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Preventing Summer Brain Drain

In a recent study, researchers from the University of Virginia, the University of Tennessee, and Johns Hopkins University discover that children of different social economic status lose some of their learning during the hot summer months away from school. Regardless of family earning, most students lose 2 to 2.5 months of mathematical skills they learned during the school year. Specifically, many low-income students can expect to lose up to three months of reading skills while some students from middle-class families actually improve their reading achievements over the summer.

Why is there a pronounced reduction in math skills among students of all social economic status? Researchers believe that the decrease in math knowledge is most likely due to the nature of the subject. Math consists greatly of remembering facts and knowledge based on specific procedures. The brain, however, has a much easier time remembering general concepts rather than facts and formulas that mathematics greatly requires. Another reason for this reduction is due to the fact that schools and public libraries often place a stronger emphasis on summer reading than on summer math project.

The availability of books at home and life experiences contribute strongly to the disparity in reading skills between middle and low-income students. Researchers found that middle-class families have more books at home and thus their children read more. Other proposed that children develop better reading skills when they have relevant background knowledge to the topics in books. Because middle-class families are able to provide these life experiences to their children through summer camp, vacations, and other enrichment activities, middle-class children have a better time understanding what they read.

To prevent learning losses, parents should encourage their children to be more active in the summer. Children should do a little bit of math each week either through a summer program or at home. Parents should try to have more books in the house and provide their son and daughter with plenty of summer enrichment programs.



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