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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!