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inquiry_based_learning_644x362.jpgTraditionally, classrooms in Ontario have followed the rote learning model, which is a technique based on repetition and memorization.


But recently, those classrooms are disappearing in favour of a more collaborative space, in which teachers are facilitators using a technique called inquiry-based teaching.


“Inquiry-based teaching is an approach to instruction that begins with exploring curriculum content and providing a framework for the students to ask their own questions which builds interest and curiosity,” says Louise Robitaille, an elementary teacher in Midland.


Encouraging students to be active learners, posing their own questions and problems and following through on those, rather than passive learners simply receiving information is believed to create greater student engagement and, in turn, create greater student achievement.


Inquiry-based learning is not a new idea. It is a teaching method born in the 1960s out of a response to the more traditional forms of teaching. It has steadily gained traction since then.


Ontario has adopted it as a way to reach learners that have traditionally fallen through the cracks of the rote learning model.


What does an inquiry-based classroom look like?

file5441262570484.jpgThe teacher is no longer the “sage on the stage” expounding knowledge for students to memorize. The inquiry-based approach encourages more "student voice and choice" in the learning. This isn’t to say that there is no role for rote learning, but rote learning cannot stand on its own.


“There is a minor role for rote learning in the classroom (as) certain skills require long term acquisition,” says Robitaille. “However, the focus should always be on expanding knowledge and skills and not on memorization. For example, memorizing history dates without learning the importance of the events is ineffective.”


In an inquiry-based classroom, a teacher will work with all of the learning styles found in his or her own classroom and design activities that students can collaborate on in small groups.


However, students may think in ways that are limited to their own experiences, and it is the teacher’s job to help kids notice what they might have missed. Teachers also build on spontaneous questions to allow for further thought and questions.


For example, if the classroom is discussing the life of the class goldfish, a child might ask: “If we take out all the plants, will the fish get sick?”


Instead of answering a question like that with a yes or no, the teacher may ask: “What do people think? It might help to first think about what sorts of roles plants carry out? Why are plants in the aquarium important?” These questions would lead students to learn more about aquatic life.


What can parents do at home?

iStock_000014262979Small.jpgRobitaille, with the help of Grade 4/5 teacher Pete Douglas, offers these tips:

  • Ask about what your child is learning in class.
  • Support and encourage interest and curiosity by following up with activities at home.
  • Encourage and practice good communication skills such as starting conversations and debates about current events.
  • Help your kids develop research skills online and from text.
  • Enjoy building projects together in the home.


For more information on inquiry-based learning:
  • Check out the Ontario Ministry of Education's resources.
  • Louise Robitaille runs a fantastic site on inquiry-based learning, showing examples of activities in the classroom, and useful tips. You can also follow her on Twitter @robitaille2011
iStock_000000931729Small.jpgTips for parents to help their kids build learning skills at home


Academic success is linked closely to the role a parent plays at home. Before homework frustrations set in, remember that it's a tool to review, consolidate, extend work done in class. In some cases, parents may not know how to help kids to build learning skills at home. You're not alone. Here are some tips:


  • Help your kids manage their after-school time. Keep a weekly schedule and fill it with regularly scheduled items like soccer practice, ballet rehearsal, dinner and bed time. Then, make appointments for homework. Does your schedule include enough relaxation and downtime? Post the schedule on your fridge or bulliten board where everybody in your home can see it.
  • Keep distractions to a minimum and help your kids keep focused by creating a homework haven that suits their needs.Make sure your kid is ready to learn. A good night's sleep is important.
  • Ensure they are well-nourished and hydrated. Breakfast is key in the morning. Drink lots of water throughout the day.
  • Show interest. Talk to your kids. From time to ask: "How are things at school?" "How did the math test go? The history report?" "Do you need help?" Pay attention for any signs of struggle. And arrange help when necessary.
  • Pay attention to report cards or letters from the teacher or principal. Also, listen to your kid's cues like, "He’s an awful teacher." Or "She goes too fast." But be cautious about contacting teachers without your kid’s approval or interest.
  • Read for pleasure. Your kids will learn by example.
  • Congratulate them when they work hard and celebrate learning. Encourage them to finish homework and to hand in assignments on time.
  • When either you or your child starts to feel overwhelmed, let’s keep in mind that their happiness shouldn't be completely dependent on academic success. Parents can build self-worth and confidence in other areas of their kid's life.


Research has shown that parent involvement in their kids' education has a significant, positive impact on their academic and developmental goals.


But parent involvement does not mean standing over your kids while they do math problems or write a book report - supervising homework has not been shown to have a positive effect.


That’s according to Carl Corter, a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, who has researched parent involvement. “A major research review showed parents’ involvement in children’s homework had ‘negligible to non-existent’ effects,” he says. So policing due dates of assignments, editing class submissions and 'helping' your child with the origami project really don't help.


So what can parents do to help their kids be successful in school?


What Matters Most

Studies have shown positive impacts on student achievement with the following kinds of parent involvement:

  1. Having high expectations for your children (this has the most significant impact);
  2. Talking with your kids about school;
  3. Helping to develop positive attitudes and work habits;
  4. Reading to and with your kids.



“When parents communicate that they expect their children to succeed, children and youth do better (in school),” Corter says.


  • Let your kids know that you think it's important that they do well in school;
  • Tell your kids you believe in their potential;
  • Encourage them in their dreams.


For very young children, Janette Pelletier a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto, says parents should remember that even little kids are competent and able to consider ideas and share opinions.


"Children have a natural curiosity that can and should be nurtured," she says. "Expose your child to (a range of new experiences) then ask your child about those experiences, bringing in new vocabulary here and there." Expect more of your younger child by broadening his or her horizons, she says.


Talking About School

Talking to your child about what happened at school has a greater impact on academic achievement than being home for your kids after school or limiting the time they spend watching TV.


Meanwhile, according to the EQAO (Education Quality and Accountability Office) student survey (2012/2013), only 53 percent of Grade 3 and Grade 6 students in Ontario reported that they talk to their parents about their school activities every day or almost every day.


Asking your child to tell you about his or her day is a good place to start, says Pelletier. "(Asking your child) what happened next, etc. helps children to reflect on their day and to organize their thoughts sequentially. It also gives parents a sense of how the day unfolds for their child."


Ask kids:

  • What was your favourite part of the day?
  • What good things happened today?
  • Did anything upsetting happen?
  • Can you show me what you're working on in school?


Hoemwork_644x362.jpgDeveloping Positive Attitudes/Work Habits

“Parents’ critical influence on school success is found in how they shape their children’s attitudes, sense of personal competence and work habits,” and not through ‘teaching’ their kids, Corter says.


The goal is to help children become increasingly independent and able to plan and be responsible for their own homework, says Pelletier. "But this requires gentle encouragement and modelling of good work habits," she says. "Parents can talk to children about their own responsibilities and how they plan to meet them. (For instance, tell them) 'I have a meeting tomorrow at work and I need to do some reading for that. Why don't you do your schoolwork while I do mine?'"


Reading With Your Child

Only  28 percent of Ontario Grade 3 students reported they read with a parent or guardian everyday, according to the EQAO (2013). Another 21 percent say they never read with their parents and 25 percent say they only read together once or twice a month.


Meanwhile, an OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) study based on teenagers in 14 developed countries found reading to kids early in their lives was a significant trigger for developing children's reading skills that would carry through until they were teenagers. On average, teens who had been read to when they were young were six months ahead in reading levels at age 15.


Parents can read in any language and don't have to be particularly well-educated themselves for the impact to be achieved, the study says.

What was important was that parents read books regularly (several times a week) and that they talked about what they were reading together.


Involvement At School

Parents who volunteer for school trips and committees also have a positive impact on their kids’ education, Corter says.


But this kind of involvement does not have as much impact as the "what matters most" tips above: having high expectations, talking about school, developing positive attitudes and work habits, and reading to and with your kids.

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 separate oil from water and learn some science too, from the experts at Let's Talk Science.



To show how oil and water don’t mix.


Be sure to ask your child what he or she thinks might happen before you do the experiment – what result is expected when you pour cooking oil into a glass of coloured water?





The Experiment


Oil and Water Before_644X362-450x253.jpg

  1. Cooking Oil
  2. Water
  3. Food colouring
  4. A clear glass
  5. A spoon


  1. Fill the clear glass about half full of water.
  2. Add food colouring to water and stir using the spoon.
  3. Slowly pour cooking oil into the glass with water.



Explaining the Science:

What happened when you poured cooking oil into the glass of coloured water? Did you see the oil rise to the top of the glass, forming its own layer? Why do you think that happened?


The scientific explanation is that oil and water are liquids that don’t mix due to their molecular structure. Water molecules are attracted to each other, while oil molecules are attracted to each other. Water molecules are not attracted to oil molecules and oil molecules are not attracted to water molecules, so when the cooking oil is poured into a glass of water, the oil and water molecules separate from each other.


But why does the oil float to the top, instead of the water? That's because the cooking oil has a lower density than the water, in other words it's lighter, so it floats to the top. This is the same reason why a blow-up toy floats in a pool – the air in the toy is less dense than the water.


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!
  • What happens when you add other liquids like vinegar or carbonated water to the oil and water? Do they mix, float on top, or sink to the bottom? Why?
  • What happens when you add food colouring to the cooking oil first, and then add water? Why?

kevin_bio_pic_75x75.jpgbasic_math_tips_460x260.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.



Over the past year there has been a lot of discussion about “returning to the basics” when it comes to math education.  The fact of the matter is that our current Ontario Mathematics Curriculum for grades 1 to 8 does focus on the basic math facts – addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. There is no arguing that knowledge of the basic facts is important and supports children later on with more complex problem solving and larger number computations.


Mastery of the basic facts means that your child can give a quick response to a basic operation question.  Now much like every math concept there is a developmental process with this, and the time it takes students to achieve mastery will vary.  Another difference from when you and I learned our basic facts, which was most likely based on a lot of drill and memory work, is that today’s approach is based upon the research based approach of helping students develop reasoning strategies, and seeing relationships in numbers and operations.  It’s strategy, then memory!



Here are some tips to help support your child's learning of basic math facts:


    1. die.gifPlay board games with dice: In regular board games with multiple die have your kids calculate how many spaces to move adding the two (or more) values on the die.  You can change this up by having your child subtract, multiply, etc.

    2. Play card games like “Higher Number”:  Remove the face cards and put the rest of the cards face down in a pile. Each player takes two cards and adds the numbers. The player with the higher sum gets the other player’s cards. Keep going until the cards are gone. The player with the most cards is the winner. You can play the same game with subtraction - this time players subtract one card from another and the person with the lower difference (answer) gives up his or her cards. The player with the fewest cards at the end is the winner. You can play the same games with multiplication and division. (For more, see Doing Mathematics with Your Child: K to Grade 6)

    3. Use One More/Two More Than Strategy: Have your child focus on facts that have addends of 1 or 2.

                                                                           For example: 7 + 1 = 8;  8 + 2 = 10

    4. Use Doubles Strategy: Kids will learn their math facts faster if you use the doubles strategy – in other words have them add two numbers of the same value.

                                                                           For example: 1 + 1 ; 2 + 2 3 + 3; 4 + 4 etc…

      ♦ Doubles facts can help with multiplication, specifically with the two times table.  For example, 4 + 4 is the same as 4 x 2, 8 + 8 is the same as 8 x2. For multiplication, the two times table can be a good place to start as it connects nicely with children knowing their doubles facts from addition.

    5. Use Making 5 / Making 10 Strategy: Kids can add and subtract easier if they create friendly numbers like 5 and 10. Help your child break down the numbers to create these friendly numbers.

                                                                           For example: 4 + 3 is easier if you break down the 3,
                                                                           moving 1 over to the 4  (4 + 1 = 5), and then add 5 + 2 = 7

    6. Multiplication Magic: For the Nine Times Table, teach your kids this cool trick. Using their hands, kids can find the answer quickly by putting down the finger that corresponds with the number that 9 is being multiplied by. 
                                                                          For example, for 4 x 9, the fourth finger on the left hand goes down,
                                                                          what is to the left of that finger is the first number of the answer (3)
                                                                          and what is to the right is the second number of the answer (6).
                                                                          Therefore, 4 x 9 = 36!

    7. It’s Really Half the Work! Remind your child that since 4 x 3 is the same as 3 x 4 there are really only half the facts to know!

iStock_000005399984XSmall.jpgKids who are bodily-kinesthetic learners like to learn by touch and feel, and they may not want to sit still long enough for a traditional spelling lesson.

Here are some hands-on activities you can try to get them spelling:

Adapted from "Spelling: Connecting the Pieces" by Ruth McQuirter Scott and Sharon Siamon.

  • Cut out letters from felt or sandpaper. Have your child practise spelling and feeling the words.
  • Kids can use "wipe off" crayons on a plastic placemat to write the words and wipe them off again.
  • Have your child draw pictures around a word that say something about the meaning of the word.
  • Use letter tiles from Scrabble or Boggle to form words.
  • Have your child trace words on your back or on the carpet with their finger. Have them say each letter that they trace.
  • Use alphabet magnets, stampers or cards to spell words.
  • Roll out pieces of clay and have your child take a sharp pencil and print a word in the clay.
  • Have your child type out words on a keyboard.
  • To teach spelling rules like, "I before E, except after C," and "E before I when the word says the sound a as in neighbour and weigh" use cards on which a variety of these words are written. Have your child sort the words into piles and look at what rules apply-- I before E or E before I.

Remember to talk to your child's teacher about the words your child is learning at school and try to use words your child would hear every day.

iStock_000005399984XSmall.jpgIf your child is a visual learner then they can usually remember a word once they see it. But there are ways to help improve any child's visual skills by using simple strategies.

Here are some tips on getting them spelling:

Adapted from "Spelling: Connecting the Pieces" by Ruth McQuirter Scott and Sharon Siamon.

  • Write out words that they are having trouble spelling and leave the letters that are giving them trouble blank. Have them fill in the missing letters. For example, if they have written becuase, write bec se and have them fill in the blanks. This shows them the part of the word they are having trouble with and helps them learn that part.
  • Highlight tricky letters in a word.
  • Write problem letters in a different colour.
  • If they are having trouble with a particular word, have them write down several ways of spelling it and ask them to pick the way that looks right to them. Usually they are right.
  • Have them sort words by visual pattern. Like words that drop the final e when adding-ing (hoping, joking, caring, hiking).
  • Make a word wall on the fridge or in a notebook that they can reference for writing. Add words that give them trouble so they can look to the wall when they can't remember the spelling of a word.

Remember to talk to your child's teacher about the words used in class and use age-appropriate words that your child will recognize.

Alligator_pie.jpgSome kids like to learn by sounding out and listening for patterns. Here are some tips on helping them learn to spell:

Adapted from "Spelling: Connecting the Pieces" by Ruth McQuirter Scott and Sharon Siamon.

  • Sound things out. Some kids may have difficulty telling the difference between sounds such as b and p, d and t. Exaggerate these sounds and enunciate them clearly.
  • Use picture cards so they can attach an object to the word and have them say the word carefully.
  • Using short words like dog, ask your child what sound they hear at the beginning and what sound they hear at the end.
  • Write down words that have hard-to-hear sounds, like the first r in library. Practise enunciating those sounds. Here are some examples: library, surprise, February, probably, environment.
  • To learn silent letters, have your child pronounce the silent letters as they write the words. For example, pronounce the underlined letters in these words: parliament, scissors, judge, and combed.
  • Clap out or tap out syllables in a word.
  • Have them listen for rhyming patterns, like: battle, cattle, rattle.
  • Spell words out loud. Like: M-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i.
  • Sing songs with rhymes and have your child fill in the missing rhyming word. For example, try "Alligator Pie" by Dennis Lee. "Alligator pie, alligator pie. If I don't get some I think I'm going to ."

Remember to talk to your child's teacher about which words your child is learning and use words that are age-appropriate and familiar for your child.

builder_rocket_boy_644x362.jpgIs your child a natural builder?

Does she love to make things out of Styrofoam and rusty springs she finds on the ground? Does he raid the recycling bin for the perfect toilet roll part for his new robot?

If any of this sounds familiar, your child’s passions and talents may lie in the worlds of engineering, architecture, inventing and more.

So is there anything parents can do now to help nurture these interests and prepare their little builders for later opportunities?

“While all kids are natural builders, inventors and creators, this passion should be encouraged and fed in order to develop further,” says Patricia Zawada, director of Creative Encounters with Science, a non-profit science/engineering/technology program for kids at the University of Guelph.

Eileen Kennedy-Moore, a psychologist and author of "Smart Parenting for Smart Kids: Nurturing Your Child’s True Potential," says fueling your child’s passions can help kids build happy lives down the road, but cautions parents not to see this process as an end point or golden ring.

boy_robot_230x286.jpg“Nurturing our kids' true potential isn't about making sure they meet some predetermined standards,” she says. “It's about helping them develop the skills they need so they can create a life that is meaningful and satisfying to them.”

Zawada explains the benefits of building and offers tips for parents who want to help encourage their kids in this interest.


Benefits of Building for Kids:
  • Improved problem solving/informed decision-making skills;
  • Increased sense of accomplishment and improved confidence;
  • Spatial skills (2D & 3D)
  • Increased creativity and ingenuity;
  • Improved awareness of science, engineering and technology.


Ways To Stimulate Your Builder:


  • Building Kits: Lego NXT, Snap Circuits, Keva Structures;
  • Crafts: Use materials around the home to create various one act structures, for example, a marble sorter, catapult or "Paperless" Airplane (made of anything but paper);
  • Videos: Pick a machine kids are curious about,, washing machine, television and find a video on YouTube on how it’s made.
  • Parent/Child Projects: Can include improving everyday tasks around the house, e.g. fixing leaky faucets;
  • Reverse Engineering: taking things apart and rebuilding them;
  • Science Camps & Clubs: Many camps ae run out of local universities by undergraduate students who are enthusiastic about engineering and inspiring youth.


Parents Should Encourage:
  • Interest in how things work;
  • Designing & brainstorming before building;
  • Failed attempts being just as important as successes;
  • Trying new things and stepping outside of comfort zones;
  • Using limited materials or recycling;
  • Ways to improve & grow;
  • Girls to get involved in building as well (women are underrepresented in technology, science and engineering).


Some Final Tips:

Kennedy-Moore offers two more tips for parents working on building projects with kids:

  • Don't take over;
  • Focus on process, not outcome.

hooked_science_644x362.jpgDespite the fact that 70 percent of Canada's top jobs today require science, technology, engineering and math, less than half of our high school graduates have senior-level courses in these subjects.

That's according to the study "Spotlight on Science Learning: The High Cost of Dropping Science and Math," conducted by the science education charity Let's Talk Science and biopharmaceutical company Amgen Canada.

"(In today's society) science and technology simply (aren't) seen to be as important as other things," says Bonnie Schmidt, founder of Let's Talk Science.

Young children start off very curious and interested in the science all around them, but they lose that as they get into the higher grades, Schmidt says.

“We’re all born scientists ... watch your toddlers experiment with floating and sinking,” says Cindy Adams, executive director of Scientists in School. "If you can hook that natural curiosity when they’re young and give them lots of opportunities to enjoy science and find it fun then they are going to continue. They’ll find science cool.”

explore_science_216x283.jpgSchmidt says parents and teachers also need to prioritize and foster the ability to ask good questions.

"Curiosity is fostered because you wonder about something and you are curious about something," Schmidt says. "And I really think science education lends itself to asking good questions.”

So what can be done to help keep kids interested and engaged in science?

Schmidt and Adams share their tips below on how you can find science in your everyday life.

Schmidt's Tips:
  • When at grocery store with your preschooler, point out what part of the plant you are eating;
  • Talk to your child in the produce section about why water is spraying over the vegetables;
  • Talk to your child about the wheels on the grocery cart;
  • Take a walk in the park and talk about different tree colours and shapes;
  • While your child is playing in the sandbox, ask him or her, 'what would happen if' and 'I wonder what would happen' questions;
Adams' Tips:
  • Get your kids to collect leaves and observe the leaves’ characteristics, including, shape, vein pattern and leaf edge;
  • Ask them to sort and categorize the leaves according to these characteristics;
  • Talk about the structure and physical properties of things like their creations in the sandbox;
  • Use the child's interest as a starting point and encourage their questions;
  • Give them lots of opportunities to explore indoors and outdoors;
  • Talk about what yeast does when you're baking;
  • Don't be adverse to them messing about and getting dirty;
  • Let them bring things from outside indoors;
  • Help them troubleshoot how to get answers to their questions.

kevin_bio_pic_75x75.jpgcounting_slide_644x362.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.



Counting! We all do it on a regular basis throughout our day whether we are counting items in our grocery basket, or counting coins to pay for that morning coffee. It is a practical mathematical concept that we learn very early on, and that we use for the rest of our lives.


You may think of counting as something kids learn prior to entering school, but the math concept of counting actually exists in the Ontario Math Curriculum until grade 5. The process and strategies are the same, but the range of numbers increase, and in grades 4 and 5 kids start to count by fraction amounts (e.g. halves, thirds, fourths) and decimal amounts.


I have five kids, and I remember all of them could recite their numbers at an early age - “1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 10…” - well, nobody said they were perfect! But what they were doing is developing a sense of rote counting which really means that they were beginning to memorize the pattern. This is important, but it doesn’t mean kids have a meaningful sense of numbers or counting. So for example, your child may be able to recite numbers from 1 to 10 (rote), but may not know that 10 is a greater number than 5 (meaning).


How do you help your child develop good counting strategies? Here are five fun and easy tips:



crayons_white.jpgCount, Count, Count!
Ask your kids to count items whenever an opportunity presents itself:  “How many crayons are in the box?, “How many items are in the grocery cart?” And remind your kids of the following:
» Counting words have an order to them (1, 2, 3, 4, not 1, 2, 5 7).
» The last number you count is how many there are in the group (crayons, groceries).
» No matter how many times you count the 5 Smarties there are only going to be 5 (unless you get hungry!).
» Encourage your child to use whatever strategies help him or her keep track - touching each item, moving the item, pointing at it.


Sing counting songs, read counting books, use counting in games.

» Hide and Seek, skipping rope, and card games like GO FISH, are everyday examples of games that can support counting. 
» Ask your child to count both forward (1, 2, 3, 4, ….) and backwards (10 , 9 , 8, 7, 6, 5, ….)
» Sing songs like "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed",  or "99 Bottles of Pop on the Wall" (for those really long road trips!).
»There are lots of counting books out there, here are a few:



1, 2 Buckle My Shoe
by Anna Grossnickle


10 Black Dots
by Donald Crews


One Little Chicken
by David Elliot


1+1=5 and Other Unlikely Additions
by David LaRochelle


Skip Count!

Early on you and your child will probably focus on counting by 1’s but as they transition into grade 1 you should start helping your child practice counting by 2’s, 5’s and 10’s.

» Once your child gets it, start counting from different starting points – not always 0 or 1 e.g. 3, 5, 7, 9 ….”
» Have your child skip count when playing a board game, to advance to the next spot.
» Have your child skip count when sorting out objects like toys or food.


Counting On

This is a counting strategy where we start at a number other than 0 or 1 and then count onward from that point e.g. 4, 5, 6, 7. This is a great strategy that also supports addition skills.

» Use a number line and have your child locate numbers and count on from different starting points.
» Play games like HOW MANY? Try covering up a number of the items (you can hold them in your hand), and then ask your child questions e.g. “I have four in my hand, how many are there in total?” Or “There are 9 in total, how many are in my hand?”




Look for Common Representations of Numbers
It’s important for kids to recognize common representations of numbers. Provide opportunities to see as many different representations as possible – from the numbers on playing cards, to numbers on game die, to numbers on coins or bills.

mathemagic.jpgTry out this number trick with your kids from Lynda Colgan's Mathemagic Number Tricks!

1. Ask your partner to think of any secret number, preferably a small number, and keep it private.

2. Now ask them to double that number.

3. Then they should add 8 and divide by 2.

4. Then subtract their original number from this new number.

5. Now instruct them to find the letter in the alphabet that corresponds with that number, for instance 1 = A, 2 = B.

6. Now ask them to think of a country name that starts with that letter.

7. Now ask them to identify the second letter in that country name and use it to think of the name of an animal.

8. Finally, ask them to think of a colour of that animal.

9. Have them say their answer aloud and it should be Grey Elephants in Denmark.

HH-Math_tips_Tip1_dotorg.644x362.jpgchad biio pic_133x84.jpg

Chad 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.





Starting school can bring on a range of emotions. While some children may experience happiness, excitement, and joy about the prospect of a new year, others may feel fearful and anxious – especially kids who generally do not perform well at school, and particularly those who struggle with math.


What can parents do to ease their child’s concerns?


Five Tips to Help Get Your Child Thinking About Math:


  1. calculator.jpgBack to School Shopping:  Give your child a budget and list for back to school necessities.  This will give your child a chance to practice financial literacy skills while getting stuff he or she needs for the school year. Calculators optional!

  2. Play Card Games:  Depending on your child’s age, there are a variety of card games that will engage your kids in counting, matching, sorting, ordering, and computational strategies - skills they will need to show their math knowledge in school. Whether it’s Crazy 8’s, Go Fish, or Gin Rummy, teach your child a new card game, or ask your child to teach you one. Just remember to let your child win once in  a while.

  3. peppers.jpgTalk About the Math All Around You:  Make your child aware of how much math there is in everyday life. Talk about the math you use in your job. (e.g. “I have to figure out how much this project will cost, how many people I need, how many hours it will take …”)  Talk about the things you do at home that require math (e.g. measurements in cooking, household budget) Take your kids grocery shopping with you and ask them to spot the “better deal”.  I was so proud when my daughter discovered that a three-pack of peppers was $3.97 but the same peppers were being sold singly for $1.00 each. She wondered why anyone would buy the three-pack? Maybe because not everyone bothers to do the math.

  4. Let Your Kids Help: Use your child’s interest in helping you to help them engage with math. While cooking, get your child to measure ingredients. While recycling, ask your child to sort items. While driving, get your child to count objects – how many red cars, how many stop signs?  If you are assembling something at home like a bookshelf or a piece of furniture, get your child to read the instructions and help out at each step e.g. sort the pieces.

  5. jelly_beans_white.jpgEncourage Your Child to Estimate:  One of the most important math skills your child will need to develop is the ability to estimate, and it is easy for you to help your child practice this skill.  Start by asking lots of estimating questions like:  “How much longer until we arrive at …?”, “How big is our sofa?”, “How many cars are in that parking lot?” These kinds of questions will strengthen your child’s estimating skills and also really increase his or her chances of winning the next “how many jellybeans in the jar” contest!



You can find math everywhere - even when you are at the grocery store. Whether you and your child are at a large grocery store or small market, you can help your child engage in math in a way that is fun and educational.


We consulted with Marc Husband, an elementary school teacher and teacher educator, to create these tips on how to find math everywhere at the grocery store.


Geometry, Multiplicative Thinking and Data Management


As you make your way around the grocery store, you’ll see different rows and columns of 3-dimensional figures, from rectangular prisms in the cereal aisle to cylinders in the canned soup section. Look around and ask your child questions.

  • Rectangular prisms and cylinders. Can your child find rectanglar prisms (cereal boxes, pancake mix) and cylinders (cans of soup or tuna)? What kinds of products or foods are boxed? What kinds of products are in cans? What other shapes can you see in each can or box?

  • Rows, columns and multiplicative thinking. Looking at cans of tuna or soup on a shelf, can you describe how many rows are there? Can you describe the number of cans in each column? How many cans do you estimate? Can your child estimate the number of cans of tuna or soup on a shelf by multiplying the number of cans in a row and in a column?

  • "What if?" What if you needed to stock your kitchen with soup and you could only spend $10. One brand of soup sells three for $2 and a different brand sells for 50 cents each. Which is the better value? How many cans you buy with $10 before taxes?



Measurement, Weight and Estimation


The produce aisle is probably one of the first departments you’ll enter at the grocery store. This is where you’ll find a produce scale - a great math learning tool.

  • Weight Measurement.  Measure a favourite fruit or vegetable. One apple weights about 200g . If you bought 1 kg of apples, how many apples would you get?

  • Estimation. Give your child different types of vegetables or fruit – like onions and potatoes— and compare them with apples. Have your child compare them in his or her hand. Which one is heavier? Which is lighter? Use the produce scale to test the estimate.

  • "What if?" If an apple pie or apple crumble recipe calls for 8 cups (2L) of apples, how many apples will you need? What if you wanted to double or halve the recipe?



Money Management, Measurement and Estimation


The grocery store is the perfect place to develop money management skills.

  • Bench marks, estimation and money. Estimating the cost of the total price of your grocery cart or basket is a good skill – for both kids and parents. An easy way to estimate is to use benchmarks of $5 or $10 for each item. How many $5 items do you have? How many $10 items do you have? What is the total estimate? For a challenge, set a budget and try to come within the budget.

  • Calculating tax. Once you’re finished at the cashier, use the receipt and calculate an estimate for tax. One way to think about calculating the 13% HST in Ontario is use an approximation. The first step is to take the total amount of groceries. Then, calculate 10%. Then, halve this amount (5%). Finally, add the two numbers. This equation won’t be precise, but will be fine to estimate how much you’ll need.

  • "What if?" You put your child in charge of making an apple crumble recipe for a potluck, and you have budgeted $20 for the apples. How many apples do you need to buy if each apple weighs around 200g and the recipe calls for 2L? One your child has determined how many apples are needed, ask how much will it cost to buy that many apples? With a $20 budget, do you have enough money?



What Your Child Will Learn:

  • Different ways to think about and do math.

  • Curriculum - these activities touch on the five strands of the Ontario elementary math curriculum: number sense and numeration, measurement, geometry and spatial sense, patterning and algebra, and data management and probability.

  • Math skills like problem solving, reasoning and proving, selecting tools and computational strategies, reflecting, connecting, representing and communicating.

  • That math is everywhere, and fun!

remember_559x372.jpgThe events of 2014 have stirred up a lot of emotions – from the National Day of Honour to mark the end of Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan, to the tragic deaths of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo.

Talking with children about topics like this, especially in the context of Remembrance Day, can be a challenge, even for people who may know a lot about it. I am both a military historian and a serving military officer, so I tend to have a good grasp on events and their context. In spite of this, I still find it difficult at times to discuss with my daughters (ages 10 and 12) what is going on with regards to the military, and with regards to Remembrance Day.

Some of you may wonder why I’m even grappling with this – is it important to talk about an event that happened nearly a hundred years ago? Don't kids learn enough about this in school? While our children are exposed to elements of our history through what they learn in school, sometimes even the teachers themselves can have challenges knowing what is important, or how much time to spend teaching a lesson. When we were walking through several military museums this summer, my daughters were curious to know things about the airplanes, uniforms, and pictures they were looking at – but didn’t mementos.jpgwant the huge history lesson that I am prone to deliver. In their own way, they taught me what they wanted to learn - and I was still able to put it in context to historical events. As we go through these next few years, a great number of celebrations and commemorations will be taking place, and with them come opportunities for all of us to learn about our country and the contributions our ancestors made to shaping Canada and world events .
So how do you talk to your kids about Remembrance Day? Here are some of my thoughts:

1.   Encourage your kids to ask questions. Remember that they may have little context on what Remembrance Day is, other than wearing little red flowers, two minutes of silence at school, and old men and women wearing medals laying green wreaths. For many of us, we can recall grandparents or great-uncles who served in The War – so we have some context of what it’s all about. For our kids, that connection just might not be there.

2.   Use photos and items to make the event real. Children learn in many different ways, so use what you have at your disposal. That might be photographs, a cap badge, a button, or a medal of a relative. For younger children, giving them something tactile and explaining its importance can go further than any discussion.

3.   Learn together as a family. If the discussion raises questions and you don’t know the answer, that’s okay – it’s a great opportunity for you and your child to learn more together. And rest assured you aren’t alone in this feeling. After 25 years as a military historian, I am always learning something new. There are many great sites out there for information, including Veterans Affairs Canada, the Canadian War Museum, and the Royal Canadian Legion which conducts annual poster, literary and video contests to allow children to show what Remembrance Day means to them.medals.jpg

There are also a great number of books available on war and remembrance that are suitable for children.  I recommend checking the Canadian Children's Book Centre's lists for the First World War and the Second World War.  They contain many excellent books for children of all ages.

Remembrance Day is a time for reflection, for learning, for sharing, so take the opportunity to learn more, and get answers to questions that you or your kids have wondered about.  If you would like help looking for details on a family member, please contact me - I will warn you that this may be neither a quick nor an easy process. But the results – and the journey you take to get there – can be well worth sharing with your children and the rest of your family.

Memoriam Eorum Retinebimus - We Will Remember Them

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Steven Dieter CD MA FRSA is a military historian, serving military officer, and a volunteer with the Royal Canadian Legion at Branch, Zone and District levels. He has been recognized by the Minister of Veterans Affairs for his research on fallen Canadians while deployed to Jamaica.