Category Archives: Summer math

Math Day

It is summer! We’re going to the beach as often as we can and spending our days outside as much as possible.

But I’m also hosting a math day once a month. It give me a chance to try out some fun math activities. And it helps my homeschooling friends fight the dreaded summer slide. Want to host one of your own? Here are some tips:

  1. Pick a theme. One concept is a good idea. I’m targeting first graders so in June we did addition and July we did subtraction.

2. Keep it light! It’s summer…no boring worksheets allowed. I’m using my own materials but you can find a ton of stuff on Pinterest. We played games, completed math fact coloring sheets, and always used edible manipulatives. Which brings me to my next point…

3. Snacks are a must ūüôā Snap cubes are fun but Skittles are better. And if you want to avoid the sugar rush go with Goldfish crackers or pretzels.

In the end, I think the key to the success is friends. Getting to try out these activities with their friends was the main motivation. And if you’re like me that means a mix of ages (see the group photo above). I had the older kids work as helper and the younger kids thought it was a blast too. Granted they didn’t understand the subtraction…just the Skittles.

More on Math Day favorites soon…


Math Dice Jr.

I found this game at Target today. Very simple and super easy to bring along on vacation or to a restaurant. The dodecahedron (yes I just really wanted to use that word) tells you what sum or different you are trying to find. Use addition, subtraction, and the numbers on the other 5 dice to get that number.

I think the best feature of this game is that it gets your ready for Math Dice. This version is for 8 and up and adds a lot more complexity.

Systems of Equations: Free Project Download

systems project image

As I’ve been prepping students for the New SAT math section system of equations seem to be a common trouble spot for lots of students. A system of equations is when you have to solve two or more equations at the same time. This type of math is all over the new test.

I created a fun project that helps students practice solving systems of equations. It is available here:

Systems Project

It might tie in well with planning your summer vacation ūüôā

Pixar in a Box: The Math Behind the Movies

Summer time is a great opportunity for some lighter math activities or projects connection math to the world. Pixar in a Box, a new course from Khan Academy, is a perfect fit.

You can find the course here.

Level 1 is appropriate for kids as young as elementary and level 2 often delves into high school math content. This would be an outstanding option for a math co-op.

Spaghetti Summer

Engineering Innovation is a summer camp at Johns Hopkins University where students can earn engineering credits for completing the activities with at least a B average. There is a great story on NPR about their bridge competition.

Seems like you could copy the activity for a co-op. For students who might be interested in attending next summer there is information here on applying and also an introductory video.

MoMath: A Museum of Mathematics in Manhattan

My husband and I are always looking for an excuse to go to NYC and this museum in Manhattan definitely justifies the trip. There are science museums in lots and lots of cities but what about math? A group in Manhattan decided it was time we had a National Museum of Mathematics. The exhibits are all designed to engage the public in the world of mathematics. Additionally, the museum hosts workshops and lectures.

A great video introducing you to the museum is here.

The Math Behind the Bubble

I hope you enjoyed the soap bubble experiment I posted on Monday. Bubbles are a simple part of creation that can hold the attention of even my 1 year old son. But they also are a subject of advanced study because of one basic property, the soap film always forms the smallest surface area possible. No matter what shape you stretch the soapy film over it will always obey this property, this is what happened with the cube in the experiment.

Most of the time bubbles form a simple shape, the sphere.

spherical bubble

When multiple bubbles are joined together things become more complex and beautiful.

many bubbles

Currently mathematicians are trying to solve the problem of finding a formula that will predict bubble arrangements. For now, they have discovered ways to predict the shapes of double bubbles and even used bubbles to model other phenomena in nature. Fascinated? You can read more here.

Soap Bubble Cubes

Whatever you are in the middle of doing right now stop and get ready to try this super cool experiment. It has a great “wow!” factor and will get your brain going again during summer vacation.


  • Q-tips
  • Hot glue gun (and an adult to help you)
  • Dish detergent
  • Water
  • Bowl


Assemble your supplies. It helps if the bowl is wide and shallow. Combine dish detergent with the water to make a soapy mixture. Add a good amount of detergent, you want it to be really soapy.

Take all the cotton off the q-tips. It helps if you twist them. The better job you do of getting it all off the stronger your cube will be. Quick geometry question: if the q-tips are the edges of a cube then how many will you need?


Once you have hot-glued everything and let it dry you are ready to dip the cube.



Hold it carefully with your fingertips and coat each face of the cube with the soapy mixture. Once you have coated all six faces a really interesting form will take shape.


What is the math behind that shape? More on that later.

The idea for this experiment came from this wonderful blog post.

Starting Over…What Happens When They Just Didn’t Get It?

It can happen in any family and any home school program. ¬†You arrive at the end of the school year and math that year was a complete bust. ¬†The book may be “completed” but the final exam,a grade at your local co-op, or your kid’s perplexed expression reveal the anxiety-inducing truth. They didn’t get it. ¬†What now?

This happened to me several times while teaching in the public schools.  For a month I threw my heart and soul into a unit, convinced that everyone was understanding the material.  And then I gave the unit test it the results were abysmal.  According to the school calendar it was time to move on, but I had clear data showing that several students had not even begun to master the previous chapter.

At first here is how I responded…and I share this so you can learn from my mistakes. ¬†I put all new learning on hold and announced that we were relearning the previous chapter and not moving on until everyone could pass a quiz on the material. ¬†I pulled out my PowerPoints and we went back over each lesson. ¬†The class grew frustrated and annoyed and eventually I went back on my word and moved on because I just didn’t think I could teach a lesson on simplifying polynomials one more time.

There are two key mistakes in this approach. ¬†First, I retaught the material in the same way. ¬†Whatever method I had used to introduce the concepts the first time hadn’t worked, but I just recycled those methods anyway. ¬†Second, I didn’t take the time to pinpoint the exact concepts certain students had missed. ¬†So when we went back and reviewed¬†everything their first reactions were boredom and frustration. ¬†They felt demoralized and any sense of intrinsic motivation was out the window.

My suggestion for the home school mom is that you do go back and re-teach the material but look for a way to do it differently the second time around. ¬†This could be as simple as bringing a tutor or Khan Academy into the picture. ¬†It might mean a new textbook, a video course, or a live class. ¬†The second suggestion is that you take some time to analyze your child’s work. ¬†Possibly give them a unit test or a random selection of problems as a kind of diagnostic. ¬†Tell them to only answer what they know and to skip any problem they don’t understand. ¬†The goal is not for them to get all the problems right, the goal is for you to eliminate the few topics that they do understand. ¬†Even if you only notice that they have a good grasp on chapter 1-3 that means you can start reviewing with chapter 4. ¬†This will save a lot of time and will spare your child the frustration of redoing math that they already understand.

One final word of encouragement: it goes better and faster the second time around. ¬†Redoing a year of math (or just one unit) is so discouraging. ¬†I know, I’ve been there! But students relearn the material faster the second time around because they did absorb some of it before even if they didn’t realize it. ¬†It will start too look familiar eventually. And in the end, the effort will be worth it when you see their results and realize they have truly mastered it the second time around ūüôā