I can see it now: that first morning of summer vacation, your kids come rushing down the stairs for breakfast, pleading, “Math! Yippee! Sweet dear fractions and decimals! Please—can we solve equations all day?” It could happen! Or not.

Funny thing about math—it doesn’t elicit the same excitement as, say, a trip to Disney World or the sound of the ice cream truck. No one seems to miss regrouping or finding place values when school is out and the pool beckons. But when September rolls around, many students are suddenly sorry. Memory for math facts or long division may be rusty, and the rules for simplifying fractions may be history (like the ice cream man).

Need some fresh ideas for making math a happy part of summer? Try these, and stay involved so your kids will think of them as fun activities, not schoolwork:

Math for Younger Students

  • Geometry geniuses. Drag out the wooden blocks and let kids rediscover the joy of building. This is great for visual discrimination and geometry skills.
  • Moto math. Even if you only have a little time, give your child mental math problems. You could ask, “What numbers added together make nine?” or “How many cookies will I have if four friends each give me two?”
  • Guess the digit in a minute. This can be played any time and almost anywhere. Think of a number, give kids a range, and then let them ask yes or no questions for clues (Is it even? Is it greater than 7?).
  • That’s a fact, Jack. To practice math facts, break out the crayons, markers, fruit chews or M&Ms, and scratch paper. They practice fact families by writing four colorful math sentences for each fact (2+4=6, 4+2=6, 6-2=4, and 6-4=2). They get one treat for each completed “family.”

Math for Older Students

  • Rip, review, & Rice Krispies treats. Snag a used textbook comparable to the one from school (eBay, Amazon, school) and tear out end-of-chapter reviews or tests. (Answer keys are often in back.) Why tear them out? A single page won’t overwhelm like the whole heavy volume can. Assign one test per week, pair it with Rice Krispies treats or a favorite snack, and supervise (maybe organize kitchen cabinets or clean out the fridge while kids work nearby).
  • Pull a Bobby Flay. Cook or bake together, discussing quantities in the recipes. Let them do the measuring, and quiz them while they work (How many cups in a quart? Quarts in a gallon? Ounces in a quarter pound?).
  • Unplug with abandon. Spend some time with board games as a rare tech-free opportunity to connect with your kids. Yahtzee, Uno, Othello, Top it, Mancala, Connect Four, Pentago, cribbage, and blackjack are a few possible games to play.
  • Gorgeous girly-math. Check out actress Danica McKellar’s book series, “Math Doesn’t Suck” from the library. Her creative approach to engage tween and teen girls may expand your child’s vision of math.

Math for All Ages

  • Take it to the Net. Check out websites such as aaamath.com, where you can click on your child’s grade for appropriate drills. It’s fun, interactive, and painless!

Michele Ranard is a math tutor, professional counselor, and freelance writer.