math teachers

Math In Real Actual LIFE!

All too often TMG tutors hear students complain about the lack math’s relevance to their everyday lives. We've all heard the classic “when am I going to ACTUALLY use this in real life?!” and “WHY am I doing this?!” We get it. You think that math is useless. BUT guess what? The answer to these questions is that there IS a purpose to what you are doing - you're EXPANDING YOUR MIND GUYS! You're building a muscle! You're adding a beautiful mathy-coloured lens to the kaleidoscope of your BRAIN! But okay, I get it. You want to see application. You want to see math in action. So we've got it! Sure, maybe not ALL of what you’re learning is totally and completely relevant BUT that doesn’t mean math is IRRELEVANT. In fact, math is totally plays a part in your everyday life, and we're here to prove it to you. So for all you haters out there, here are 5 ways in which you can actually use math IRL.

1. Baking

Did you know that baking is basically where fractions were born? Okay not actually, but maybe! When you read a recipe, all the ingredients needed to make that delicious batch of chocolate chip cookies are measured in fractions. For example, ¼ a cup of sugar, ½ a cup of flour, etc. If you wanted to make 24 or 6 chocolate chip cookies instead of 12, one would have to ACTUALLY do math by MULTIPLYING or DIVIDING the fractions. CRAZY, right?!

2. Road Tripping

Believe it or not, math comes in handy when traveling. Heading on a roadie? if you’re going on a road trip and want to estimate how much gas you need, you would calculate the predicted miles per hour and the distance traveled. By calculating how much fuel you might need for your super fun journey, you're eliminating the possibility of being stranded without gas– AWESOME!!

3. Time Management

One of the best ways to effectively manage your time is to make detailed to-do lists that involve some simple math. One way to figure out the urgency and importance of each task is by rating them on a scale of 1-5 (1 being of marginal importance and urgency and 5 being of critical importance and urgency), and multiplying these numbers (importance x urgency), to find out how to dedicate yourself to the task. Who even KNEW math could be involved in making to-do lists?! So COOL!!

4. Money Management

What should I do with my money? Should I spend, save or invest? How much do I spend per month on rent, groceries and other costs? These are all important questions guys! By NOT asking these questions and NOT doing the math involved in answering them, you could end up broke – YIKES!!

5. Grocery Shopping

Like we said, math is EVERYWHERE. YES, it's even in the grocery store. Ever go into the grocery store and want to figure out the cost of an item on sale or figure out the cost of a bag of oranges per pound? To find out the answers to both of these questions, calculations are needed! Multiplication, estimation, decimals, percentages - all vital to figuring out whether that supersize box of Oreos is actually a deal or ACTUALLY a total scam!

New Year… New You?

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HELLO 2017 HOW MAY I HELP YOU (MYSELF)?!  With an entire year ahead of you, it's the perfect time to dust off those ambitions and bring them to centre stage. An opportunity to start fresh, a new year means new goals, new habits, and...well, a new you! However, even though you may be super into achieving your goals, it not necessarily an easy feat – how often do we write down New Year’s resolutions and simply NOT stick to them? To help you achieve your goals and make 2017 the best year yet, this week’s TMG blog post is all about the S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting model. Let's DO THIS. S – Specific 

When setting your goals, be specific. The more specific you are with your goals, the more likely you are to achieve them. To make a goal specific, try and answer the following questions: who, what, when, where and why? To give you a better idea of what we mean, an example of a vague goal is: improve my performance in school. A specific goal is: increase my mark in each course by 5%.

M – Measurable

To create a measurable goal, establish exactly what you will see, hear and feel when you reach your goal. By doing this, you're breaking your goal into measurable elements which can actually be quantified. Like, you can actually TELL if you've accomplished them. To help figure out whether or not your goal is measurable, ask yourself: how will I know when my goal is accomplished? If you actually have an answer, it's measurable:)

A – Attainable

Do you have the resources to make this goal attainable? Do you have enough time, money or talent to make this goal part of your reality? Ask yourself whether or not you’re setting the bar just a bit too high – what’s realistic for you? So in terms of school, saying "I'm going to do 10 hours of math a day," while ADMIRABLE, is totally unrealistic...since you probably want to eat. And sleep. And like, have a life.

R – Relevant

Before proceeding, it is important to ask yourself whether or not this goal is important to you – do you really care about running a marathon? If your goal is not something that you truly and deeply care about, the chances of you achieving it are much less. Pick a goal that’s important to you, that way you are more likely to stick with it!

T – Timely

The year is long and there is a ton of time within it to achieve your goals. However, if you don't set deadlines for your goals, there more likely you are to NOT achieve them. No matter how small, deadlines give you something to work towards by helping you to keep up your momentum. Break down your goals into small chunks and actually put deadlines IN a physical calendar so that you can see them approaching! If your goal is to raise your mark by 10%, set a deadline for the first 5%, and another for the remaining 5%. That way you won't feel like you have to do EVERYTHING at once!

Most importantly, try and stay positive when working towards your goals. A strong-willed and positive outlook will get you much further than you can even imagine. And remember - most people are capable of WAY more than they give themselves credit for. How are YOU going to blow your OWN mind this year?

The Spooookiest Time Of The Year: Report Card Time!!!

It’s that magical time of the year again – no, not Christmas time – report card time. Report card time truly IS magical because it’s the perfect moment to gauge your progress both inside and outside the classroom. Report cards allow you to receive feedback from both your teachers and parents, helping to motivate you to keep up your current work ethic. In addition to receiving feedback from others, report cards provide time for self-reflection, the opportunity to see if you have achieved or are close to achieving the goals you have set for yourself. Divided into three EASY steps, this week’s blog post is a guide on how to act before, during and after you have received your report card. The purpose of this blog post is to help you realize that getting an 89% instead of a 90% is not something to cry about. I mean, really – both marks are AWESOME and you should be PROUD of receiving either one. Instead of crying over perceived failures, TMG wants you to learn ­how to SMILE about the successes that you have had so far and be MOTIVATED to continue putting forth hard-work in order to continue succeeding! After all, the school year is a long journey that has its many twists and turns; as my Dad would say: “school is not a sprint, it’s a marathon”.report-card1. Before: Self-Reflect

Although report cards are amazing pieces of information that straight-up tell you how you’re doing, I’m sure you already have an idea of your marks and what your teachers think about you BEFORE receiving your report card. So, instead of relying on what the teacher actually writes about you on paper, take a moment to think about how you’ve been doing in class. Ask yourself whether you’ve been completing your homework, handing in assignments on time, and putting forth your best effort? Do you truly, and I mean truly, come to class every day ready to learn? If not, then what can you do to improve? Take a moment to think about all of these questions BEFORE your teacher just hands you the answers. You might be pleasantly surprised and wonderfully relieved to see that you and your teacher are on the same page.

homer2. During: Keep Calm

I never liked reading my report card the second it was given to me, it really freaked me out to be reading it in front of my peers, I didn’t want anyone asking me my marks and comparing grades – it wasn’t their business, it was mine. So, whether you like to read your report card in front of others or want to go to a more secluded environment to look through your marks AND comments, the ONE piece of advice that I want you to have in mind is to KEEP CALM. Read through everything SLOWLY and THOROUGHLY. Teachers take their time to write comments, give marks on not only your school work but on other EQUALLY IMPORTANT categories like class participation and homework completion. Do not RUSH through your report card because it can tell you SO much about how you’re doing and can give you very important clues on how to help you progress throughout the rest of the school year.keep-calm-and-carry-on-crown-wallpaper-13. After: Discuss

After reading through your report card, don’t bottle up your thoughts and feelings about the feedback you have received. Discuss your findings with someone who you can trust, someone who will listen to you without judgment. Once you have discussed your report card with someone else, you can (with or without them), start to reflect on what you have read. Do you agree with what your teachers have said, are their comments fair? What did you do well on, what did you do not so well on, what are the areas that you can improve upon? After reflecting with the help of someone else, you can now create a game-plan on how to attack the rest of the school year and be, like we at TMG have said you can be, a TOTAL BOSS.icon_3373

Because The National Post Didn't Want To Print This

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Every once in awhile you read an article in another publication that makes you scream "THIS! THIS IS WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE UNIVERSE!" Well, that happened to me last week. So, like any normal human being, I wrote a scathing Op Ed piece for The National Post. And of course they didn't publish it. Lucky you, I'm going to share it with you anyways. Enjoy! In response to this gem of an article from The National Post, which essentially promotes the idea that some of us should simply 'give up on math' at the age of eight: Embrace your ineptitude when giving up is the right thing to do

“Embrace your ineptitude when giving up is the right thing to do.” First of all, wow, what a statement to make to your educated readers, many (if not most) who have no doubt worked hard to get where they are today – an aptitude level that enables them to read and (gasp!) understand the verbose and multi-syllabic lexicon of this very publication. What would have happened to this group of people is they had decided in say, Grade 2, that they simply didn’t and never would have the capacity to read so perhaps they should instead focus their efforts on ‘what they’re good at’? Numeracy and the presently increasing lack thereof among the younger generation is a growing concern, and as someone who failed math before realizing that her perceived ineptitude was simply something imposed upon her, I take issue with the notion that mathematical and direction-following ability is something that large portions of our population (marginalized groups and women, no less) are inherently bad at.

When I was in high school, I failed math. Twice. Of course, that made sense. I wasn’t good at math, I was good at art and English, usually it’s one or the other isn’t it? Can people really be good at multiple things? Shocker. My parents weren’t having it (which I am grateful for to this day, thanks mom and dad), and enrolled me in a smaller school where teachers didn’t indulge in the idea of ‘math people’ and ‘non math people’. Within a week I was enjoying the wonders of the forbidden fruits that mathematical knowledge held under the guidance of a teacher who believed in me right from the moment I walked into her classroom. I ended the year with a 99% in Grade 12 math, and went on to achieve a grade of 100% in first year university Calculus. I pursued a business degree, a teaching degree, and a Masters of Arts in Mathematics Education and now own a math & science tutoring studio in Toronto where the focus is on specifically eradicating and extinguishing the notion that ‘some people just can’t do it.’

Do we “live in a society that wants to change us into mathematicians and direction-followers,” or do we (and should we) live in a society where everyone has the opportunity to decide if they want to be a mathematician or direction-follower?  I see hundreds of students a week, most of whom do poorly at math because of a lack of confidence and a deeply embedded sense of inability. I work with students who, once they begin to succeed, are incredibly empowered by the realization that they can do something they believed so deeply that they couldn’t.

Math is more than calculations and Google Maps. Math is the intuitive ability to solve problems, to get creative, to think outside the box, something that no calculator or GPS can do for you. Sure different people may have different natural strengths, but do we really think that giving up if something proves difficult is any way to approach the many curveballs that life throws at us?  You say you’re here to tell us that “most of us cannot be changed." I’m here to tell you that most of us can be changed if given the opportunity, the inspiration, and the impetus to want to change. I’m living proof and I hope my story speaks to those discouraged and disempowered by your message that their brains perhaps simply ‘don’t work in a particular way.’ Your brains all work just fine – now go embrace that mathematical aptitude burning within and find a problem that needs solving!

Confidence = Competence: Investigating Ontario's Math Crisis

Inside The Math Guru, a math and science tutoring studio in Toronto. Lately it seems as though Septembers are plagued with a flurry of dramatic crisis-alerts regarding the fact that math education in this province is in some sort of horrendous state and that Ontario's children are two seconds away from being rendered innumerate for life. It's always the same story: elementary school teachers are unqualified, discovery learning has replaced rote learning, kids don't know the basics, math is taught too abstractly and kids are disconnected from real life applications and well, the culmination of all of these facts which is essentially that Ontario's education system simply isn't serving its population.

On August 27th, 2014, we heard the same story, AGAIN, courtesy of the latest EQAO results which came in, proclaiming:

"Literacy success rates are high in Ontario elementary schools; math achievement drops again in Grade 6 and shows steady improvement in the Grade 9 applied course."

Everyone freaked right out. After all, if kids are learning less and less math in their formative years, they're going to have a pretty tough time in high school, and an even harder time getting into the university program of their choice. The fact is that math at the elementary level has gotten a little confusing given the change in curriculum and the advocacy of teaching methods that many find questionable and potentially ineffective. The truth is that math has always been a subject that a large percentage of students have struggled with. However, there is more to our declining math scores than simply our shift in pedagogy.

Most math-haters-turned-lovers (I being one of them) can tell you that the biggest factor in their shift in emotional and intellectual affinity for the subject was, in some capacity, due to an awesome teacher. We all remember that teacher who changed our lives, who instilled in us passion for a subject where there once may have been none. A teacher who is well-versed in his or her teachable and who is determined to help transform young minds, doesn't need to be told HOW to teach - they don't! A good teacher can read his or her students, and knows their subject well enough to understand what is needed in order for students to fully grasp what needs grasping. I have a feeling that if we looked at math classrooms before discovery learning was officially implemented, we would have seem many passionate math teachers USING discovery teaching of their own volition. Why? Because a teacher who is confident in their math abilities wants to share with students the many beautiful intricacies of math. They want to show kids that math applies to their lives. They want kids to understand that math is EVERYWHERE, not simply confined to the pages of their potentially outdated math textbook. The problem is, that in order to teach kids how to discover something, in order to teach them the many intricacies of anything -  you need to feel confident in the fact that you have the knowledge that you're responsible for imparting. THAT, I believe, is where the real problem lies. The day after the EQAO results came in, I made a cameo on Global Television's "The Morning Show" and suggested that perhaps the real problem with the way math is taught lies in teacher confidence. After all, teacher candidates aren't required to have ANY mathematical credentials - not one! Imagine trying to teach a Grade 6 class how to understand fractions when you haven't seen one in ten years!

The good news? There IS hope! There ARE schools whose teachers LOVE math and are committed to instilling that love for math in their students. There are schools who are taking initiative to make math a priority and to debunk the notion that kids simply default to hating math because, well, who doesn't? Malvern Collegiate is one of those schools. Their Grade 9 math scores have soared over the past two years - the reason? Real life examples, teachers who offer support to all of their students, a math department that works as a team, classrooms where pressure isn't an issue, the use of the abstract AND tangible, and above all, teachers who KNOW their course content and how it fits into the grand scheme of the entire math curriculum.  As one student explains, "No one fell behind because we knew what we were doing … she was a very good math teacher and easy to learn from." Simple, isn't it? For those of us stressing out about the fact that math at the junior level is suffering, schools like Joyce Public School kick to the curb the stereotype that elementary teachers can't teach math! Teachers make math a priority, going so far as to host an innovative and accessible math games night for parents and their children in order to equip parents with the tools they need to get their kids doing math outside of the classroom!

I think we need to stop focusing on the red tape and instead concentrate on what seems obvious: training and hiring teachers who truly know and understand what they are being qualified to teach. Why isn't this a given? Why are we allowing teachers to graduate and teach course content that they self-admittedly claim not to be comfortable with? Why are we even admitting these potential teachers INTO our education programs in the first place?!

The fact that our math scores are declining is a product of many reasons - we need to stop pointing the finger at 'new math' and take a look at ALL of the factors involved in order to begin to reverse this trend (a LOT of math words in that sentence!). Unfortunately, our kids don't ALL go to schools like Malvern Collegiate and the onus is on us to find ways to augment what they may or may not be learning in the classroom. So, what can you do if your child's teacher simply isn't making math make sense?

Toolkit: How to fall in love with math when you're falling behind

1) Get a math tutor! Seriously - individualized help can make a huge difference, and some kids really are too anxious to ask for the help they need in front of a giant classroom. Having a personal math mentor can make all the difference in falling in love with a subject you've been struggling with.

2) Enroll your child in an extracurricular program that teaches the skills that their teacher might...not be so familiar with. Kids lives are packed with fun after school programs - why shouldn't math be one of them?! Programs like Spirit of Math take classroom learning to the next level by providing a fun and specialized learning environment while still in a group setting.

3) Make math a part of your everyday. Okay so fine: classroom learning seems too abstract. What can you do? There are SO many ways to integrate math into daily activities. In fact, once you take a look at your day to day, you'll realize that you're DOING math when you don't even know it! I spoke about this on Global's The Morning Show and CBC just released a great article outlining ways that parents can take a more active role in their child's math education - and enhance their own while they're at it!

4) Invest in some awesome math games and workbooks. There are a TON of math related apps and online games available. My personal favourites are IXL and Coolmath. Of course - to me, nothing beats the good old fashioned board game. Take a family trip to one of the many board game cafes in our city - problem solving at its finest!

Have a thought on this topic or an idea for mathematically frustrated parents or teens? Comment below and let's get the math party started!