Combating summer learning loss

3 min read

What is ‘summer learning loss’?

Let’s start by using running as an example. Have you ever taken a break from running? All that hard work pushing your body faster, further and then suddenly, after a small break, your accomplishments and confidence all disappear. Well, our brains work in a very similar way.

The term ‘summer learning loss’, also known as ‘summer slippage’, is used to refer to the loss of skills and knowledge that can occur during the summer holiday. Not only can summer learning loss put children at a disadvantage for the beginning of the school year, but September can often be all about getting children back up to where they were in May last year.

A new academic year is a fresh start. Those children who make a flying start to the autumn term are often those who carry that confidence through the whole year, perhaps moving up a maths group or performing better than expected in early assessments.

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The research behind ‘summer learning loss’

Extensive research has gone into summer learning loss, where findings show that, on average, children score one tenth of a standard deviation lower after the summer holiday compared to their score prior to the summer holiday, which is equivalent to approximately one month of instruction (Cooper, Nye, Charlton, Lindsay, & Greathouse, 1996).

Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent book, Outliers, discusses studies on the achievement gap between students belonging to different socio-economic backgrounds. Findings show that all children, regardless of background, made similar improvement during term time. It was during the long summer break that differences in attainment occurred, causing summer slippage.

Children from wealthier backgrounds had better access to the kinds of activities that kept their brains active, be that summer camps, physical activity clubs, or formal tutoring, whereas children from low-income families were often mentally and physically unstimulated.

The effect of using a mathematics educational app over the summer

From July to September 2016 and 2017, scholars from the University of Bath investigated summer learning loss and whether DoodleMaths, a personalised learning app-based programme, could prevent it. One hundred and twenty-eight transitioning Year 6 children across the UK took part in the study to investigate if DoodleMaths can mitigate summer learning loss. The results were significant: 


“Children using DoodleMaths for just 20 minutes weekly during July and August were four times less likely to suffer from summer learning loss, and on returning to school in September, their scores average 9.4% more than their counterparts who didn’t use DoodleMaths.” 

Lyons, S & Joiner, R, University of Bath, 2016


Summer is also a perfect time to create a healthy habit for maths using DoodleMaths before getting off to a flying start to the new academic year in September!

The Summer #DoodleMathsChallenge

DoodleMaths can make all the difference when it comes to summer learning. This University of Bath research forms the foundation of our annual Summer Challenge, which addresses the concern over summer learning loss that both parents and teachers face.

The Challenge is designed for all children to combat summer learning loss through short spells of regular engagement with the app throughout the holidays. Check out what parents have said about the Summer Challenge:  


“Thanks DoodleMaths for keeping our daughter motivated with her maths over the summer holidays. The DoodleMaths Summer Challenge has kept her interest!”

Richard, Parent


“It was back-to-school day yesterday, and thanks to DoodleMaths there’s been no summer slippage! Well done to our hard-working girls for all that effort over the holidays!”

Peter, Parent

  DoodleMaths Challenge   

Article by Laura Young-Santos

Doodle empowers learners to achieve confidence in maths and English. Our intelligent technology creates individual work programmes which are motivational, affordable and convenient to use.