Parents are the Secret Weapon Against Summer Learning Loss


Summer learning loss plagues educators from year to year, seeing hard-fought lessons and work evaporate over the course of a vacation, and making it necessary to take students back through the learning of the previous year.

It’s a frustrating, time-consuming problem.

But there is one resource outside the school walls you might be able to rely on to stem the learning leak:

Parents are pivotal in preventing summer learning loss

When the role of the teacher ends for the summer, parents, and/or other significant adults can help fill the void to reduce or prevent the impact of the summer learning loss – and the studies show just how instrumental they can be:

Parents’ influence on educational outcomes

Income, occupation, where families live, and parents’ level of education all have an impact – and readily explainable impact – on a child’s progress. These challenges can be accounted for but can be almost impossible to address.

However, there is one aspect of parent’s impact on student learning which can be used to prevent Summer learning loss – confidence.

In the relationship between yourself, your students and their parents, students are more likely to weigh their parent’s perception of their mathematical ability more highly than teacher perception.

(London Review of Education)

But it’s not just student confidence you have to worry about – parents need a boost too!

Mathematics anxiety rubs off

For parents that may not have been the best around numbers, mathematics anxiety is a real and transferable phenomenon. A study of 868 children found that:

‘…when parents frequently help their children with math homework, increased math anxiety in the parents leads to decreased end-of-year math achievement in their children’.

It should be noted that it was only if math-anxious parents got directly involved with homework was there any negative feedback.

(Association of Psychological Science)

Don’t fret – this can be easily turned into an advantage for you to help and prepare parents (check out our tip below on boosting confidence).

Early educational support has a deep impact

Turns out the earlier parents get involved, the better – children who had more parent support between preschool to grade 3 were likely to perform better than their peers; as an added bonus, this advantage remains for years afterwards.

(Journal of Social Issues)

So we know parents can have a significant impact on their kids learning – but how can they help with Summer learning loss?

Preparing parents for Summer learning loss

The good news is you don’t have to turn every parent into a fully-fledged teacher – you just have to give them a little nudge of encouragement to help them over the line.

Here’s a few ways you can help them:

Build everyone’s confidence

With any approach you take with parents, build their confidence and try to ease their stress when it comes to home-supported learning. Let them know that it’s ok they’re not mathematics masters, and give them the chance to learn what their kids need to know.

How you can build parent confidence

  • Treat them as you would any learner
  • Reinforce how important they are to their kids’ success
  • Guide them to helpful resources

Communicate with parents over the holidays

Don’t worry – you won’t have to send full lesson plans, detailed diagrams or lengthy FAQs – you can try something as simple as a text.

A study by Brown University found that by encouraging parents to combat literacy summer learning loss by texting them was able to reduce the amount of learning loss. (Harvard Education)

How you can communicate with parents

You don’t need to be on first name terms with all your students’ parents to reach out – think about:

  • Setting up a Facebook group for parents
  • Sending a weekly email
  • Starting a WhatsApp, Messenger, or other chat group
  • A class blog (e.g. to share holiday experiences)

Recommended reading

Reading lists are a great way of helping parents find texts that their kids will actively engage with, mixing genuine enjoyment and education.

How to choose a recommended reading list

  • Ensuring a range difficulty and intensity
  • Have varied genres and topics
  • Use online texts or those that are freely available in libraries are even better (this is especially helpful for low SES students).

For younger students, you can suggest parents read them bedtime mathematics books, a practice that seems to have magic levels of effectiveness:

One study of 587 first-grade children found that being read short numerical story problems before bed significantly increased mathematics achievement – and this was moreso for parents who experience mathematics anxiety.


Need more help preventing summer learning loss?

Check out our curriculum-aligned learning programs for mathematics and literacy. They’re full of engaging activities students can do independently to keep their skills sharp over summer break.


Keep mathematics and literacy sharp over the summer break with our
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Intergenerational Effects of Parents’ Math Anxiety on Children’s Math Achievement and Anxiety – Psychological Science

Can Schools Empower Parents to Prevent Summer Learning Loss? A Text Messaging Field Experiment to Promote Literacy Skills – Harvard Education

Effects of the Home Learning Environment and Preschool Center Experience upon Literacy and Numeracy Development in Early Primary School – Journal of Social Issues

Intergenerational Effects of Parents’ Math Anxiety on Children’s Math Achievement and Anxiety – Psychological Science

Math at home adds up to achievement in school – ScienceMag

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