Summer school math curriculum & program ideas for elementary students

February 21, 2024

Summer school curriculum planning is no walk in the park. As a chance for students to receive more one-on-one, personalized instruction, this time can be crucial for both remediation and acceleration (or at least preventing the dreaded "summer slide"). For the educators responsible for putting the program together, however, it can be particularly tricky.

Summer school teaching challenges

When planning a summer school math curriculum for elementary and middle school students, teachers are typically working around the following challenges:

  1. Short time period: In most districts, summer school typically lasts a month - maybe two. It can be difficult to make impactful change in such a short window of time.
  2. Limited planning time: Summer school often starts nearly immediately after the end of the school year, meaning most of the planning takes place in the Spring, when schedules are already hectic with high stakes assessments and end-of-year wrap-up.
  3. Engagement level: Let’s be honest… Kids in summer school would likely rather be riding bikes or playing outside with their friends than honing their math skills. It can be difficult to design a curriculum to keep them engaged, but this engagement is critical to students’ learning and retention of skills taught.

Our team at BlueStreak Math has decades of combined experience with curriculum planning, from the standard school year to summer school. So to help you work around these unique challenges, we put together a few ideas to help you plan your summer school math curriculum and get the most out of this time!

Summer school math ideas to get the most out of your curriculum

1. Make it fun

Why: According to research, engaging students in the learning process increases their focus and motivates them to engage in higher-level critical thinking, increasing success in meeting key learning objectives. This is particularly important in the summer, when students would rather be playing outside than practicing addition, multiplication, or fractions.

How: Ditch the outdated, repetitive flashcards and workbooks and lean into a student-centered approach to learning. Incorporate gamification and group activities to get students excited to learn and reduce math anxiety.

How BlueStreak helps: BlueStreak’s digital math fluency games mirror the games students play outside of school, from modern, space-centric gaming environments to multiple options for single- and multiplayer gameplay. Defeat opponents by jumping on their heads like in Super Mario. Fly through space like in Galaga. Customize your avatar and so much more. All while mastering critical math fluency skills from addition to fractions and beyond.

2. Blend memorization and strategy

Why: Research shows that memorization alone can be damaging and limiting without real understanding (Boaler, 2015). Instead, fluency must develop through a combination of memorization and strategy.

How: Observe student practice, hone in on the specific skills students are struggling with most, and provide targeted instruction to improve their understanding of key strategies. For example, do you notice a few students struggling to divide by 0? Pull them aside for a quick small group math lesson while the rest of the students continue their independent practice.

How BlueStreak helps: BlueStreak Math provides real-time reports on student performance to help educators identify which skills whole classes or individual students are struggling with most. The platform's Intervention Grouping Tool automatically breaks students into small groups based on key strategies for teachers to provide more targeted instruction to improve student understanding.

Here’s how it works:

The BlueStreak Process: 1. Adaptive gameplay 2. Intervention groups 3. Turnkey lesson plans 4. Pencil-to-paper practice 5. Reflect+Learn promots

3. Leverage scripted lessons to lower teacher lift

Why: Reducing planning time for teachers can help increase efficiency and prevent burnout.

How: Incorporate educational technology tools and platforms that can automate certain tasks, such as grading, tracking student progress, and providing personalized feedback. This can help reduce the amount of time teachers spend on administrative tasks and allow them to focus more on teaching and interacting with students.

How BlueStreak helps: BlueStreak prioritizes student autonomy to free up teacher time for more direct instruction or other tasks. The digital platform even offers an automatic Intervention Grouping Tool that corresponds with turnkey, scripted mini-lessons and practice problems in BlueStreak’s Strategy Log workbooks.

See sample Strategy Log pages for fluency with fractions.

4. Make practice an integral part of the daily routine

Why: Research shows routines help create a predictable environment that fosters a safe environment for students to learn and promote effective classroom management. BlueStreak's firsthand data backs this up: we found students master equations 10x faster when they play BlueStreak at least 15 minutes/day. In other words, students learn best with consistent practice.

How: Think of creative ways to incorporate learning throughout the day that leans into student behavior rather than fighting against it.

How BlueStreak helps: In already-packed school days, it can be difficult to find time to make individual math practice a consistent part of students’ daily routine. That’s why we designed BlueStreak to make a huge impact on student learning in just 15 minutes/day. And because BlueStreak Math games are so engaging, they are a great fit for transition times. Some BlueStreak teacher favorites for incorporating game time: after lunch and at the end of the day.

5. Emphasize automaticity

Why: High stakes assessments are typically time-bound, meaning students need to not only understand the strategy behind the equations, but answer quickly and accurately. With multi-part questions like this becoming increasingly common, students need to master automaticity to meet minimum acceptable standards.

How: Utilize timed practice to get students used to having limited time to solve equations. Solving an equation by drawing an array can be useful, but with equations like the one shown above, students need to be familiar with working quickly.

How BlueStreak helps: BlueStreak Math games give students a limited amount of time to solve equations, preparing them to answer quickly without the anxiety of other timed practice methods such as flashcards.

6. Foster friendly competition

Why: Studies show healthy competition can drive attention, physical effort, and learning.

How: Introduce games or other contests to keep students motivated and engaged. Whatever you choose, ensure it makes student performance easy to measure and track so you can reap the rewards without too much additional load on teachers.

How BlueStreak helps: BlueStreak Math not only offers multiple competitive and cooperative game modes, but also provides the ability to set up competitions at the classroom, school, and district level to engage students in healthy competition. Plus, all BlueStreak schools are automatically enrolled in our monthly nationwide contests, where they can compete for a BlueStreak trophy!

7. Test a new solution

Summer school is also a great time to test new tools and solutions before rolling them out on a larger scale during the school year. BlueStreak motivates kids, adapts to their level of learning, and provides teachers with critical data points to evaluate progress.

Contact us to pilot BlueStreak Math.

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