"Slide Into Summer" with Engaging, Low-Prep Math

This End of Year Math Review activity for 4th grade or 5th grade is a celebration that I just love having towards the end of every school year. It’s perfect to “blow off” some stress and steam with some intense math review in the week or two before testing OR as a way to keep your students engaged in learning and reviewing their math skills before the last days of school.

In this post, I share how I used engaging, challenging summer-themed task cards as a collaborative review activity with my 4th grade and 5th grade math block. If you only teach 4th grade or 5th grade students, you can still incorporate the partner aspect of this activity. If you teach math for the whole grade level, I’d highly recommend enlisting your colleagues to block off an hour or so for a three day Summer-Themed Math Review Extravaganza! Your students can benefit from being partnered with students across the grade level and you will love having multiple teachers to help you review necessary math concepts with your students. In addition, the opportunity to celebrate together with a summer-themed lunch is such a treat to keep everyone motivated to work hard and excited to come to school during these last few weeks!

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You know the feeling…It's getting close to the end of the year and you probably feel all of this pressure to end it with a BANG!

But, if you are like me, you just might be really tired and zapped of all energy! It takes everything I have to clean out my lunchbox each night and get it ready for the next day. That snooze button lets me sleep in a little later each morning, and my summer yoga-pants style is calling my name. At this time of the year, I’m also spending a good 60-80% of the school day focused on test-prep, and I barely have any brain space left to think about what to do after testing.

I've found that if I don't keep the engagement up at this time of the year, I go from "teacher" to "babysitter" and "behavior manager" in 5 seconds flat! And, NO ONE with a teaching degree wants to feel like that!

Well, I just might have the idea for you that will be relevant, curriculum related, and keep your 4th and 5th grade kiddos busy and engaged for a few days. This idea is great for before testing preparation {as I'm going to be using it} or post test-prep when you've got that {frightening} free time with a bunch of 10 and 11 year olds!

Years ago, I created a set of Summer-Themed math task cards to help my looping kiddos review our 4th grade math concepts at the beginning of our 5th grade. The summer theme was my way of helping them "hold on to summer" a few weeks longer, ease back into the school routine, and to assess how much they had retained from their 4th grade math learning. The set of 60 task cards is divided into three sets of 20 cards each focused on Numbers and Operations in Base 10, Fractions, and Customary Measurement.

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This time around, I’m using my summer themed task cards as a way to help my 4th and 5th grade math students "Slide into Summer." I decided to go big and make it a fun event, rather than just another day of solving word problems. (This year, I teach a block of 4th grade math and a block of 5th grade math. The 5th grade teacher and myself agreed on two days that we could combine our classes, partner them up, and have our “summer-themed” math review session.

Here are the details about how we ran our Summer Themed Math Activity:

We held this event for two days during the week before our End of Grade testing began.

Partnering Students

We partnered each 4th grader up with a 5th grader so that collaboration and discussion would occur while students worked on the task cards. {We only have one class per grade level, so this was for a total of 40 students. You could partner up across your own grade level in 4th or 5th grade}. To create partnerships, I thought about how to evenly match students so that they could get the support they needed from one another, but also so that one partner was not more skilled or faster at working than the other. I have to say, I don't think I could have made better partnerships (and some groups of threes) and I truly think it is worth the time to think about partnerships and strategically pair students up ahead of time. Working with someone kept all students working hard and engaged. And, let's be honest—with 40 kids and only three adults, it would’ve been nearly impossible for us to be the ones in charge of answering everyone's questions.

Making it a CELEBRATION!

The 5th grade teacher and I decided to make this end of year math review activity even more rewarding for our students by adding a summer lunch buffet to our second day. We wanted to culminate the event, reward students for all of their hard work, and let them blow off some steam before sitting for days in state testing mode. {We also wanted to use this celebration as a carrot to keep them focused on working hard!}


To launch our themed event, I sent out an email to parents and shared it with students to get everyone excited. I told them "Grab your flip-flops, throw on your leis, and dig out those Hawaiian shirts or flowered sundresses." I asked for parents to send in sandwiches, fruit kabobs, veggies, some sweet goodies, and tropical drinks.

Then, we decked out the classroom in summer decor to get us in the summer mood. The Dollar Store is your friend if you want to throw this themed end of year math activity! They always have great stuff for summer-themed parties ! I rolled out blue butcher paper at the front of my classroom to lay out the ocean. Students brought in beach towels and beach chairs. They wore their sunglasses and summer hats both days and were ready to go! 

For decorations,  I wanted to spend as little money setting the stage as possible. I had around a $10 budget (haha, so small—just to see if I could pull it off I guess!). I found this awesome umbrella at Five Below for 5 bucks. {They had a few different designs, but I loved this one the most.} This flamingo umbrella made such an impact that I wished I had bought two. I also picked up a beach ball table cloth for our back table and two paper table settings with the ice cream, fruity drink, and watermelon at the Dollar Store. I bought a lei for myself to wear both days and a parent donated a set of leis for the class to wear.

If you’d rather get your summer-themed transformation props shipped to you, I’ve done some searching and made an amazon list of awesome items to grab for this activity!

slide into summer end of year  with math task cards lei photo.jpg

We spent two days solving math problems (and truly could have used three days) that helped us review key math concepts and get more practice with reading word problems. All of my students loved this math celebration and many said they wished we had "beached out" for math all year!

I personally loved watching my 4th and 5th graders work together and teach one another what we had learned this year as they worked on the word problem task cards. The discussions I heard as they read the problems and worked together were awesome! Little miniature teachers were teaching one another all over the classroom!

If you need an easy, engaging, and worth your time math activity for the end of the year, grab these summer-themed word problem task cards for your math time as you wrap up your math test prep or the last few days of the school year!

Are you interested in how I culminate the end of the school year with my students? Read all about my "This Year is In the Bag" writing activity that helps us prepare a memory sharing celebration for the last day of school.