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critical_thinking_644x362_0.jpgThe ability to think critically will be essential in workplaces of the future.

That's according to the Ontario Ministry of Education, which put a renewed focus on critical thinking in new curriculum guidelines issued for elementary schools this spring.

Garfield Gini-Newman, a professor with the Department of Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, is an expert on the pedagogy of critical thinking and ways to embed it in classrooms from kindergarten to graduate school. Below he explains just what parents can expect from this new curriculum and why it's so important for their kids.

What is Critical Thinking?

"To think critically is to make reasoned assessments or judgments using criteria to guide in our deliberations," he says. "We really should not see critical thinking as a 'skill' but rather a way of learning and a competence to nurture. When we see critical thinking as a skill, it becomes one of many to address in teaching. We need to see critical thinking as the foundation for powerful learning. There is not an activity in teaching that could not be approached in a critically thoughtful manner. Even asking students to remember to put a title on their report can be tweaked to ask for an effective title that is informative, concise and captivating."

brain_chart_244x244.jpgHow Can Critical Thinking Be Taught at School?

Everything students and teachers  do in schools can be framed in a thoughtless or thoughtful way, he says. "Asking students to copy notes from a board is a thoughtless task that has students passively receiving information," he says. "Asking students to select threeleast useful statements to not copy down would transform a note-taking exercise from a thoughtless to critically thoughtful task. Everything we do with students from reading for meaning, to decoding an image to writing a persuasive paragraph or creating a compelling poster are invitations to think critically."

However, merely providing opportunities to engage in critical thinking is insufficient, Gini-Newman says. Students need help to develop the tools to successfully think critically, he says. Important questions for parents and teachers to consider include:

  • Do students have enough background knowledge of the subject at hand?
  • Can they identify the criteria they need to guide their thinking?
  • Do they understand the nature of the challenge before them?
  • Do they have they thinking strategies to help them gather, organize, sort and see connection among the evidence?
  • Do they have the dispositions of good thinker, e.g. do they have perseverance, attention to detail and empathy?
Is Critical Thinking a New Idea in Ontario Schools?

 

"No, critical thinking as a goal in education has been around for many generations," he says. "What is new is the recognition that critical thinking is important for all students, not just the 'academically gifted' and university-bound students." Also, there is a new recognition that kids need to be explicitly taught the tools required to think critically."

 

Why is Learning to Think Critically Important?boy_thinking_241x325.jpg

 

If we want kids to be able to truly understand what they learn and be able to apply that understanding to new situations, critical thinking is fundamental, Gini-Newman says. "Students who learn from rote, didactic teacher-driven lessons are less likely to retain and be able to apply learning," he says.It's also important to not teach kids in this 'transmissive' manner (teacher simply giving students information), only to expect them to be able to think critically later on. "(That's) not only unfair to students, it is ineffective in nurturing a disposition for critical inquiry," he says.

How Will Jobs of the Future Require Critical Thinking?

 

The industrial age required workers to be able to replicate information and comply with rules, so that was the goal of the school system, he says."In a post-industrial economy and a digital world, replication and compliance will not longer suffice," he says. "In today's world we need children who can apply their learning to solve complex problems, propose innovative solutions, and work collaboratively to deepen their understanding."

Tips on Honing Critical Thinking Skills at Home

Below, Gini-Newman shares his top tips for parents on how to hone critical thinking in kids at home.

  1. Avoid asking list questions e.g. what did you do in school today? Instead invite a conversation with a provocative question like "What was the most useless thing you did in school today?" Explore why they found the learning useless. How could it have been more useful?
  2. Routinely invite children to identify and share the criteria they could use to help them make a reasonable decision.
  3. When helping with homework avoid the temptation to provide an answer. If stuck, provide 3 answers for your child to consider then discuss why your child thinks a certain answer is best.

Gillian O'Reilly and Meghan Howe of the Canadian Children's Book Centre compiled their top 10 summer reading picks for ages 9-11.  Check out their list:

 

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A Country of Our Own:
The Confederation Diary of
Rose Dunn

by Karleen Bradford

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The Hidden Agenda
of Sigrid Sugden

by Jill MacLean

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Scare Scape

by Sam Fisher

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The Spotted Dog Last Seen

by Jessica Scott Kerrin

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The Stowaways

by Meghan Marentette

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Ultra

by David Carroll

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The Unlikely Hero
of Room 13B

by Teresa Toten

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Crash

by Lesley Choyce

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Jane, the Fox & Me

by Fanny Britt

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Cat Champions: Caring for
Our Feline Friends

by Rob Laidlaw

summer_camp_blues_644x362.jpgAfter 10 months of hard work at school, you can hardly blame your kids for wanting to take it easy over the summer.  However, research shows that over the summer months, students who don’t engage their brains may experience a summer learning loss, particularly with regard to math and reading skills.

 

Scott Davies, professor of Sociology and Child Studies at McMaster University and co-author of the report "Summer Literacy Learning Project”, says that due to long summer holidays, about a month or two of academic gains can be lost.

 

“If you add that up over consecutive summers, for some students, that could mean falling a whole year behind,” says Davies. “September and October of each school year is generally spent on remedial activities, helping students catch up.”

 

The gap can be most prolific among children who are deemed at-risk.  One US study shows that by Grade 9, most of the achievement gap between low and high income students can be directly attributed to summer. But that doesn’t mean that kids who live in wealthier families are off the hook.  “Even kids who are doing well have a setback,” Davies says.  “It’s important for all children to use their brains, even when a teacher isn’t asking them to.”

 

Some schools understand that summers off can create lower achievement, particularly for at-risk youth, and have implemented a year-round schooling model.  However, the majority of schools still subscribe to the traditional, historically agricultural, 180-day school year.

 

“Because the agricultural calendar is so institutionalized, we’ve seen some pilot projects that offer staggered holidays, but there’s no wide scale movement towards this type of schooling,” says Davies.

 

You don’t have to hire the best tutors for the summer, or send your children to expensive academic camps; there is a lot you can do to minimize the summer learning slump, and it doesn’t necessarily have to feel like summer school or homework.  Davies recommends:

 

  • Encourage your kids to keep reading.  Check out our summer reading lists.
  • Reinforce learning skills like reading and math by playing board games, or have kids write a journal or letters /postcards to relatives.
  • Have children in younger grades practice their writing and digital skills by having them e-mail you everyday.
  • Have your kids start a blog that chronicles their summer activities.

 

Davies says educational can be fun.  “Learning during the summer doesn’t have to be boring and tedious,” he says.  “Reading and writing are both enjoyable; using technology to reinforce literacy skills only makes it more fun.”

Welcome to Five Minute Science, where we offer up cool science experiments you and your kids can do together using everyday household items, in about five minutes!

 

This week you get to refreeze an ice cube and learn some science too, from the experts at Let's Talk Science.

 

Purpose:

To show how matter can change from a solid to a liquid and back to solid again.

 

Be sure to ask your child what he or she thinks might happen before you do the experiment -- what result is expected when a wire is pushed down on ice?

 

 

 

 

The Experiment

 

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Materials:
  1. An ice cube
  2. Two unsharpened or dull pencils
  3. Approximately 30 cm of thin wire
  4. A dish

 

Process:
  1. Wrap each end of the wire tightly around each pencil to make handles.
  2. With the ice cube on a dish, place the wire on the ice cube.
  3. Using the handles apply pressure with the wire on the surface of the ice cube.
  4. The wire will melt its way through the ice cube. This process can take several minutes.
  5. When the wire is halfway through the ice cube, lift up the ice cube.

 

Explaining the Science:

Did you see the wire melt through the ice, and then the ice refreeze, trapping the wire inside? Why do you think this happened? The scientific explanation is that when you apply pressure (push) on the ice cube, its temperature increases. This causes the ice cube’s temperature to rise and the ice slowly melts. As the ice melts beneath the wire, the thin space above the wire is filled with the melted water.  The air in the room (or the atmospheric pressure) presses down on the melted water, but the pressure is less than when you pushed down on the wire, and the temperature of the air around the ice cube is cooler, so the water refreezes. After several minutes, the wire will be frozen inside the ice cube. Cool!

 

Curriculum Connection:

While this experiment is simple and appropriate for any age, adults should supervise children – especially when handling pencils and wire. In the Ontario Science and Technology curriculum, Understanding the Properties and Changes of Matter is taught in grades 2 and 5.

 

Extra Credit!
  • What happens if you try this experiment in a warm room?
  • Next time you're ice skating, observe what happens to the ice. Learn more in this TVOKids Homework Zone Video.

Welcome to Five Minute Science, where we offer up cool science experiments you and your kids can do together using everyday household items, in about five minutes!

 

This week you get to make milk swirl, and learn some science too, from the experts at Let's Talk Science.

 

Purpose:

To show what happens when you mix liquids that have different kinds of molecules.

 

Be sure to ask your child what he or she thinks might happen before you do the experiment – what result is expected when you place a cotton swab dipped in dish soap in the centre of a plate of milk with drops of food colouring added?

 

 

 

 

 

The Experiment

 

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Materials:
  1. Milk (2% or higher - the more fat the better)
  2. Food colouring (2-3 colours recommended)
  3. Dish soap (dishwashing liquid)
  4. A cotton swab
  5. A plate

 

Process:
  1. Pour milk onto a plate covering the bottom.
  2. Place 4-6 single drops of food colouring randomly on the surface of the milk.
  3. Dip the cotton swab in the dish soap and place the tip of the cotton swab in the centre of the milk. What do you see?

 

 

Explaining the Science:

Did you see the swirls of colour when you placed the cotton swab in the dish? What do you think is making the colour move around? The scientific explanation has to do with the different molecules in the two liquids -- the milk and the dish soap. Milk contains many different types of molecules, such as water, proteins and fat. Water and fat do not mix, even when they are together in milk - the fat forms little globs which are separate from the watery part of the milk. The molecules in dish soap are interesting because they are polarized - that means that each end of the molecule has an opposite reaction. One end of the dish soap molecule is attracted to water, while the other end is attracted to fat. So when the dish soap is added to the milk, the part of the molecule that is attracted to water moves towards the water in the milk and the part of the molecule that is attracted to fat moves towards the fat in the milk. This causes the turbulent, swirling reaction. The food colouring helps to show that turbulence - and looks pretty too!

 

Curriculum Connection:

This experiment is simple, safe and appropriate for any age. In the Ontario Science and Technology curriculum, Properties of Liquids and Solids is taught in Grade 2.

 

Extra Credit!
  • Try using different types of milk (skim, 2%, homogenized). How does that affect the swirling of the colours?
  • Try dipping a clean cotton swab (no dish soap) into the milk. What happens?
  • Try dipping the cotton swab in other liquids (e.g. lemon juice, fizzy pop) and see what happens. Is that what you expected?

kevin_bio_pic_75x75.jpgshapes.jpgKevin Williams is the Program Consultant for K-8 Numeracy with the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board, and a senior tutor with Homework Help, the free online math resource for kids in grades 7 to 10.

 

Geometry and spatial sense is one of the five content strands in the Ontario Math Curriculum that is gaining increased focus lately. Geometry explores and investigates the properties and characteristics of shapes, transformations, and location.  In addition to focusing on developing this specific knowledge, this strand also looks at the idea of geometric relationships between shapes

 

Children entering school already have some geometric knowledge and so as they move through the grades we want to provide them with plenty of experiences to investigate and explore shapes (both two-dimensional and three-dimensional) in order to deepen their knowledge.

 

Initially children begin to identify, sort and classify shapes by their attributes.  This could be by size, shape, colour, number of sides, number of corners (vertices) etc…

 

As they move into grade 2 the focus of their exploration then moves more to looking specifically at sorting and classifying based on geometric properties.  In the primary and junior grades children focus on different types of polygons and cylinders and prisms with specific types being identified in particular grades.  Ask your child what shapes they’ve been exploring and talking about. Here is a quick geometry glossary:

 

Attribute:  a characteristic that is not specific to the shape and it may be arbitrary like size.

Geometric property:
  a characteristic that is specific to a particular shape or family of shapes (e.g. squares have four sides that are all the same length).

Polygons:
a closed shape created by three or more line segments.

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Prisms:  a 3-D figure with two parallel congruent faces joined together by rectangular faces.

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Pyramids: a 3-D figure with a polygon base and the other faces are all triangles that meet at a common vertex.

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Helping Your Child with Geometry:

 

There are plenty of fun and easy ways to help your child with geometry.

 

  1. Go on a shape scavenger hunt or play “I SPY” using 2-D shapes and 3-D figures as what you are looking for.  Don’t just use “regular” shapes.  For example if you are looking at triangles, look at all different kinds of triangles and talk about what they all have in common, and how they are different.
  2. Build 3-D figures with play dough or with toothpicks and marshmallows!  Ask your child to name the figures and explore them.  You can ask questions like what shapes do you see in the 3-D figure?  How many faces are there? How many corners (vertices)?  Compare different 3-D figures.  What is the same? What is different?
  3. WHAT SHAPE AM I?  Draw a shape.  Without showing it to your child have your child try to draw it by asking you questions about it. You can respond with only YES / NO answers.  This can help focus observations about shape properties.
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  4. Build and deconstruct shapes.  Build different shapes by combining shapes your child knows and decompose shapes by cutting them apart.  (e.g. Take a rectangle and have your child decompose it to see what shapes make up a rectangle.  Two triangles for example).

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    Squares, rectangles and parallelograms can be decomposed into two congruent triangles.

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    Many objects and pictures consist of multiple shapes/figures. It’s important for children to see shapes and figures in the world around them.

kevin_bio_pic_75x75.jpgKevin Williams is the Program Consultant for K-8 Numeracy with the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board, and a senior tutor with Homework Help, the free online math resource for kids in grades 7 to 10.

 

 

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Fractions can be scary for a lot of kids - and parents! - but they don’t have to be.  Fractions are all around us and we make use of them throughout our everyday experiences.

 

Routinely I’ll hear my own children negotiating over something and make reference to the first fraction that we all get to know - “can I have half of that?”  Very early on we develop a conceptual understanding for a half.

 

In the classroom, fractions are explored from grade 1 to grade 8.  In the early grades children investigate the concept of a fraction and begin to develop the language associated with naming fractional amounts such as halves, fourths, thirds, and so on.  It is important to note that students are not formally introduced to standard fractional notation until grade 4, so if you’re supporting you child in earlier grades remember not to be too concerned if they are using fractional notation. The important idea is to understand fractional amounts as being parts of a whole or set e.g. two halves of a whole grapefruit.

 

So how do you get your kids thinking about fractional amounts? Here are some tips.

 

  1. The Pizza Model: There are lots of different ways to represent fractions though I think most of us are familiar with the pizza model: a whole pizza cut into equal size pieces. If it’s an 8-slice pizza, then 1 slice is 1/8th, 2 slices are 1/4th, etc… This is a representation that most kids will see in the real world so it’s a good place to start. But you can do the same kind of thing with other household items like grid paper, geometric blocks, or even using containers that hold liquid (like a measuring cup).
    tip1.jpg

  2. fractions_halves.jpgNot all halves are equal: Half a pizza is not the same as half a donut. The fractional amount is half, but the size of that half depends on the size of the whole. This is a good concept to reinforce and it’s easy to do with foods - pizza and donuts, or a Halloween size chocolate bar and a regular size chocolate bar - half of the regular would be more filling than half of the “fun size”. 

  3. Not all pieces of the whole have to be the same. In grade 3 kids learn about the set model of fractions. Different from the area/region model or “pizza model”, in a set model the pieces don’t necessarily have to be the same. I’ll use my family as an example.  There are 7 of us in total.  We are all different ages and sizes but together we make up the whole set.  Of that set, I represent one seventh as I’m the only male in the set, or I can say that six sevenths of the whole family are female.
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  4. Bake something together! Baking is a great way to learn about fractions, because there are so many opportunities to measure. Ask your kids how many 1/4 cups are needed to make one cup? How many fourths are in a half? You can also ask your kids to estimate ingredients - how much is half a cup? And get them to figure out how much of each ingredient you would need if you were doubling the recipe?

  5. Put the pieces back together!: Cut up a piece of fruit, then ask your child to put the pieces back together to form the whole fruit, and have your child tell you what size (fractional amount) each piece of the fruit is.

  6. Explore fractions everywhere: In the car, ask your kids to check the gas gauge and tell you how much gas is in the tank? 1/4 full? 2/3rds? Or on the computer, ask them how much of the video/app has downloaded, or how much is left to go?


kevin_bio_pic_75x75.jpgKevin Williams is the Program Consultant for K-8 Numeracy with the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board, and a senior tutor with Homework Help, the free online math resource for kids in grades 7 to 10.

 

 

Proportional reasoning is not an easy one to explain.  The Ontario Math Curriculum defines proportional reasoning as “reasoning based on the use of equal ratios”.  In Paying Attention to Proportional Reasoning, John Van de Walle describes it as “the ability to think about and compare multiplicative relationships between quantities”. So, for example, it’s thinking about the number 10 being two times as much as 5, as opposed to 5 more than 5.

 

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Proportional relationships are formally introduced to Ontario students in Grade 4. But there’s lots of work in the early grades that can support the development of proportional reasoning.  Comparing money amounts is one way that this can happen.

 

 

 

 

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In Grades 4 and beyond, students begin to work with ratios, rates, fractional equivalence and percent.  It is developing the idea of multiplicative thinking as opposed to additive thinking.  Here’s what that means:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supporting Proportional Reasoning with Your Child:

 

So how do you help your child develop proportional reasoning? Here are some tips:

 

  1. Highlight ratios as they exist in everyday life:

    Making juice: What is the ratio of water to juice (e.g. 3 cans of water for 1 can of frozen concentrate). What happens if you are making two batches? Three batches?  How much more water do you need?

    Buying groceries: Ask your kids to comparison shop, reminding them that the lowest price is not always the best deal – they need to compare the amount of product against the price to make a good decision. Which is the better deal for the Cheetos displayed here?

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    Driving in the car: Point out speed signs and ask your kids to figure out what would be the maximum speed for a half hour? For two hours?speedlimit.JPG

  2. Explore measurement conversions.

    ►Measure your child’s arm length, or foot using centimetres.  How many millimetres is that?  Skip the tricks or apps to do this – have your child work from the fact that in 1cm there are 10mms.
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  3. Explore equivalent fractions.

    ►Use the multiplication table to help your child see the relationship with equivalent fractions. For example , if you look at ½ as a fraction, and now look to the right, each pair of numbers represents an equivalent fraction.
    multiplication table.jpg

  4. Explore scales on maps.

    For example, on a map, 1 cm may represent 50 kilometres. Have your child figure out different distances based on the scale. How many kilometres is half a centimeter, two-thirds?

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fixedgrowth-copy.jpgChad Richard is the Program Consultant for K-12 Numeracy with the Durham Catholic District School Board and a tutor with Homework Help, the free online math resource for kids in grades 7 to 10.

 

There is a myth out there.  Many believe that being good at math is a “gift” that you are either born with or not.  The truth is that is not the case.

 

A well-known researcher on the brain and success, Carol Dweck, has shown us there is a lot to be learned about changing our attitudes about learning and our ability to succeed. Her book “Mindset: the New Psychology of Success” champions a “growth mindset". Dweck explains that people with a growth mindset believe that their math abilities and “smarts” grow with experience and effort, whereas people with a fixed mindset believe they are born with a certain amount of intelligence and it really can’t change (“math is a gift”).

 

How do you think the different mindsets affect learning? People with a growth mindset persist, learn from mistakes, and are encouraged by the success of others.  People with a fixed mindset hate to fail as it tells them they are not smart, and will typically avoid challenges. Learn more from math expert Jo Boaler in this video.

 

How Do You Encourage a Growth Mindset?

 

Here are few  tips that can help your child enjoy math learning more, and likely be more successful!

 

  1. Little White Lie:  Whatever you do, don’t tell your kids you were never good at math or that you are not good at it, especially girls.  Research shows that parents who tell their children (especially mothers to their daughters) that they were never really good at math affect their child’s achievement – it starts to go down. If you find that your child is struggling in math, say “don’t worry, we can figure this out” , “I love a good challenge, let’s do this!” , “I’m sure with a little hard work, we’ll get this” , or even the little white lie…. “I love math, I know you can too!”

  2. famous-failures.jpgCelebrate Mistakes: As mentioned in a previous post, celebrate mistakes as learning opportunities.  Look for the logic in the mistakes your child makes as there is usually some really good math in there.  The more children learn to accept their mistakes, the less fear there is in making them, and the more learning can happen.  While your child is working on math, ask: “that’s interesting, where did you get that answer?”, “How did you do that? “Why did you do that?” or “I wonder if there is another way to do this?”

  3. Compliment Effort, NOT Intelligence:  As parents, we can’t help but say how amazing and smart our children are.  But if kids are made to feel their success is based on their intelligence, when they fail (and they will fail!) then they will fell they are not smart enough to meet a new challenge.  Praise your child’s efforts and perseverance to succeed, and your child will always know that that is what he or she needs to succeed.

  4. growth mindset.jpgEncourage a Challenge: Children with a fixed mindset will not challenge themselves out of fear of making mistakes, but it has been proven that mistakes is where new learning happens.  Children with a growth mindset don’t fear challenges as they know mistakes are inevitable and are required to succeed.  Plus the success is much more satisfying.  Mathematicians don’t waste their time on problems they know how to do because it’s not worth their effort.  Teach your child to seek out challenges, and be a good example by trying challenges of your own.

  5. The Power of “Yet”: Sometimes it is so easy to say “I don’t know that!” While that may be a hard habit to break, trying adding one word to that statement …. “I don’t know that…. YET!”  I find with my students and my own children that adding the word “yet” is very encouraging and elicits more effort and perseverance when learning something new… especially math.  This could be the very first step to developing a growth mindset.

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Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 3 54 11 PM.pngChad Richard is the Program Consultant for K-12 Numeracy with the Durham Catholic District School Board and a tutor with Homework Help, the free online math resource for kids in grades 7 to 10.

 

I know what you’re thinking …. tips on how to make mistakes? This must be some kind of mistake!

 

But the fact is, there is growing evidence that mistakes play an integral part in a student’s learning. In fact, research gathered from brain MRIs show that when a person makes a mistake, a new synapse in your brain grows. This does not happen when you get something right. Synapses are things in your brain that make connections between neurons when new learning occurs. New learning occurs when we make mistakes.

 

Jo Boaler is a Stanford professor who is known for her research on math education. In this video, she explains the value of making mistakes in math learning.

 

 

Here are 5 tips to help you turn your child’s mistakes into learning opportunities:

 

  1. Don’t tell your child he or she is wrong: Instead of saying “you’re wrong”, look for the logic in your child’s answer. For example, if your child has to multiply 8 x 3, and your child says the answer is 11, you can say: “I see what you did here… it looks like you used what you know about addition to get your answer. Remember that when we multiply, we will need eight groups of three.”

  2. Unpack the Mistake:  Take the time to see why the mistake is happening. Where is the logic in the mistake? Chances are other children are making the same mistake, which means they are on the same learning journey your child is on. Ask your child: “How did you do that?”, “Why did you do that?”, “Where did that idea come from?”, “Show me some other things you can do with the question?”, “How do you know if you’re right or wrong?”

  3. Don’t Rush:  Research shows that anxiety affects the part of the brain in charge of working memory. If your child feels rushed he or she can develop anxiety, which in turn blocks the ability to tap into working memory, which your child needs to answer questions. Let your child go at a pace he or she is comfortable with – the journey to the answer is more important than the answer.

  4. Play Games and Puzzles: The beauty of many math games and puzzles are that many mistakes need to be made in order to succeed, and many of those mistakes are risk free. Kids use many strategies and variations to win a game or solve a puzzle - they know a lot of trial and error is involved in succeeding. Many mathematicians have attributed their math abilities to their love of puzzles and games. Games and puzzles also enhance a child’s numeracy and logic skills, and they’re fun!

  5. Take the Answer OFF the Pedestal:  Unfortunately both parents and teachers have created a culture where “success” is defined as high marks on tests, and mistakes have no value if the goal is high marks. This goal makes students afraid to make mistakes, to try something new, to take risks, to be creative and to think differently about problems and questions. If we shift focus and praise the effort, rather than the outcome, your child is more likely to try harder, persist and revel in the accomplishment, instead of the right answer.

civics_4_kids_protest_644x362.jpgWe’ve teamed up with the Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust (CCLET) to create civics scenarios for kids. Every month, we’ll focus on a specific right or freedom. Take 15 minutes out of the day to tell kids a story and ask the questions below. There are no rules except to be open to everyone’s ideas and remember there are no right answers. This month we take a look at the right to peaceful protest.

 

Scenario:

 

There is a store near our school where some of us like to buy treats on the way home. Yesterday, my friends Paulo and Sasha went to the store to get popsicles and when they got there, they found other students walking up and down the sidewalk with signs that said, “Unfair to Students” and “Don’t Go to this Store!”  The picketing students pointed to a sign in the window that said “No more than two students at a time allowed in the store.”

 

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We've teamed up with the Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust (CCLET) to create a series of civics scenarios, each focusing on a specific right or freedom. We encourage parents and teachers to take 15 minutes of the day to tell kids a story and ask the questions below, which are age-specific. There are no rules except to be open to everyone's ideas and remember there are no right answers. Feel free to come up with your own questions, and please share what you learned in the comments below. This month we take a look at the right to vote, and the rules that limit that right.

 

Scenario:

 

Students learned that their school was going to be closed. The plan was to send students to three different schools, much further away. The students were upset by this because it meant they’d no longer be able to walk to school, and they’d be separated from their friends. In the hope of changing the trustees’ minds, they asked to meet with the school board to present their concerns. The trustees did hear the students out, but closed the school anyway. As elected officials, they alone had the power to make the final decision. The students said this was unfair because they were too young to vote for trustees, or to run for a trustee position themselves.

 

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gamer_kids_644x410.jpgIs your child a gamer?

Does he or she love nothing more than to be glued to the end of a video game controller or hunched over a handheld device, desperate to reach that next level or power-up?

While parents and educators are increasingly seeing the educational and developmental benefits of gaming, many are also looking for ways to harness this passion and push its skill and aptitude-developing potential.

"Video games are not a ‘waste of time',” says Scott King, director of education at Real Programming 4 Kids, who says gaming can actually make people smarter, help cognitive function and even improve the world.

Still, many parents are looking for ways to take use this passion and any related inherent talents to help their kids on potential paths towards careers in such things as game design and computer programming.

boy_on_gameboy_204x306.jpg“We hear it from parents all the time in our program,” says King. “They know their kid is interested in video games but want them to do more with it.”

Sandra Burt and Linda Perlis, authors of “Raising a Successful Child: Discover and Nurture Your Child's Talents,” say it is important that parents take cues from their kids on what they love and want to do with their lives.

“The support, encouragement, and nurturing offered by parents is a determining factor in the development of a child's talents,” says Burt. Perlis says, “We need to give our children permission to follow their own interests and talents, and we can be optimistic about the results.”stacked_books.jpg

Scott King’s Tips for Parents:
  • Enroll your kids in a video game developing class, workshop or camp like Real Programming 4 Kids;
  • Check out books in the library helping kids learn just what’s behind the story-making, gaming structure and technicalities of making a game;
  • Watch YouTube series teaching kids computer programming basics;
  • Log onto discussion forums to find solutions to problems your kids may be having in a game or in learning about gaming/programming on their own;
  • Try some of the many free and high-quality educational resources for kids like Scratch from MIT, Codeacademy or Code.org;

Sarah Drew, founder and CEO of Every1games.ca, says parents of gamers can harness this interest in gaming and increase their kids’ learning in a number of ways:

Sarah Drew's Tips for Parents:
  • Kids can make up their own board game with basic craft supplies, making the rules as complex or simple as they wish. Encourage your kids to play with themes, characters, objects and puzzles.
  • Why not rework an old physical game like Hopscotch? Or make up a whole new game with a deck of cards? These activities will help foster skills to help kids think like a game designer.
  • Gamemaker 8 is a novice-level and free game design program that can be downloaded from YoYoGames.
  • Ladies Learning Code also runs Kids Learning Code and Girls Learning Code classes and camps throughout the year

minecraft_logo_160x147.jpgPaul Dias, program teacher at the kids’ after school and weekend Focus Learning Centre, recommends both Lego play and Minecraft. "I'm a devoted Lego person,” says the former high school teacher. “I think it develops amazing spatial mechanics, creativity, patterning and a keen architectural mind. Somebody had to think of the Acropolis before it actually happened. Somebody had to visualize it and make a plan.”

Kids are “nuts” for Minecraft, he says. “(The game) takes planning, strategy, forward thinking, planning for the unexpected… marshalling resources… The kids learn about ore, metals, natural resources, ecological awareness and so much more."

You might not think about science when looking for books for your kids. After all, science belongs in a lab, right? Actually, science is all around us, and helps us understand the people, places, and things in our world. So what are the best books for kids on science?  We asked an expert panel of educators, booksellers and authors for their recommendations.

 

Science Books for Ages 2-6:

 

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Winston of Churchill

by Jean Davies Okimoto

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Have You Seen Birds?

By Joanne Oppenheim

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Loon

by Susan Vandegriek

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The Big Dipper

by Franklyn Mansfield Branley

 

Science Books for Ages 6 to 9:

 

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Gross Universe: Your Guide
to All Disgusting Things Under the Sun

By Jeff Szpirglas

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Fire! The Renewal
of a Forest

by Celia Godkin

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Science Verse

by Jon Scieszka

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Who Needs
A Swamp?

by Karen Patkau

 

Science Books for Ages 9-12

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The City of Ember Series

by Jeanne DuPrau

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Your Fantastic Elastic Brain

by JoAnn Deak

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I Found A Dead Bird

by Jan Thornhill

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Kaboom! Explosions of All Kinds

By Gillian Richardson

Research shows early math literacy helps kids succeed in school and improves future career prospects. Books are a natural way to teach kids math concepts in a way that keeps them engaged.

 

Top Ten Math Reads for Kids:

 

These books for kids in preschool to Grade 3 teach math concepts, such as: number sense and numeration, geometry, patterning and even algebra, in fun and new ways.

 

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A Million Dots
by Andrew Clements

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Riddle-Iculous Math
by Joan Holub

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Can You Count to Googol?

by Robert E. Wells

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Ten Little Ladybugs

by Melanie Gerth

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Math Potatoes:
Mind-stretching Brain Food

by Greg Tang

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Moira's Birthday

by Robert Munsch

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Arhythmetic

by Tiffany Stone

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Who's the Big Bad Wolf?
A Math Fairy Tale

by George & Molly Gadanidis

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Mathemagic!
Number Tricks

by Lynda Colgan.

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The Grapes of Math

by Greg Tang.

For more about how these books can help early math learners, read Math Memories You Can Count On: A Literature-Based Approach to Teaching Mathematics in Primary Classroom by Jo-Anne Lake.