As May breaks into June, our talented teachers start to get excited about the rest and relaxation these hard-working individuals sorely deserve. Summer is a wonderful time for teachers, but there is one nagging caveat that can keep them up at night. The dreaded summer slide! Teachers cringe at the thought of having to spend three to four weeks in September teaching math and literacy skills that their new students learned in the previous school year, but were forgotten over the summer.
Researchers at the University of Illinois have made a discovery that may seriously shape how educators approach early math. In a study published in Cognition, psychology professor Daniel Hyde tested a group of first graders’ basic intuitions about numbers.
The results of his study indicated kids who were routinely exposed to groups of items of different quantities and asked to use approximation to predict which group was bigger or smaller performed significantly better on a math test administered shortly afterwards than children who did not participate in an approximation exercise.
Math ability isn’t written on a person’s genes, in opposition to the popularly held idea. In spite of major evidence to the contrary, the reoccurring notion in many parts of the world is that some people are born with superb math ability, while others don’t have much at all.
It’s no secret that success in math is a good predictor of success at life. In education and policy news these days, it seems like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — the so-called STEM fields — dominates the discussion. Yep, as a society, we’ve all grasped on to the fact that math skills are vitally important to the types of stable, high-earning careers as can be found in the modern economy.
Consider this: In 2013, gamers spent an average of 6.3 hours a week playing video games! In fact, in 2015, video games even out-earned movies by over $4 billion in revenue. Video games are rapidly becoming the new de facto entertainment medium.
Summer slide: It sounds great, like a scene from our own childhoods. It sounds reminiscent of an endless succession of long, sunlit days on leafy playgrounds, and no schoolwork in sight for months. But in fact, while it may sound like a load of fun, the summer learning loss is no joke.