June 2021

Fearing the "Summer Slide"? Check Out These Free Online Educational Resources

June 9, 2021

clip art of children surrounding a computer screen with creativity toolsSummer 2021 will be critical for recouping learning losses. Educators and parents are entering the summer months fearing “summer slide” - one that might be greatly exacerbated by COVID. If you plan and invest in this summer, your children will come out of the pandemic stronger.

NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association), a national learning assessment organization, conducted one of the earliest studies on COVID-related learning loss. Based on fall 2020 data on the NWEA MAP Growth tests over 4.4 million 3-8 graders from about 8,000 U.S. schools, the study, conducted by Kuhfeld et al. (2020), reveals a deep decline in math - about five to 10 percentile points lower compared to fall 2019; the reading scores, however, were comparable to the prior year’s, which is a huge relief. A similar study was undertaken by Renaissance Learning, which reveals a similar pattern. Based on data collected from the first half of the 2020–2021 school year from 3.8 million students in grades 1–8, Renaissance’s (2021) report shows that students were about 4-7 weeks behind in math and were close to expectations for reading (+/- 3 weeks).

The common finding of the big recession in math is concerning. As Kuhfeld et al. (2020) emphasized in the NWEA study, equitable access to high-quality math learning is more imperative than ever before. Recognizing the need to combat the significant learning loss in math, many learning technology companies, education organizations, and publishers have stepped forward to make their paid learning resources free to the public.

The purpose of this article is to curate math learning resources that are standards-aligned, pedagogically sound, technologically engaging, and accessible to all learners. Following the math resources are select comprehensive digital curriculum websites that encompass math, language arts, science, and social studies. Resources on coding - an emerging skill area that will be essential in K-12 curriculum, and a comprehensive website on virtual summer camps for 2021 are also included. Students, parents and educators will find these resources handy as they plan for summer learning and enrichment activities.


Platform + Description
SplashLearn  Completely free. PreK-5. SplashLearn is a well-known and widely-used game-based math learning platform. It features thousands of interactive games to engage PreK-5 students in practicing and mastering key math skills. It is currently used by 40 million elementary school students.
ReflexMath Targeting grades 2-6, ReflexMath provides game-based math learning activities to help elementary school students practice basic math skills in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. It provides 30-day free access.
MathGames Completely free. Grades PreK-8. As the website name suggests, this website features fun math games that are organized by grades, skills, game types, and standards. Students practice math skills online and they can also download or create custom math worksheets.
Prodigy Completely free. Grades 1-8. Prodigy is a game-based learning platform that consists of over 1,500 curriculum-aligned math skills. Students practice and improve math skills through playing engaging math games.
Gizmos For grades 3-12. Gizmos provides a collection of over 400 online simulation-based lessons, activities, games for math and science learning. It provides 30-day free trial and full access to a rotating collection of Gizmos.
Mathigon Completely free. For middle and high school students. Mathigon is an award-winning free online math learning resource that provides an interactive, personalized math learning experience. Lessons, concepts, and activities are illustrated with engaging visuals.
Polyup Completely free. 3-12 grades. Polyup is a virtual math playground where students can play math games to practice math skills and explore the fundamental mathematical relationships. PolyUp 3D is the newest system where students can use math skills to play with 3D objects.
Illumination Grades PreK-12. Developed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), Illumination provides standards-based lesson plans (over 700) for teachers and parents and interactive learning activities (over 50) for students to play on desktop and tablet.


Digital Curriculum Sites

Platform + Description
ABCmouse.com The leading comprehensive digital learning company for kids ages 2–8. It currently contains more than 10,000 learning activities and 850 lessons on reading, math, science, music, and art. 30-day free access.
Adventure Academy For children who have outgrown ABCmouse, Adventure Academy features massively multiplayer online (MMO) games to children ages 8-13, and students learn reading, science, math while playing MMO games. 30-day free access.
IXL Learning As one of the most widely used digital learning platforms, IXL provides a comprehensive K-12 curriculum, covering math, language arts, science, and social studies. IXL supports personalized learning paths. 30-day trial is available to classroom teachers.
Renaissance  A well-known and widely used learning assessment company for K-12, Renaissance provides completely free summer learning resources to help combat the learning losses. They have developed products and resources dedicated to summer learning, including Freckle (K-12 math, English, science, social studies), Lalilo (K-2 reading), and myON (digital books).
Khan Academy A well-known and trusted online learning platform for math, Khan Academy has expanded its content areas, providing video lessons and practice activities in grammar, science, history, SAT, and AP. Completely free for learners and teachers.


clip art image of boy and coding languages in blue tonesCoding

Syracuse University’s online Master’s in Computer Engineering program

Scratch, Swift, and Tynker are three popular coding programs for K-12 students, which were introduced in my article on 2020 summer learning.

Syracuse University’s online Master’s in Computer Engineering program recently compiled and published a comprehensive list and analysis of coding apps/platforms for kids - “Kid-Friendly Coding Languages and Learning Tools.”




Kuhfeld, M., Tarasawa, B., Johnson, A., Ruzek, E., & Lewis, K. (2020). Learning during COVID-19: Initial findings on students’ reading and math achievement and growth. NWEA. https://www.ewa.org/sites/main/files/file-attachments/learning_during_covid-19_brief_nwea_nov2020_final.pdf?1606835922 

Renaissance. (2021). How kids are performing: Tracking the midyear impact of COVID-19 on reading and mathematics achievement. Renaissance. https://www.renaissance.com/how-kids-are-performing


Author of the article, Dr. Jennifer Qian, is the lead of Master’s in Educational Technology program, School of Education, College of Human Sciences and Education, where she is the 2020 Distinguished Teaching Award recipient. Her recent publications include the following books, Teaching, Learning, and Leading with Computer Simulations (2020), Advancing Educational Research with Emerging Technology (2019), Technology Leadership for Innovation in Higher Education (2019), and Integrating Multi-User Virtual Environments in Modern Classrooms (2018). Dr. Qian is the Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Innovative Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.