Math Wheels for Note-taking?

Preventing the Summer Slide: How to Keep Middle School Students Sharp in Math


Summer break can be an excellent opportunity for middle school students to rest and recharge. However, it can also lead to a phenomenon known as the “summer slide.” Students experience a loss of academic skills and knowledge over the break. This is especially true in math, where students may struggle to retain the skills they learned during the school year. Don’t worry! Today, I am bringing you 5 tips for preventing the summer slide along with some fantastic resources that can help you prepare your students as summer approaches.

Summer is not a time for learning new math concepts, but it is the perfect time for reviewing what students have already learned. Even a few minutes a day can result in a student starting the next school year with better math skills.

As a math teacher, I want to make summer math practice easy and fun for my students. Let’s be honest, if it’s a long, boring worksheet it will never get done! Instead, I like to focus on short, sweet, and engaging options that make summer math practice easy for both students and parents.

Since the goal is to review, I look through the resources I have on hand to create a summer math review packet for my students. Here are some of my favorite activities for summer math review.

1. Reuse Math Centers and Task Cards

Math Centers

My first tip for preventing the summer slide is to reuse math centers and task cards from our classroom activities. Centers are a great way to keep middle schoolers engaged and learning over the summer. They typically involve a variety of activities that students can complete independently, or in small groups. They’re designed to reinforce key math concepts, so students can continue to build their math knowledge, even when they’re not in the classroom.

From color by code to interactive task cards, these activities are designed to be fun and engaging while still challenging students to use their math skills. Plus, they’re easy to print off and put into a resource packet. This makes it easy for your students to use them at home or on the go.

These multiplication task cards give your students the feeling of playing a game instead of practicing math facts preventing the summer slide.

Task Cards

From my center activity bundles, I will choose task cards to add to the packet. Instead of adding full sets of task cards to every student’s packet, I will put in 3-5 task cards from multiple math skills. Students can grab 2 or 3 task cards for a quick review of different skills.

Since task cards are available for many different skills, it is easy to provide students with a variety of topics. Since I use task cards frequently in my classroom for movement purposes, students are familiar with them and know just what to do. Students will receive the task cards in a packet (not cut out) and a recording page to write down answers. I will also provide loose-leaf paper for them to use to show their work.

If you have specific math skills in mind that you want your students to be reviewing over the summer, visit Cognitive Cardio Math, where I have pages of resources, from task cards for tried and true centers, to digital activities that cover a whole spectrum of math skills.

2. Math Truth or Dare Games

Gamifying summer math review is another great way to get students to review math over the summer and avoid the summer slide. Math Truth or Dare games are a great option to use with friends or to add to your students’ next family game night! These games challenge students’ math knowledge and problem-solving skills in a fun and interactive way.

Digital Truth or Dare games like these will help your middle school students get in math practice over the summer which are helpful for preventing the summer slide.

Each game includes a set of task cards with math problems and challenges. Students work through the cards, earning points for correct answers and completing truth or dare questions.

The “truth” cards are basic true or false questions that focus on key vocabulary and the basics of the math concept. The “dare” cards are more challenging and have the player solve a more challenging math problem. These games are perfect for small groups or families. And. . . they are ready to play at home, in the park, on an airplane, or even at a restaurant.

I have loved sending these games home with my students! It’s a win-win situation because they are practicing their math facts while spending time with their families or friends. I love hearing the stories when they return for the beginning of the school year about how they taught their family members a trick or that a younger sibling was excited to learn a new math concept.

Many math concepts are included in my already-made Truth or Dare Games. I also have a blank template for Truth or Dare Games so you can customize a game that meets the needs of your students. You can also use the blank template and have students create a Truth or Dare Game at the end of the school year that can be sent home for summer practice.

3. Seasonal Activities

It’s important to create buy-in and get your students on board to complete summer math review activities. The more your students are interested in the activity, the more willing they will be to complete it.

Preventing the summer slide can be artsy too with these color by code pages your students will actually want to complete this summer.

I have had great success with incorporating color-by-number activities to review math concepts! There is something about adding a theme that catches your students’ attention. They become more intrigued. Their brains translate the theme as something fun and that encourages them to focus on that task. Plus, coloring is a relaxing activity that helps students quiet their thoughts and focus on the task of creating a picture through review problems.

On each color-by-number activity page, students solve problems to bring a picture to life. Typically, there are about 15 – 20 problems students will need to solve, centered around the focused math concept. After solving the problem, they look for their solution on the coloring page. Once they locate their solution, they color in the spot with the designated color. A bonus for these activities is that they are self-checking. If they can’t find their solution, they’ll need to return to their work, investigate, and see if they can find their error.

I have a no-prep Summer Color By Number resource that helps my students review a mix of math concepts:

  • Subtracting 5-digit numbers
  • Adding decimals
  • Multiplying whole numbers
  • Multiplying decimals
  • Dividing whole numbers
  • Evaluating exponents
  • Solving word problems
  • Solving proportions
  • Finding GCF
  • Solving one-step equations

4. Don’t Forget Technology

A fourth tip for preventing the summer slide is to engage your students with safe, digital options for review. Some of our students may have access to digital devices at home or may be able to visit a library. Instead of having them take on the task of searching for safe, legitimate online resources, I have created a resource that has some free resources for students to access.

Cognitive Cardio Middle School Math Digital Activities was created to offer a variety of math activities for middle school students. These activities are designed to be engaging and challenging while also helping students build their math skills and knowledge. From algebraic equations to converting fractions to decimals and percents, the activities cover a wide range of topics and concepts.

The site includes a variety of free math games that your students can access during the summer or any time of the year. Additionally, the website offers a paid membership which includes access to all of the math games on the site. The site includes digital math activities such as Math Truth or Dare games, flashcards, Jeopardy-type games, math task cards with mini-lessons and quizzes, and color by answer. These resources are designed to be fun and interactive while still challenging students to use their math skills. Overall, Cognitive Cardio Middle School Math Digital Activities is a great resource for students, teachers, and parents looking to prevent the summer slide and keep math skills sharp over the summer break.

5. I Spy…Math in the World Around Me

As math teachers, our favorite question to hear is, “Are we EVER going to use this in life?” I think if we all kept a jar and placed $1 in it every time we are asked, we could all go on a cruise together! The last of my tips for preventing the summer slide is to help kids answer this question by finding math in the real world.

Math is all around us, from the geometry of buildings and bridges to the statistics of sports and games. We built a fence around our garden the other week, and now I’m planning the design of the inside and where the plants will go according to how much space they need. Talk about using math!! Encouraging middle school students to look for math in their everyday lives helps them see the relevance of math.

I create a choice board menu that I staple on the front of their summer resource packet for math. It changes each year based on what I think my students need to keep reviewing over the summer. The menu will have three rows and three columns to make nine activity choices. I challenge my students to complete at least three of the activities.

For example, I sometimes challenge my students to calculate the area and perimeter of a room in their house (or a garden if they have one!). I ask them to keep track of their favorite athlete’s statistics throughout the summer. I also encourage them to plan and budget for a summer activity they would like to do (like a trip to the beach or a day at an amusement park). These are just a few examples that you might find on my Math in the Real World Choice Board.

The activities can be as simple or as creative as you want them to be. The main goal is that you choose activities that are helping your students review previously studied math concepts and are helping them to apply the concepts to real-world situations they may encounter.

Ready, Set, Go!

Ultimately, preventing the summer slide in math is all about keeping students engaged and motivated to learn. Using these tips for preventing the summer slide can help your students be better prepared for the new year. By finding math in the real world and using resources like those mentioned above, middle school students can keep their math skills fresh over the summer break. They will arrive back to school confident and ready for a new year of math. With a little creativity and the right tools, math can be fun and engaging, even during summer break.

Save These Tips for Preventing the Summer Slide!

Not ready to tackle this item on your to-do list? No worries! Just pin this post to your favorite classroom Pinterest board, and when you are ready to start planning and preparing summer resources for your students, you’ll be able to come right back here!


Welcome to Cognitive Cardio Math! I’m Ellie, a wife, mom, grandma, and dog ‘mom,’ and I’ve spent just about my whole life in school! With nearly 30 years in education, I’ve taught:

  • All subject areas in 4th and 5th grades
  • Math, ELA, and science in 6th grade (middle school)

I’ve been creating resources for teachers since 2012 and have worked in the elearning industry for about five years as well!

If you’re looking for ideas and resources to help you teach math (and a little ELA), I can help you out!



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