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Summer Learning More Important Than Ever Before

By Cynthia Hunton

It’s been a year! What started as an abrupt two-week emergency shut down in March of 2020 continues to impact learning one year later. Teachers, students and parents were unprepared for the plunge into remote learning, and some still understandably struggle to adapt to this new way of teaching and learning. Despite the progress made in virtual instruction, research shows that students, even with quality online instruction and supportive learning environments at home, are still falling behind their expected academic targets. These deficits, known as the COVID Slide, are impacting almost all students and are surprisingly more evident in math skills than in language arts skills.

The early data points to some clear sources of the “COVID Slide.” For example, research shows that parents feel confident with encouraging reading, providing books and discussing reading materials with their child. However, math skills and the more current math teaching methods confound many parents. They feel less prepared or competent to tackle the math skills challenging their student, so students fall behind and lose confidence. Additionally, remote learning platforms and COVID restrictions make it difficult to effectively teach math concepts and assess individual student mastery. Needed interventions may come too late or not at all. When students sense that they are falling behind, their math anxiety begins to build - making it more difficult to be focused and motivated. All these issues contribute to a math learning deficit, which has life-long impacts unless addressed quickly.

Parents can help students now by:

● Monitoring student performance and attitude about math work.

● Staying in close communication with the teacher.

● Demonstrating a positive attitude about math assignments, offering support and guidance.

● Reviewing instructions with their student and asking how they should begin solving problems.

● Showing how to draw or illustrate problems to make them easier to solve.

● Helping them find similar problems in their classwork or online to direct them.

● Assessing if answers are reasonable or can be found in a different way.

● Resisting the temptation to do the work for them.

Remember that math is sequential. Skills build one upon another, so if a child falls behind it is extremely difficult to catch up until they have fully grasped the necessary foundational skills. If left unaddressed, this year’s math deficiencies will make it extremely unlikely that next year’s math skills will be understood or mastered. To avoid this snowball effect, seek help right away. Sylvan is here for you year-round!

Now, more than ever before, summer learning needs to be a priority, not an afterthought or a luxury. Parents will need to plan for more than the normal few trips to the library or 1 week summer camps to ensure their children begin the new school year confidently. Unless a student’s skill gaps are vigorously addressed, the impact of the COVID Slide added to the normal summer learning loss means students will begin the new school year woefully under prepared for the academic challenges of a new grade level.

Summer learning has a positive impact academically and emotionally as students build skills that increase confidence and motivation. Students become proficient problem solvers, strategically applying math concepts to real life experiences in preparation for tougher course work in high school and college. Parents should plan now to include summer learning in their children’s summer schedules.

Research shows a summer of personalized tutoring - just a few hours each week - can equate to months of normal classroom work. The most successful programs include assessing where a student is and addressing her specific needs at her pace with engaging and interactive activities to build strong foundational skills. Sylvan Learning has been doing that for over 40 years,

Sylvan’s personalized academic programs help reinforce skills, providing a deeper dive to develop a stronger foundation and enrichment. Personalized tutoring at Sylvan can condense a large amount of material into a small number of sessions by adapting and adjusting to the student’s preferred learning style and needs, all while providing interesting, interactive lessons in a motivational environment.

Cynthia Hunton has worked for four different Sylvan Learning Centers since 1992 as a tutor, virtual instructor, camp designer and instructor, seminar designer and leader, testing coordinator, director of education, director, and marketing analyst. Learn more at


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