Fork in the Road: Intermediate to Senior Mathematics




When students transition from grade  10 to 11, they have opportunities to specialize in what they would like to study. This transition may be difficult for students who are not used to having much choice in the courses they select. In order for students to successfully transition from the fairly regimented intermediate grades to the more flexible senior grades, they will need guidance. Teachers, parents and students need to be equal partners in the planning process.

Teacher collaboration in supporting students through transition periods

For students going from grade 10 to grade 11, there are many directions they can go. Applied students will be able to choose College or Workplace Math, while Academic students will be able to choose University or University/College math.

Intermediate teachers should have discussions with Senior teachers, department heads as well as guidance teachers regarding course selection. Intermediate teachers can relay information to students before the course selection window so that students can think deeply about what course they decide to take the following year.

Opportunities for self-advocacy from students and their parents

With the information from senior-level, guidance and head teachers, students and parents should be advised on the pathways that are possible in mathematics (retrieved from OAME:

OAME’s¬†Possible Math Pathways

These pathways are not definitive, but represent a common flow from one course to the next. Students, parents and teachers should discuss the implications of taking these courses on college and university admissions. This is the time when a student should start considering possible post-secondary avenues.

There is still time after grade 10 to change, but it will require a lot more work from the student. If the student and parents are made aware of this early, the student has an increased chance of graduating on time and entering their desired post-secondary institution as soon as possible.

How do you assist students with the transition from grade 10 to grade 11 mathematics? Please share your story in the comments.

Coaching Students for EQAO

Before I became a teacher, I was an alpine ski racing coach. The way we would prepare athletes for competition would typically comprise of the following cycle:

  1. Activation (warm-ups)
  2. Drills (increasing flexibility/mobility, then strength, then stamina)
  3. Consolidation (practice)
  4. Performance (simulate a race)
  5. Cool-Down (stretch, relax, recover)

Athletes start from a resting state and gradually increase intensity. Then, they would “cool down” to relax.

I view teaching any skill, including test taking, in a similar way.

When students take a standardized test, I view it as a performance. Therefore, any test prep would be treated as a practice that starts with low intensity, peaks for performance, then relaxes.

About a week before taking a test, I would provide students with a series of warm up lessons that would gradually increase in intensity and then decrease before the test.

On day 1, I would introduce a competitive aspect by playing a game (math bingo).

The following day (2), we would do some drill work involving curriculum-relevant mental computations, then computer-assisted calculations.

For consolidation on day 3, I would start is by acquainting students with last year’s exemplars:

EQAO Grade 9 Scoring Guide

Students can see examples of Code 10-40 responses. I would have students try the problem, then compare their solutions to each exemplar so they can see where they stand. This can be done in small groups and students can score each other’s work based on a class discussion of each exemplar.

Once students are aware of the EQAO success criteria, I would get them to complete questions from last year’s test as a “performance” simulation on day 4:

EQAO Grade 9 2016 Test

The key would be to ensure that students get to practice the questions in authentic but still low-pressure situations (no grades at first)




This way, students would know what to expect and may not have as much anxiety once they are required to complete the questions in a high-pressure situation.

For a cool-down day (5) before the test, students should be allowed to do something fun and relaxing such as play an online math related game or practice plotting lines and coordinates using paper or Desmos.

These EQAO resources are from the following page:

2016 EQAO Assessment Materials

What do you do to prepare your students for standardized testing? Please let us know in the comments!