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!

Starting a Grade 2/3 Class as a Substitute

Congrats! You got an LTO for a month in a 2/3 classroom.  I am going to offer some feedback based on the dozens of different 2/3 classes I have taught in. These are some of the best ideas from the classes I have seen so far. 2/3s are very rule and routine oriented. You have a great opportunity to use the month to set up these procedures and develop a consistent schedule. Housekeeping and health/safety (new curriculum) is usually a great way to start.

For writing, they will benefit from working on their printing and typing skills. Prompts should be used for writing with a focus on personal expression and other aspects of the curriculum (My favorite part of my neighborhood/town/city is…) and it helps to get them to copy the prompt for direct instruction/extra practice.

Daily read-alouds are great ways to start a lesson. Individual, shared and paired reading instruction with leveled readers seems to work best from my observations. If you have Ipads, set them up on apps like Tumblebooks. This age group typically has a motivation to move to the next level, so it helps to have them in a leveled setting.

For mathematics and visual art, practice with as many measuring items, cutting tools, coloured pencils, markers and glue as you can.




Also, for art, language, science and social studies, attempt to teach them how to use your board’s presentation software. It may be very difficult, but teaching them how to make a cover page in Powerpoint, Prezi or Slides requires a lot of tech skills that they will need in the future. This will be helpful for their ability to make products in the future.

Prodigy is a safe bet for math skill/drill work. If you can get Dreambox, you are in luck. For old-school math work, manipulative exploration paired with pencil-to-paper representation is a great way to bridge their experience from play-based learning into more academic learning. Teach proper use of calculators as tools, but still place emphasis on mental computation. The three-part inquiry math is the most useful once they have developed some number sense, computation and problem solving skills. Some math concepts can be applied to visual arts (geometric patterning).

Science for the fall months can be done mostly outdoor explorations for specific units (Air/Water in the Environment for Grade 2, soils for grade 3).

Social studies can also be done outdoors; students can design, map and build a “community” in the schoolyard after some direct instruction about parts of a community. The community can reflect a heritage strand (FNMI or settlers villages).

Phys. Ed can be fitness and outdoors- based for the first month. Simple fundamental movement skills (physical literacy – throwing, jumping, catching, running, balancing, stretching, lifting, etc) are the foundation to any physical education program.

These are just a few of the ways I would start off a 2/3 split. Do you have any ideas that work well with this age group? Please feel free to leave them in the comments!