Top 5 Study Break Ideas (that don't involve stress eating!)

Last week on the blog, we featured 5 awesome recipes to fuel you during your study sessions. While we highlighted the importance of food for energy and nourishment, for many, it’s easy to over do it on the snacking. Instead of stress eating, try these five different activities during your study break. Not only will they make you feel refreshed and rejuvenated, but they will prevent that bloated and uncomfortable feeling you might get when you eat too much and then have to sit back down to study. http://



Yes, there’s a reason that our logo happens to be a woman sitting in the classical “Lotus” (or “meditating”) pose with beautiful mathematical symbols emanating from her hands. Meditation is a great way to relax and slow your heart rate down, something you’ll find especially helpful if you’re feeling hyped up and anxious over a certain set of problems. Find a space to sit down, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. If you aren’t sure where to begin, try using an app. We love Headspace and Stop, Breathe & Think.



Phone a Friend

Sometimes, there’s nothing more isolating than sitting alone in a room for 3+ hours on end. Rather than sending texts and distracting yourself throughout your study session, save the chatting for a break and have a #realtalk over the phone with one of your besties. It will get your mind off of the books, and make you feel less lonely!




We all know that sitting in the same position for a long time is horrible for our bodies, especially if that position is being hunched over a desk. Take a few minutes here and there to get up and give your body a decent stretch. We recommend focusing on exercises that open your chest, to counteract all that screen time. Small movements like rolling your shoulders, clasping your hands above your head, or a runner’s calf stretch will also have you feeling energized! http://


Get Some Fresh Air (and Up Your Step Count)

There’s nothing like a breath of fresh air! If you’re feeling trapped and claustrophobic at your desk or in the library, take 20 minutes to go for a walk. Fresh air can reinvigorate you and there are countless studies that have shown that being in nature stimulates the brain, increases immune function and has a calming effect on our bodies. Use a pedometer to track your steps, and set a step goal for yourself to make sure you’re moving enough even during exam time. If you have a dog, do double duty by crossing a chore off your to-do list, while also taking care of your mind, body and soul!



Have a Dance Party

You know it’s never a dull moment here at The Math Guru, so why not incorporate some of the crazy into your own private studying sessions? If you’re feeling fatigued and unmotivated, put the books away for a couple minutes and blast your favourite tunes. Be sure to get out of your chair and dance around to them, since frequent movement is key to surviving long periods of studying. Don’t worry no one will judge you based on your music choices OR dance moves, so go all out and get those endorphins pumping!

Study Skills That Actually Work!


"I studied SO hard for my math test, knew everything, and still BOMBED it - what gives?!" Sound familiar? It does to me! Being in the tutoring business, I hear many of the same things over and over again - and that's what gives me insight into what our tutors need to tackle with students. Test taking - a huge one!

It's been one month since school started, which is about the time is takes for teachers to assign their first major test - aka FREAKOUT TIME!

Sure, learning the actual math and science curriculum is a given when it comes to tutoring, but there is often a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to getting good grades at school. Knowing the material is half the battle - but the OTHER half is a combination of things, one being the development of study skills...that ACTUALLY work. I say it this way because many of our students 'study'...they just don't study effectively. This often results in frustration and a lack of confidence that goes on to negatively affect their math marks and even their attitude towards school, which totally sucks.

I was recently on Global's The Morning Show talking about how choosing the right strategies to study effectively can be daunting, especially because there are so so many to choose from, and their effectiveness really does depend on the individual. So let's start here, with a list of study techniques that might REALLY work for you!

1. Choose your work space wisely!

When I was in high school, I could NOT stand working in a quiet space. Libraries? Forget it. Kitchen table? No way. It made me restless and lonely and I just felt like studying SUCKED when I was all alone. The best thing for me was to set up at a cozy coffee shop and study for hours - I loved it. The buzz around me was bustling enough to make me feel like I was part of something, but not loud and distinct enough to distract me from what I was doing. To this day, my favourite places to write, study or do work are coffee shops! Plus, if you need a snack break, you don't have to even go anywhere - perfection.

That being said, the "coffee shop strategy" won't work for just anyone. Some people get distracted by ANYthing and really do need to be sequestered, alone, somewhere. If that's you, it's important to have a designated space to study - your kitchen, den, bedroom - whatever it is, make it THE place you study, and have everything you might possibly need in that space so that when you're ready for it, it's ready for you.

2. Skimming doesn't equal studying!

Reading over your math notes in NO way replaces actual practice. This is one of the biggest ways in which students misuse their studying time! The best way to study for a math or science test is to go over past problems you've done in class, in previous quizzes, or in your homework. Do them ALL over again and make sure you get them right the second time around!

3. Your teacher gives you freebies - you just need to listen!

If you're short on time and wondering which questions to focus on while studying, always start with the questions your teacher covered in class! Chances are, those are the ones they think are the most important!

4. Study before you actually HAVE to study!

We all know that cramming isn't exactly the best way to study for a test - and there's an easy way to avoid it! In addition to doing your homework at night, take a few minutes to go through the notes you took in class, fill in any gaps, and make sure you understand them. If there's anything that you don't fully get, address it with your teacher the next day. By the time you get assigned a test, you at least know that you get the gist of the subject matter - now you just have to fully nail it down!

Quick Fix: Do's and Don'ts to Studying Effectively

  • DON'T have your phone ANYWHERE NEAR YOU. It literally cannot benefit you in any way - trust me! Take a ten minute phone break every hour if you absolutely need your instagram fix;)
  • DO get organized from day one - get a binder for every subject and make sure that it's organized on a daily basis! That way when it comes to study time, you have everything ready to go!
  • DON'T "borrow your friend's calculator"! Every calculator is different and you want your very own that you can get to know and master before test time strikes!
  • DO study with friends - as long as they don't distract you! Make sure you all study independently, even if you're in the same place - that way you're still getting actual studying in, but have someone to ask for help if you're totally stumped on something!
  • DON'T stay up all night! All-nighters are one of the worst things that can happen to your brain - check out this article for the sordid details - ew!
  • DO take breaks! Your brain needs to rest and rejuvenate, so take a ten minute break every hour. If you want to get really hardcore, use that ten minutes for exercise - 100 jumping jacks go a long way towards rejuvenating your brain AND getting your blood flowing after staring at a textbook for an hour!

Craving more knowledge? Check out ASAP SCIENCE'S quick video on the 9 best scientific study tips - it's one of our favourites!

Cheers and happy studying!



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!