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All Places > Explore > Parents as Partners > Primary Learners (Gr. 1-3) Curriculum Supports > Blog > 2015 > April

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

Steve Dieter.jpg



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.

civics_6_459x353.jpgWe've teamed up with the Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust (CCLET) to create civics scenarios to help kids, parents and teachers have conversations about civics-related issues. We encourage parents and teachers to take 15 minutes out of your 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. Feel free to come up with your own questions, and please share what you learned in the comments below. In this installment of our series, we take a look at the right of freedom of expression guaranteed in the Charter, and whether it sometimes makes sense to limit that right.




Every year, our school puts on a play for the students, teachers, and family members. Alan's friend Clayton has always wanted to act in the school play, but he is very shy. This year Clayton finally tried out and got a part. Unfortunately, during the live performance, he was so nervous that he just stood there. The other kids were not very kind. Alan overheard some of them making fun of Clayton behind his back. Clayton asked Alan, "How did they like me?"


civics_culture&identity_411x362.jpgWe've teamed up with the Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust (CCLET) to create civics scenarios to help kids, parents and teachers have conversations about civics-related issues. We encourage parents and teachers to take 15 minutes out of your 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. Feel free to come up with your own questions, and please share what you learned in the comments below. In this installment of our series, we tackle how to talk to your child about the connection between culture and identity -- how things like skin colour, where we are born, and the language we speak can influence how people see us, and how we see others.




My child's other parent and I come from two different parts of the world. We identify as coming from different races. Recently, our child has become interested in this and wants to know how to identify herself. Sometimes people ask her, "what are you?" She wants to know what to say.




We've teamed up with the Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust (CCLET) to create civics scenarios to help kids, parents and teachers have conversations about civics-related issues. We encourage parents and teachers to take 15 minutes out of your 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. Feel free to come up with your own questions, and please share what you learned in the comments below. In this installment of our series, we take a look at the right to liberty and how laws may affect our rights.




My friend was walking down the street last week when she heard a loud noise and saw bright lights flashing. As she reached the corner, the stop light turned red so she stopped and waited to cross the street.


But while she was waiting, a big red fire engine, going very fast, rushed past her and went right through the intersection when the light was still red. My friend knows that the rule says everyone, drivers as well as people walking, must stop when the light turns red. Was it fair that the fire engine did not stop at the red light?



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! In this installment you get to make water bend and learn some science too, from the experts at Let's Talk Science.


To show how static electricity affects running water. Be sure to ask your child what he or she thinks might happen before you do the experiment - what result is expected when a comb that has been run through hair 10 times is placed near a stream of running water?

The Experiment


  1. A dry plastic comb
  2. A faucet with running water
  3. A head of clean dry hair
  1. Turn on the faucet slowly until you have a VERY thin stream of water flowing.
  2. Run the comb through your hair 10 times.
  3. Slowly bring the comb close to the water, without actually touching the water. What do you see?
Explaining the Science:

Did you see the water bend when you placed the comb near it? Why do you think it did? The scientific explanation is that when you ran your comb through your hair several times, tiny, invisible parts of the atoms in your hair, called ELECTRONS, collected on the comb. These electrons are negatively charged, and when they are attached to the comb, they make the comb negatively charged. The scientific laws of attraction say that opposites attract and likes repel, so the negatively charged comb is attracted to things that are positively charged. The running water is a POSITIVE force. The attraction is strong enough to pull the water towards the comb as it is flowing.


Curriculum Connection:

This experiment is simple, safe and appropriate for any age. In the Ontario Science and Technology curriculum, Forces in Nature is taught in Grade 3, Static and Current Electricity is taught in Grade 6.


Extra Credit!
  • Tear up pieces of tissue until they are as a small as possible.
  • Then charge your comb again by combing it through your hair, and bring it close to the tiny pieces of tissue. What do you observe?
  • Observe static electricity in other places- rubbing balloons on your head and sticking them to the wall with the charge - use a timer to see how long it sticks to the wall!
  • Go under the covers so it's dark, put socks on your feet and rub them back and forth quickly under the blankets - do you see the static electricity?

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 see what kind of pop floats and learn some science too, from the experts at Let's Talk Science.



To show your child how two objects that appear to be the same can have different densities. Be sure to ask your child what he or she thinks might happen before you do the experiment - what result is expected when the regular and diet pop cans are placed in the container of water?


The Experiment


  1. A can of diet pop
  2. A can of regular pop
  3. A deep tub of cold water


  1. Immerse the can of regular pop in a deep tub of cold water. Observe what happens to this can.
  2. Immerse the can of diet pop in a deep tub of cold water. Observe what happens to this can. How does it differ from the can of regular pop?


Explaining the Science:

The regular pop can should have sunk and the diet pop can should have floated. Ask your child why he or she thinks that happened.The scientific explanation is that while both cans are the same size and have the same amount of liquid inside, not all liquids are the same density. Both the regular and the diet pops are mostly water, but the regular pop also contains a significant amount of sugar, usually in the form of corn syrup -- about 40 grams of corn syrup. Diet pop contains artificial sweetener which is much sweeter than corn syrup, so less of it is needed -- about 0.35 grams of sweetener. So the sweetener makes all of the difference. The regular pop is denser due to the 40 grams of corn syrup, which makes it sink. The diet pop is less dense due to the 0.35 grams of sweetener, so it is light enough to float.


Curriculum Connections:

This experiment is simple, safe and appropriate for any age. However, in the Ontario Science and Technology curriculum, density is taught in Grade 8.


Extra Credit!
  • Try using cans of juice and see what happens.
  • Ask your child to gather household items and predict whether they will sink or float. Test them out and chart the results on a graph.

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

In this experiment, you get to give a balloon gas and learn some science too, from the experts at Let's Talk Science.



To demonstrate how gas is created as a result of a chemical reaction.

Be sure to ask your child what he or she thinks might happen before you do the experiment – what result is expected when you mix vinegar and baking soda together? What will happen to the balloon?


The Experiment


  1. Baking soda
  2. Vinegar
  3. Plastic bottle (we used a water bottle)
  4. A balloon
  5. A funnel


  1. Using a funnel pour baking soda into the balloon until it is ½ full.
  2. Clean the funnel or use a different one to pour vinegar into your bottle (until it is about 1/3 full).
  3. Place the opening of the balloon over the opening of the bottle. Make sure you don't let the baking soda fall into the bottle just yet.
  4. When the balloon is on tightly, lift the balloon but keep a hold on where it attaches to the bottle or use an elastic band to hold the balloon on. Let the baking soda fall into the vinegar.
  5. Observe what happens in the bottle and to the balloon.


Explaining the Science:

Did you see the vinegar bubble up when you added the baking soda, and the balloon blow up? Why do you think that happened? The scientific explanation is that vinegar is an acid, baking soda is a base, and when you mix them together they create an acid-base reaction. In this case, the reaction created a gas called carbon dioxide. Gases need room to expand, so once the carbon dioxide filled the bottle, it moved into the balloon and inflated it.


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 and Properties of and Changes in Matter is taught in Grade 5.


Extra Credit!
  • Freeze coloured vinegar, then drop into a pan with baking soda and water (250 ml water, 5 ml baking soda). What happens?
  • Try using different solids and liquids and see what happens: e.g. combine water with dish soap and add 5 ml of baking soda, or combine vinegar and dish soap and add 5 ml of baking soda.
  • Remember to ask your kids to predict what is going to happen first, then ask them to discuss what really happened, and why they think that occurred.