Summer Learning Loss And What To Do About It

17th July 2017

Ah the great summer hols... we all remember those six weeks of bliss. No school, no teachers, no homework... no brain activity? We are already part way into the summer break and it's important to stop and think about whether children are using their break in the best way.

Most of us are aware that students have their long summer holiday during what was traditionally harvest time, when children were needed to help at home. This is no longer the case, but we have retained the summer holiday as a valuable time to travel, spend time with family and allow children to enjoy just being kids. 

However, there is a dark side to these sunny days.


It has long been acknowledged that young people's brains slow down almost to a standstill during the long, lazy days of summer, causing most kids to backslide and lose valuable learning. Children learn best when instruction is continuous and the long summer holiday breaks their usual rhythm of instruction. 

Unfortunately across the board, maths is acknowledged as being the worst victim of summer learning loss with an average setback of 2.6 months worth of learning every summer. That means students are actually losing more equivalent learning time than they are actually away from school! 

An analysis of 39 studies conducted since 1978 found that all students do far worse on math tests at the end of the summer compared to their performance on the same tests at the start of summer. (Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, K., Lindsay, J., & Greathouse, S. 1996)


Maths focuses on factual and procedural learning and sadly, findings in cognitive psychology suggest that without regular practice, facts and procedural skills are the most susceptible to forgetting (Cooper & Sweller, 1987). Even worse, without taking action to prevent it, the negative effect of summer on learning is said to increase with each school year. If your child was struggling at all with maths before summer, they could be in even more trouble when they return to school. So how can you keep your kids learning maths over the summer? is quite simply the perfect solution. Students already have full access to the program during the summer, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for no extra cost. This means students have essentially kept one teacher on staff for the whole of the summer -'s very own Pat Murray, the charming Aussie teacher who delivers all of our lessons. Everything students need to continue their maths learning is available to them in a format they are comfortable with.

The Brilliant Mr Pat Murray 

If students continue to use on a regular basis throughout the summer they will easily be able to maintain their maths skills and confidence, retain what they have already learnt, and even reverse the summer brain drain completely and actually go back to school having progressed further than they were at the end of term! We recommend at least 3 half an hour sessions per week, Monday-Wednesday-Friday is a familiar pattern that works quite well as it mimics the structure of a school week. Even small amounts of time spent on the program, regularly spaced out through the holidays will have a really significant positive effect. 

If possible, make sure your child has regular access to a computer or tablet at home during the summer. is also accessible on Iphones and Android phones through HTML5 meaning anyone can do their lessons outside on a phone or tablet so they don't miss any of the summer weather!


If not, and internet access is a problem at home, most public libraries have free internet access and most also rent out CDS, DVDS and games cheaply, so they are worth visiting during the long summer months anyway. It is a good idea to book a session online in advance, or have a word with the librarian and explain that you child would like to use the computers to access on a regular basis throughout the summer. They will likely be happy to help, although the sooner you speak to them the better. 

Some networks have filtering systems that may accidentally restrict access to, if there is an issue the librarian should be able to unblock the site for you. Most parents have to continue to work during the holidays but any time you can spare to get involved with your child's summer learning is invaluable. Research has shown that summer learning in maths is more effective when Mum and Dad are involved. (Cooper et al. 2000) 

Watch lessons together, go over their work sheets and/or tests together and celebrate any certificates gained with great enthusiasm to keep them motivated. You could even devise your own awards system, especially if you have more than one child in the house using It may also be worthwhile keeping a record of what lessons and activities your child does throughout the summer, so you can show them how much they have achieved, and it may be useful information for their teacher too. 

Encourage your child to not only use the lessons and worksheets/diagnostic tests, but also to have a bit of fun using the Speed Skills Games. We now have a regional leader board so kids can play each other competitively across the country. 

On top of regularly continuing to use, there are many other ways to keep young minds tuned in to maths, without them even realising it! Many of these for younger students we also cover in 'Your Baby The Mathematician'.

Playing with dice and cards is astonishingly stimulating to the young mathematical mind. Blackjack is a great example as you have to consider odds while doing constant addition and subtraction.

Games such as checkers or chess involve probability, lateral thinking and problem solving - all important mathematical skills. 

Preparing recipes together helps practice following sometimes complex instructions, addition and subtraction and measuring using fractions. Children have to be aware of weight, volume, quantity etc but by the end of the lesson they have a yummy treat to show for it! 

Working together in the garden also involves lots of forward thinking, measuring and calculation. Measuring available space to determine where the plants will get sunlight, calculating the cost of seeds and fertilizer, and charting the growth of plants can all keep young maths minds ticking over.

Encourage them to estimate by slipping mental maths into daily life. Quiz them on how much a tank of petrol will cost, or on a car trip, turn off the SatNav. Estimation is a great math skill, and the more kids use it, the better their maths skills become. 

Even when children are not working out traditional maths problems, these activities stimulate the same areas of the brain and strengthen the mental muscles needed for proper maths. Couple regular use of with this maths aware attitude and your child will find maths much less overwhelming when they return to school after the long summer. 

They will retain much more of their original learning, they will proceed with confidence and the next school year will not be such a shock to the system!