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Counting cards, dividing pizzas: Local schools push fun math activities to keep kids’ skills fresh

Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri education officials are promoting a free, online resource to help kids practice math skills over the summer. Studies show students can lose more than two months of progress during the break.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education made the program, called the Missouri Math Challenge, available to districts and parents last year after the agency said it closely aligns with state standards. More than 3,000 students statewide are signed up.

“It’s pretty common to hear about students reading over the summer, and a lot of school districts really push that. So we wanted to offer them another option to really keep up on the math work that they’d been doing,” said Jeremy Ellis, who is in charge of the agency’s math assessments and curriculum resources.

Parents who sign their children up for the program receive daily emails with different online activities.

One activity Ellis received this week for one of his sons, who is going into fourth grade, used pizzas to review fractions. Ellis said the activities can take as little as 15 minutes. If his two sons like the activity, they’ll stick with it longer, he said.

“They like some of them, and don’t like some of them,” Ellis said. “The more fun it feels for them, the more they enjoy it.”

The Fort Zumwalt School District in St. Charles County let parents know about the summer coursework in May, and sent out a reminder last week on Twitter and Facebook.

Heather Kreger, the district’s elementary math coordinator, said the idea is to keep students engaged.

“July is when kids start to get a little bit restless,” Kreger said. “Many, many parents want to support their children. It’s just giving them tools outside of the way we learned to make that learning fun.”

To help with that restlessness, Fort Zumwalt is also using social media to suggest fun ways parents can incorporate math into games or everyday activities. A deck of cards is one of Kreger’s favorite tools.

“Younger children can work on number recognition. We can work on using that deck of cards to order numbers sequentially. Or even looking at numbers and determining which are greater than or what is less than,” Kreger said.

Kreger also suggested parents give kids real-world examples, such as calculating budgets and counting math when they’re at the store.

Follow Camille on Twitter:@cmpcamille

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