Summertime. It brings longer days, campfires, real tomatoes, and raspberries fresh from the bush. It also brings stinky feet, mosquito bites, wasps, and skinned knees. And somewhere between these extremes, summertime at our house brings The Math Can. Say it in a deep voice, somewhat drawing out the second and third words. There you go.
The Math Can (deep and drawn out, remember?) is something of institution in our house. It’s simply a large can filled with math problems of the type studied in the preceding school year. Word problems and other problems from Singapore Primary Math and occasionally other sources are copied, cut into individual or groups of problems, folded into quarters, and placed in the can. The victim, ahem, I mean eager child, picks a given number of pieces of paper a week, tapes them into a notebook, and does the problems. My youngest is the chosen math can man this year, with 10 pieces of paper a week assigned. He can do the ten whenever he wants, Monday through Friday, but they must be done.
The Math Can is a somewhat gimmicky math review mechanism. It’s simple but highly effective. The random nature of the draw adds an element of mystery, albeit small, but it assures a varied assortment of problems to review and eliminates the complaint that, “Mom picked all hard/long/easy/boring ones this time”. The element of chance plays again on the number of problems on a single piece of paper. My younger and I have reviewed the rules many times: 10 pieces of paper each week, regardless of how many problems are on a piece of paper. Despite not starting an offical Math Can week yet, he’s already lobbying for 10 problems instead. Good luck, kiddo.
Last year, I didn’t bother with The Math Can. My older no longer needs the reinforcement. We used it occasionally when summer broke up his year with Jacobs’ Elementary Algebra, but there was no need after that point. My quite mathematically talented younger son, however, found himself stymied last September by problems he breezed through just a few months earlier in May. We’d stopped our school year just after long division and multiplication and division of decimals, and I had a feeling he’d drop those skills without reinforcement. However, our summer homeschooling plans were lost in the shuffle and emotion of my divorce, however, and The Math Can sat empty.
I wish it hadn’t, and so did my younger, come last fall. He was irritated with himself for forgetting some basic arithmetic skills, and, for him, irritation at self is expressed as anger at those loving family members in his midst. While it only took a few lessons to recall each skill, it took much longer for him to find his confidence in math again. Let’s just say that he’s on board with The Math Can this year.
The Math Can. It’s somewhere between sprinklers, lemonade, and making snapdragons talk and poison ivy, ants in the house, and heat rash. It may not be the favorite part of summer for my kids, but it’s ours and it’s staying.
It’s your turn. What do you do to keep skills sharp over the summer?