Math+summer=??? a) torture    b) meanness    c) an exercise in futility   d) a time to have real-life fun while polishing skills

You probably know what I hope you'd choose!

Can it be really done? Well, I cannot guarantee anything. If your child is dead-set against having anything to do remotely with school, then I'm not sure I can necessarily help. But I hope to at least try!

Keep those facts fresh!

I don't know about yours, but it always seems a bit frustrating for me to see my kids work so hard at school learning their math facts during the year only to have to repeat the process come September. (I think it takes my kids about a week to forget a year's worth of work. And that may be a generous number.) I guess that's why there's a built-in review period for the kids the first month back.

Now I can't help what goes on in the school systems, but I know that as a homeschooling mom, I can potentially skip all that review by simply keeping those math facts fresh throughout the summer. But who wants to do flashcards? Not me!

So here are a couple of sites to check out that may help your kids keep those addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts fresh in their minds. A few days a week, 10-15 minutes each day, is probably sufficient. Rotate the sites and they'll get something new each time. Geared for grades K-8, these interactive lessons and exercises focus on a single topic at a time. If you really want to (though I wouldn't recommend it), you can even make worksheets (requires free registration). This site also includes language arts.

Math-Play: The site is what it says it is. Lots of different math games organized by type and age. I played the car race game for multiplication facts. I will have to say that there was probably more racing than facts in this game, but as it is summer, I won't begrudge them of the fun. A few facts are better than nothing.

Cool Math 4 Kids: Tons of  games on this site to review with!

Keeping it Real

A large part of mathematics is learning how to apply what you know into real life. Too often, we disengage the usefulness of math and suck it dry of any redeeming value with all those worksheets and homework. But it doesn't have to be this way! If you've got little ones, check out US Dept of Education's pdf, Helping Your Child Learn Mathematics. Included are lots of math activities you can do at home, at the store, on the go, and just for fun. Hopefully this helpful brochure will help you to find a myriad of ways to include and use math in your daily routines at home.

Teach Engineering: Gather a bunch of kids together so that they can pool their collective minds and see what they come up with! Some of the projects are suitable (so they say) for kids as young as kindergarten and go up to grade 12. Each activity has learning objectives, materials list, as well as a description of the activity, questions to investigate. Some of them have vocabulary lists, attachments and/or extensions. Very well done.

And don't forget a very basic way of making math practical: cook with your kids! If you need help, Kitchen Math, a free 103 page resource from Canada's Northwest Territories Literarcy Council, has 33 projects to give you a start!

A Different Side of Math

Too often, our school included, we just spend time on looking at the basics of math: operations, word problems, graphing, and so on. But sometimes, we just need to look at math a little differently. Here are a few sites that make math into puzzles or creative projects.

Figure This: This site from the National Council of Teachers of Math is subtitled "Math Challenges for Families" and what a great idea! For kids about ages 10-14, this site boasts 80 different puzzles for kids to solve using their math skills. You can do these online or offline. For us, I have downloaded the pdf files onto our iPad for some portable fun. Also included are family brochures on math topics.

Maths Challenge: No I didn't type that wrong. In British countries, math is called "maths." (I'm not sure why. I just know that was how my mom referred to it, and she grew up in British Hong Kong.) These problems are a little more challenging than the previous site and are ranked from 1 star (most basic) to 4 stars (quite advanced). These are geometrical problems that you can print off on pdfs. Probably best for kids at least 11 and up.  

Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Training Puzzles: Do you remember doing tangrams and pentominoes when you were younger? While not the traditional math, these puzzles help our kids to cultivate other useful math skills. Also included on this site are word problems to puzzle over.

Paper Models of Polyhedra: Poly-what? Polyhedra is the plural form of polyhedron, which is defined as a solid bounded by polygons. If you still don't know what that means, take a look at this page and let your kids play around and maybe they'll be able to tell you! The site features different polyhedra with pdf patterns for them to cut, fold and glue together. They start from really simple to very complex, like the Small Snub Icosicosidodecahedron. To find out what that is, you'll have to look it up yourself.

There are tons of sites out there, but these should probably keep you and your kids busy for quite a while! So whenever you hear, "I'm bored" pull up a site and see what they can do! Better yet, get in there with them and have some fun too!