Perceptions on summer math packets vs. online refresher

Is it possible to transform our summer math packets into a more engaging, interactive experience?

At our last curriculum committee meeting I pitched the idea of retooling our summer math packets by offering an optional digital learning experience using Canvas. While there’s little debate that summer slide occurs, are math packets the answer? Until this year we had no alternative, but since our district has invested in Canvas and students in grades 6-12 are now 1:1 iPad, we now have the ability to leverage the technology and create an alternative that is hopefully better than worksheets.

To plant the seed I created a dummy Canvas course (feel free to poke around and enroll –even use a fake email and username if you want to remain anonymous). It contains one module on equations which consists of:


Here’s a section from the Overview page.homepage

Most of my colleagues haven’t dabbled in Canvas to the extent I have, so I merely wanted to present a framework which is a work in progress. While we tabled the idea for this summer, we still had a lively discussion. There was a lot a conversation centering on whether creating a self-paced course was worth the time and effort. Would students do it, would they wait till the last minute, would they take the time to watch the videos and do any extra work, would they complete an optional task? There were also questions on grading optional tasks, where would we find the time to create it, and would this minimize the summer slide.

With all the talk about students’ work habits, I realized I needed to get their input. We have developed some perceptions about our students so we need to either confirm or refute them.

I surveyed 103 7th grade standard math students, representing four classes. Not included in the 7th grade survey were two pre-algebra math classes and one algebra class. One colleague and I surveyed each of our two standard classes using Google Forms. I did my best to create an unbiased survey, but you’ll see where I missed the boat.


What pleasantly surprised me were the number of students who would voluntarily watch a tutorial if they needed a refresher. The next set of results surprised me a bit as well.


Seventy-five percent said they would not voluntarily complete extra worksheets if they needed a refresher. Not surprising for seventh graders. Is there a way to change this mindset? The second question in the above image is not reliable. While I’m impressed that 80% said they would go above and beyond if the task interested them, the response choices were too limiting. The manner in which the students completed the packet was of particular interest. Nearly 20% waited until the end of summer while nearly 60% completed the packet a bit at a time throughout the summer. This is quite different than what the teachers expected.

In the graph below about 68% think apps and internet resources are somewhat to very valuable to learning concepts. It is here where I would want to leverage the technology. GeoGebra, Desmos, and other virtual manipulatives would make an nice addition to summer review. So would other online activities such as SolveMe Puzzles, Refraction, Lure of the Labyrinth, 101 Questions, etc. I could even include puzzles and strategy games like Game About Squares, 2048, Set, and KenKen.


The above graph surprised me and it didn’t surprise me. I looked at the spreadsheet to see who answered a 1 or 2. The students I had who disagreed had strong math skills so perhaps they should experience something more. And if that’s the case, shouldn’t all students have the opportunity to experience something more?

survey 4

For the last graph, sixty percent said between 1/2 hour to one hour per week is a reasonable amount of time to spend on summer math review. Nearly every student who chose “Other” suggest no summer packet. One student said 15 minutes per week, and another said 1 page per day.

At the end of the survey I gave students an opportunity to share “anything else.” Overwhelmingly they said they didn’t want to do the packet. I get it they’re kids. Does that mean they also wouldn’t want to do a summer review on Canvas? Probably, although they did not specifically articulate that in the open ended response.

What to make of all of this.

Is it possible to make summer review more engaging and interactive? Absolutely.

Are we there yet? No, but maybe this time next year we will be.

I would love to learn how your school handles summer review. I do think an online format can offer more–if done properly.