to solve the problem, but it gives them an experience to reference while learning the skill.

This allows for productive struggle and the sharing of ideas and strategies among students. It also reduces teacher talking time and focuses the lesson on students.

When students are talking, it gives teachers a chance to hear their thinking. This allows for misconceptions to be addressed as soon as they are developed, instead of after they are practiced on paper.


3. Make real-world connections to mathematics

Mathematics Readers and Challenges

WEdible Insectshether fiction or non-fiction, a good book can build a strong bridge to an otherwise inaccessible mathematical concept. Books build interest in our students and connect math to the real world. Adding books that have mathematics within the story allows students to think about different math skills and content in a non-threatening way.

When a book shares weird facts, students will be excited to try math because it will give them more information about the topic. For example, reading about edible bugs makes working with fractions much more valuable.

Giving students the room to author their own learning, having a clear and present voice in every lesson, and making real-world connections to math skills brings deeper engagement with your lessons.


Let us help you plan your summer school!

Summer Scholars for MathematicsSummer should be fun. Take your kids outside. Learn about the sun while its rays are shining on your class. Bring summer fun into your classroom and strong math conversations into your lessons.

All three of these research-based approaches to mathematical education are important all year long. Summer is just a great time to try new teacher moves that support these practices or learn more about them if they are new to you.

An easy way to incorporate all of these into your summer lessons is by using our brand-new Summer Scholars resource. These kits incorporate some of TCM’s strongest elements with all three of these powerful approaches to education. 


Author bio

Danielle Battle, M.A.

Danielle Battle, M.A., Academic Officer for Teacher Created Materials

Danielle currently serves as an Academic Officer for Teacher Created Materials, where she provides professional development and training on TCM curriculum materials and Shell Education professional resources for school districts, teachers, and school administrators. Dani has a passion for bringing joy back into the classroom for all students. She began her education career over twenty years ago as a teaching assistant. She then taught in pubic and charter schools in Baltimore and the District of Columbia. She was a curriculum writer, assistant principal of mathematics, and manager of mathematics professional learning for DC Public Schools. She was a steering committee member for the Urban Mathematics Leadership Network, an International Facilitation Fellows for the Dana Center, and was featured on the program The Color of STEM.