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Bring Back Math Confidence (and Fun!) This Summer

By: Dallan Hunt

Growing up, kids first learn to walk, and then learn to run. We learn to write letters, then words. In life we start with the basics, and take it one step at a time. It’s no surprise, then, that learning math is the same.

Mathematics is a subject where concepts build on one another. In order to complete grade 6, we start with grade 5. We start with simpler skills and then work toward more challenging concepts.

It is important to remember this when deciding how to help your child’s math skills, in a time when a pandemic has caused serious interruptions to in-person learning. Working on foundational math skills is key, so don’t worry!

We have some great tips and activities (by grade) to help bring your child’s math confidence back this summer – no screen time required!

(Don’t forget to check out the bonus tips at the end!)

Bring Back Math Confidence This Summer!


Grades K-2

Place Value Toss

Incorporating movement into learning is a great way to engage young and active minds. Combine this with one of the most foundational skills to numbers, and you have a great game called Place Value Toss.

Transform colorful buckets and toss bean bags to create numbers and learn about place value. For younger students you can use 1s and 10s, or for older students include 100s or even 1000s. Kids will be learning before they know it!


Dice games are a great way to make learning fun, and don’t require Wi-Fi or downloads! The element of chance they bring to math adds a flare of fun learning. One game, called Pig, is a competitive game which helps students master adding basic numbers from 1 to 6.

Teacher Tip: Building the right attitude for math starts early. Remind your child that math takes effort, and with effort comes success. To learn more about fostering a growth mind-set, check out this blog post.

Grades 3-5

Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are a great way to incorporate exploration and adventure with math. Using a variety of math related concepts, the challenge is to find examples of them out in the backyard, at the schoolyard or by the river – wherever you like! Math is everywhere around us, and it only takes a scavenger hunt to discover where.


Cribbage, or sometimes called just Crib, is a great game for everyone – both young and old. It adds the appeal of a card game, along with important math skills such as skip counting, counting on, and adding. You and your child will be learning math without knowing it, as you try to be the first to score enough points to reach the end first!

Teacher Tip: Math anxiety is real, and one source is the fear of mistakes, but there’s no reason to fear them. Remind your child that making mistakes is a part of math (and life!) and are great opportunities to recognize our misconceptions and grow our understanding. When we don’t fear mistakes, the pressure melts away.

Grades 6-8

Life-size Graph

You might think middle-school math mean sitting in desks, but not with this graphing activity – yes, graphing! Students can learn about plotting points and graphing equations all while soaking in the sun. All you need is some chalk, some flat pavement, and a nice day.

Order of Operations

Order of operations is a critical skill that students will be using through high school and beyond, so now is the perfect time to become a master. All you need is a few dice, so there’s no excuse not to try this one.

Teacher Tip: One of the best questions you can ask your soon-to-be teenager when it comes to math is, “How do you know?” If they can explain their thinking and how they get their answers, this helps to reinforce what they know, and identify any confusions.

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Grades 9-12

Algebra Connect (Bingo)

Factoring is an important skill in math, where we discover which factors can multiply to create a result. This following activity uses two competing players to factor polynomials and be the first to make a row of 4 spots to win!

Measuring New Heights

Learn how measuring angles can allow you to calculate the heights of whole buildings! Build your own clinometer with a few simple tools, and discover the power of sine, cosine and tangent. Students will combine measurements, equations and problem-solving skills to measure objects they didn’t think were possible

Teacher Tip: Encourage your teenager to become more confident with “self-check” by answering two simple questions:

1. Is my answer reasonable?

2. Is it correct?

If your teenager can start to ask and answer these questions, they are on the path to becoming confident in their math skills.

Bonus Tips

  • Before the end of the school year, get feedback from your child’s math teacher on areas your child needs help with. This will help you know what math skills to focus on.
  • Find a supplementary math workbook that match your child’s current grade level. Check out our math workbooks for sale on our online store with Penguin Random House.)
  • If you need a crash course on any math topics you hope to help your children with, feel free to reach out to your local Sylvan Learning, and they will be glad to help you!
  • If you want additional assistance for your child, consider Sylvan Learning’s math programs, which uses a specialized assessment to pin-point areas of weakness, and brings confidence back with personalized tutoring.

Overall, remember that this year has left many feeling behind and overwhelmed – especially with math – so you and your child aren’t alone. The interruptions this year have affected all grades and subjects, and there is only so much virtual learning one can do.  So to get a fresh start with math and restore some of that much needed confidence, try some of our outdoor and non-screen time activities.

Sylvan Centre Director Dallan Hunt studied Engineering Science at SFU, specializing in software development. He has a B.A.Sc and B.Ed. When he’s not at Sylvan, he enjoys rollerblading and writing!

Find My Local Sylvan
We'd love to talk with you about how we can help your child reach his or her individual goals!