Summer Learning—An Enrichment Opportunity
Summer school! What student or parent wants to hear that? Not too many, and that is because the term “summer school” has a negative connotation associated with it. Usually it insinuates that the student fell short during the school year and has to use the summer to make up their loss. But what about “Summer Learning”? Does this sound more favorable?
What Do Studies Show?
According to a 2010 study by the Wallace Foundation, just 25 percent of school-age children participate in a summer learning program. Why should only failing students use the summer to play catch up? Why not all students use the summer to maintain and get ahead? I suggest that parents and students see the summer downtime as an opportunity for enrichment and learning for fun, if you will. Throughout the school year, our students experience a lot of pressures from grades and distractions from other students and activities and rarely get to learn for the sake of learning and to be enriched.
In addition, numerous studies have shown that students forget a portion of what they have learned during the school year over the summer. This causes many teachers to spend a lot of time reviewing skills and delaying lessons at the beginning of the year. Students just fall behind as they try to jump back into the school year and keep up.
Nature of Learning Math
In particular, math is one subject that requires consistent practice and repetition. Could you imagine if you interrupted your workout routine for 2 months and did nothing? Surely you might experience, weight gain, muscle loss, and a decrease in cardiovascular strength. It should make sense that the same thing happens to our math skills if we don’t stay in good practice.
There are many proven benefits to summer learning. These may include students’ grades upon their return to school, their attendance, and even classroom behavior. Summer enrichment and learning programs can be found in many places in the community. MaThCliX® offers summer math lab and several enrichment classes during the summer. Math enrichment can even be practiced at home! You can visit https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/build-math-skills/ to learn about some ways to build up math skills around the home.
I have been teaching math for many years now and have taken more college math courses than I can count on my hands and toes! I remember being in the 3rd grade and winning the times tables game every time as we raced around the room. I have never struggled with fractions and computing arithmetic, nor needed to rely on my fingers to figure out problems. Is this because I have a “math gene” or I am a math whiz or some genius? The answer is no! So, why am I “good” at math and why have I always been this way? The answer is simple and I try to teach my students this continuously.
Think of math as a never ending gigantic cake with an infinite amount of layers, where each layer is necessary and preparatory for the next one. Each layer represents a skill that must be mastered before adding a new layer. So, in terms of the cake, I have mastered each layer! Well, how does one master each layer? I answer this question frequently…three most important things…I look for patterns, make connections, and I practice. Many students think that doing a few problems or watching the teacher do problems is sufficient. To this I say, NO, NO, NO! It is in the doing of the mathematics where the learning takes place.
So, what about all this talk about getting kids away from learning basic math facts, like times tables? The argument is that with computers and calculators, the need for higher level thinking is more important than just producing an answer. While I believe there is truth to this and could write a quite a bit in agreement with that statement alone, I certainly do not want to discount the importance of teaching youngsters to compute! There is evidence that suggests that students are not learning how to compute. I see it daily in my student interactions. Research suggests that youngsters who have not mastered whole-number arithmetic by the end of the fourth grade are at risk for becoming remedial math students.
I completely contribute my mathematical success to having a solid foundation with basic skills. Arithmetic is the starting point in mathematics and basic skills are necessary to advance in mathematics, which includes critical thinking, problem solving, and communication of mathematics…All things computers cannot necessarily do! Without a foundation of arithmetic and basic skills, students will not be prepared to progress to algebra in middle school, middle schoolers will not be prepared for advanced mathematics in high school and our high schoolers will go off to college ill-prepared to be successful in mathematics and in the workforce.
In my opinion and from all my experience and training, the better a child learns all the basics and recognizes patterns and makes connections, the better prepared the child will be for the next layer, and so. Every layer in mathematics is important. It is all part of one great whole!
How to Prepare for Finals-It’s that time of the year where students and teachers are working hard to bring the semester to the end. With all of the demands and stress preparing for the upcoming tests, use these tips to help take control of finals and not let finals take control of you!
YOU NEED A PLAN…and for Math, that means doing a little each day! I tell my students over and over and over again, you cannot “cram” for a math test, so don’t even try. You cannot “fake” math, which means you actually have to take the time to learn it. And with math, learning means doing. There are no shortcuts and doing one problem is not enough to say “Oh, I get it!”. The best thing to do is to keep up with the course and the homework the entire semester and clear up questions along the way. Then, when it comes to the final, it’s just pulling it all together.
So, a good piece of advice is to take the study guide, if you are lucky enough to get one, and do a chunk of it each day. Make a notecard along the way with formulas. After you have gone through the whole study guide, take a mock test with a timer, because not only do you need to be able to do the problems, but do them in a timely manner, as well.
For middle and high schoolers, many teachers allow students to retake old tests and quizzes to improve their grade or turn in make-up work. So, check with your teachers to see if you can do this. Be proactive! Do not expect them to chase after you.
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How to DO MaTh-
1. First, GET ORGANIZED. You need a place for your MaTh! Put together a notebook that includes a place to write down assignments and important dates, a place for notes, homework, and returned papers. Keep it in sequential order and know where everything is so that you can refer back to it. There must be order in the chaos of learning!
2. In Class, take notes. Ask questions. Do your homework and and all assignments. Compare with other students, if necessary. Make marks by questions that you did not understand and ask about those problems. Correct any mistakes that you find and understand what you did wrong. Once you have done it enough and you think you understand, try teaching and explaining to someone else. If you can teach it, then you can be more confident that you actually understand it.
3. TAKE THE TIME TO BE NEAT AND COMPLETE. Many people think that MaTh is just about the answer. However, the process is often just as important and so, that is why students always hear “Show your work”! Write the problem down, show each step and circle or box your answer. This will allow you to go back and see your work, as well as your teacher or others.
4. STUDYING IS DOING! PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Do not think that if you understand what your teacher is doing and can follow along that you, too can do it. Also, do not think that if you can do one or two problems that you have done enough and do not need to do anymore. Learning MaTh means DOING MaTh! You must do it for yourself repetitively. That is how the connections of understanding are made and that is how you know if you can actually do it on the test. MaTh is not a spectator sport!
5. Understand TWO things:
1) Learning MaTh is like a giant snowball rolling down a hill. It gets bigger and bigger. In other words, once you learn it, it stays and you will use it in the future. So, there is no place for learning MaTh just for a test and then thinking you can forget it. It is a collection of skills that build into a giant “snowball”.
2) Everyone can DO MaTh! There is no such thing as not being able to do MaTh because your parent wasn’t good at MaTh. Confusion and struggle are normal parts of learning. They are not going away. However, determination and persistence will carry you through to success.
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MaThCliX Story and Vision-
On October 28, 2014, I had the opportunity to speak at career day at Woodstock Middle School and E.T.Booth Middle School, both in Woodstock, GA. Thanks to the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce, I was honored to be a part of this special day and share my love and passion for mathematics, learning, and business with so many young minds. I spoke to 12 different groups of 8th grade students throughout the entire day and basically gave the same presentation each time. I had it down by the end of the day!
I shared with the students my story and how MaThCliX came to existence. The name “MaThCliX” came about around the year 2000, when I was an undergraduate math student at Georgia State University. As a college student, I did a lot of tutoring and would always hear people making comments like, “I’m just not good at math”, “My parents weren’t good at math”, “I never really understood math”, “I had a bad teacher and could never get math to make sense”, etc. I realized quickly that there was a large amount of the population who just had this fixed “attitude” toward math. I knew that these things were things that could be remedied, if only math were taught in a manner that each student understood and if the student practiced math correctly. It then became my thought that I wanted to make math “click” for others.
Another play on the word “click” comes in the version of “clique”. At the university, the math majors tended to stick to together and I guess you could say we formed a “math clique” as we worked intensely to study and prepare for exams, learn and understand proofs, and work countless math problems.
So, why the capital M, T, C, and X? Why Clix and not clicks or cliques? Well, I chose to use clix because it seemed to be a fusion of the two and is shorter and a bit catchier. The M is capitalized because it is the name, the T is for my name, Tracy, the C is for my first daughter, Carlie, and X is for the most popular math variable, X! It may sound complicated but I thought it gave the name a “cooler” look and if it were to be on signs, t-shirts, brochures, etc., I wanted it to look appealing.
So why the two slogans “A place where students DO math” and “Math Problems Solved”?
I wanted MaThCliX to be a place where all students can come and be part of a math family, if you will. I wanted to create a math home. A place where students can come and have their math needs met, whether it be working on homework, skill building, enhancing understanding, etc., all of which enable students to eventually DO math. I follow the counsel of Maria Montessori who said, “The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, the children are now working as if I did not exist.” This is when I know that students are “doing” math.
What is your math problem? For some it may be a failing grade, for some it may be a gap in learning, or some may literally be stuck on solving a math homework problem. Whatever the “problem” may be, MaThCliX is a place where any student’s math problem can be solved! I want everyone who walks through our door to feel comfortable, welcome, and at home and when they leave I want them to feel that their time was well-spent, their minds were enlightened, that the math “clicked”, and they are one step closer to their academic goals and on their way to success in the classroom and the world. I want our students to feel proud and happy to be part of MaThCliX, or our “math clique”.
I invite all students to come an experience MaThCliX!