Math Reflections with Dr. E (May 2021)

Summer Programs and Accelerating Learning

Ah, the memories of summer! Whether you call it summer school, extended school year, summer academy, summer program, or something else, the learning that happens over the coming months is a critical part of the year. Working with a select group of students in hopes of filling in the blanks and accelerating their learning will always have a place in my heart.

Despite the ongoing effects of COVID-19, summer learning looks like it’s going to be much the same as years past. Some programs are focused on remediation, some on acceleration and others are pure recreation. I am starting to see a common theme of ensuring kids (and educators!) are able to have fun in any summer program — because the last school year was so difficult for everyone.

It’s exciting to see more folks recognizing that learning can happen and be fun and engaging at the same time. And my hat and sincerest thanks go out to all of the educators; teachers, paras, administrators who are working hard to provide a meaningful learning experience in whatever weeks are available this summer.

In early May, the TMU team hosted “Three Best Practices for Effective Math Teaching This Summer,” a webinar focused on what that kind of summer learning could look like. Our main message was that great instruction can still happen if we stick with what we all know is a solid model.

Accelerating learning this summer is about doing much of what we do during the regular school-looking at the end goals. In this case, what do students need to know in order to walk into their first day of the 21/22 school year as ready to learn as possible.

We do this by making decisions about what students should be learning daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly based on the student and the goals that are appropriate for them for mathematics and other subjects. Those decisions are based on a process of Assess, Plan, Teach, repeat based on the data. (Watch our summer webinar to see exactly how we suggest doing this.)


  • Assess: We use all of the assessment data at hand that is pertinent-summative, formative; formal and informal.
  • Plan: We plan and determine what to teach, decide how much time we have and how much time to spend on the skill or concept, and then develop the delivery plan.
  • Teach: We teach in whatever environment we have and choose the representational model of the math we want the student to be using- not ready to work full in the abstract with numbers and symbols on paper? How much time do we have the student spend in small group or 1:1 working with the pictorial and concrete representation- drawing out the problem or building it with manipulatives. The research-proven CRA strategy.

As educators, this is what we do, all the while sifting through the research-based practices and selecting those that are appropriate at the time and with that student or students and where they are on their learning path. The evidence-based practices we use will include deliberate practice, scaffolded learning, engaging the family and community in the learning process, infusing SEL strategies in order to decrease anxiety and stress, appropriately using technology alongside print and manipulatives, selecting whole or small group or 1:1 instruction, etc.

That is how we will spend our time this summer-accelerating learning for our students. Using the same Assess, Plan, Teach and then repeat cycle that we use during the school year. We will accelerate learning so that our students are as ready as possible to walk in the building on the first day of school as ready as humanly possible. And we will select instructional strategies from our professional toolkits that are evidence-based and appropriate. It is that thinking through what is needed and selecting the right tool that is the secret sauce- the deliberate actions of a thoughtful educator.

Happy summer everyone!!!