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Blogging with Doctor Bev and the Robertson Team


May 6, 2016

Liz Osamawick shares her Water Song with the Robertson Program

We had the great pleasure to spend time with Liz Osawamick during our visit to Alderville First Nation’s Black Oak Savannah. Lizshared this song to honour Nibi, the sacred water, for its precious gift of life. Liz spoke about women as lifegivers, so how fitting that this song  is being sung on Mother’s Day  at Trent University’s Seventh Annual Water Awareness Walk on May 8

Migwetch Liz for your generosity in sharing this gift of song. 

Click here to learn more about the event.

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May 5, 2016

Zack Hawes presents at OAME 2016

Zack Hawes and Cathy Bruce present at OAME 2016

As the kickoff to this year’s OAME conference (Ontario Association for Mathematics Education), Zack Hawes and  Dr. Cathy Bruce presented to OMCA (Ontario Mathematics Coordinators Association). This also marked the official unveiling (unwrapping) of Taking Shape (Moss, Bruce, Caswell, Flynn, and Hawes). Members of OMCA were provided with copies of the book and spent the afternoon discussing spatial reasoning and excitedly trying some of the activities first hand.  A favourite activity amongst the group involved a series of paper folding challenges. For example, see the Twitter caption immediately above. Try it yourself! Members left the meeting with book in hand and an eagerness to try out the activities with young children.

OMCA members support the effective teaching and learning of mathematics in K-12 classrooms across Ontario. Members are coordinators and consultants at public and Catholic school boards and work closely with the Ontario Association of Math Educators (OAME)Ministry of Education, Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) and the Fields Institute.

For more information, visit www.omca.ca

-Zack Hawes and The Robertson Program

Image of a green lineMarch 14, 2016

It's Rounded Pi Day!

Pi Day Countdown

March 14 – or 3/14 – is celebrated each year as Pi Day. Today, the annual celebration is especially significant – it's the “Rounded Pi Day."

Click here to read why today is Rounded Pi Day


- Bev and the Robertson Team

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February 24, 2016

Professor creates course to promote women's spatial reasoning skills

Some of Sheryl Sorby’s female students, who otherwise excelled in math and science, struggled in her beginner engineering classes – and subsequently chose to switch majors.

"They assumed they didn’t have what it took to be an engineer," the Michigan Technological University engineering professor told KQED News, "when the real issue was a weakness in spatial skills."

Research has shown women generally score lower than men on tests of spatial reasoning — particularly in measures of spatial visualization and mental rotation. But Sorby says she’s not necessarily interested in why the gap exists because training and practice can close it.

So, Sorby developed a 15-hour spatial visualization introduction class for her incoming students. It teaches students how to sketch figures from multiple perspectives, look at cross-sections of objects and create 3D objects through paper folding.

Students in the class improved their spatial skills, and their grades in all STEM classes improved. They were also more likely to graduate with an engineering degree.

Here at the Robertson Program, we are excited to be working with educators to develop activities that strengthen students’ spatial reasoning and geometric thinking skills, leading to increased interest and skill in STEM careers.

You can read Sorby’s research here to find out more about practical methods for improving 3D spatial skills, especially for women engineering students.

- The Robertson Program

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January 27, 2016

Quick Math Lessons scrambled egg math

First year students in the Master of Arts in Child Study and Education Program here at JICS (OISE, University of Toronto) developed quick math lessons as part of the Introduction to Curriculum: Mathematics course taught by Dr. Bev Caswell and JICS teachers Carol Stephenson, Zoe Donoahue, Lisa Sherman, and Ben Peebles. These quick lessons are 20 minutes or less and develop student understanding of many math concepts. Lessons include a clear description of the activity, Ontario curriculum expectations, and ideas about how the lesson can be adapted to extend student thinking and how you can assess for student comprehension. 
The very first lesson we are sharing, Scrambled Egg Math, is written by Bonita Lau. This lesson sees students problem solve through addition and subtraction of
single-digit whole numbers using a variety of mental strategies. Children shake an egg carton so game tokens land on two numbers. They then roll dice to determine whether to perform addition or subtraction, create an equation, and solve it. Click here to for the full lesson plan
We will be uploading more quick lessons in the weeks to come so keep checking back! We encourage you to look at our entire database of math lessons - it's a great resource for educators hunting for fresh, new lesson ideas.
-Zach and the Robertson Team

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January 22, 2016

Inquiry-based learning with Curve Lake First Nation educators

Curve Lake and JICS team with Natural Curiosity

The Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study’s Robertson Program and Natural Curiosity is collaborating with the dynamic team of educators at Curve Lake First Nation School to create inquiry-based learning opportunities for K-3 children.

A huge thank you to Aricka Fleguel, Curve Lake’s Student Success Coordinator, for developing this partnership and organizing the day! The professional development experience included an overview of Natural Curiosity by Richard Messina (JICS Lab School Principal), a look at what inquiry-based learning looks like in a Kindergarten classroom with Carol Stephenson (JICS Kindergarten teacher), a chance for educators to read a case study and work together to “map” an inquiry with Haley Higdon (Natural Curiosity Lead). We then spent time together brainstorming ideas to begin inquiry in the classrooms. We appreciate the opportunity to spend the day learning with such dedicated educators!

- Bev and The Robertson Team

Photo from left to right, back row: Tammy (Grade 1/2 teacher, Dawn (Special Education teacher), Aricka (Student Success Coordinator), Katy ( Student Success Facilitator), Bev (Robertson Program), Holly (Ojibwe Language teacher), Kayla (Grade 3 teacher), Shannon (Grade 3 teacher).

Front row: Helena (Principal, Curve Lake FN School), Carol (Kindergarten teacher, JICS), Haley (Natural Curiosity), Matt (Kindergarten teacher, Curve Lake FN), Richard (Principal, JICS).

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January 20, 2016

Wab Kinew Challenges Students "to Craft" Reconciliation

wab kinew's challenge
 Photo from of a shrine to Reconciliation taken from Wab Kinew's facebook page.

Students engaging in dialogue about reconciliation!

Wab Kinew, musician, public speaker,broadcaster and university administrator, originally from Onigaming First Nation, has issued a challenge to students to discuss reconciliation in a creative way. The challenge invites First Nation and non-First Nation classrooms to talk and learn from one another about what reconciliation is and what it might look like. Kinew’s challenge is to use the popular building game Minecraft or another creative way to illustrate student understanding.                          

Learn more about this challenge on Wab Kinew’s facebook page.

Listen to what one teacher is doing to embrace this challenge in her classroom in this CBC news story.

- Larisa and The Robertson Team

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December 18, 2015

holiday card


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December 15, 2015

NYC early years' teacher encourages playful math with Lego

Using lego for playful math

Alycia Zimmerman’s use of Lego in her math lessons is gaining mainstream recognition. The third grade New York City teacher uses Lego to illustrate fractions with different sized Lego pieces. The various Lego bricks bring more possibilities to demonstrate fractions. With Lego, Zimmerman is able to show students different-sized “wholes” and fractions of sets. 

Visit the Scholastic website for more ideas on how to use Lego in the classroom.

- Blog post contributed by Jaclyn Buckley, MA Child Study and Education Candidate, OISE, University of Toronto

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November 11, 2015

Calendar math lesson with Zoe Donoahue

The Robertson Program visited Grade 1 educator Zoe Donoahue’s class for a closer look at how she leads one of her math lessons that focuses on the calendar. 

We thank the Grade 1 students at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study (JICS) for welcoming us into their class to capture their learning. JICS is part of the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

The Robertson Program has a Lesson Outline and a PowerPoint Presentation (with deeper insight from Zoe Donoahue) available in our Math Lesson library.

- The Robertson Team

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October 28, 2015

Our first 2015 math curriculum class with OISE's Masters' students

Yesterday, Dr. Bev Caswell led first-year Master of Arts in Child Study and Education (OISE) students in their first mathematics education class. Over the next six weeks, MA students will look at mathematics from the perspective of a teacher and explore how best to support learners’ mathematical understanding through inquiry pedagogies. The course is about creating compassionate spaces that invite learners to engage with mathematical ideas and to participate in the exciting pursuit of learning mathematics.

MA students were introduced to clinical interviews, which are one-on-one assessments that uncover a student’s early spatial, geometrical and number sense. 

The students also had the opportunity to explore early years’ math activities with Carol Stephenson, senior kindergarten teacher at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, OISE. They investigated composing and decomposing numbers, Cuisenaire rods, symmetry, sorting and Venn diagrams. All of these activities can be implemented in early years’ classrooms and detailed lesson plans can be found by following the links beneath the pictures. 

Robertson team on the first day of the MA math class Carol Stephenson leads a group learning about Venn Diagrams Carol Stephenson demonstrates the many uses of Cuisenaire rods
The Robertson team with MA students on the first day of class MA students investigate
Venn Diagrams
Lesson Plan
Carol demonstrates the many uses of Cuisenaire rods
Lesson Plan
MA students learning different ways to teach sorting MA students playing concentration symmetry Carol Stephenson explains how symmetry benefits a child
MA students composing and decomposing numbers
Lesson Plan
MA students playing
concentration symmetry
Lesson Plan Unavailable
MA students explore symmetry using magnetic pattern blocks
Lesson Plan

- The Robertson Team

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October 21, 2015

From the Dark into the Light: Taking Control of Māori Education

picture of robertson team

From left to right: Dr. Bev Caswell, Dr. Sandra Styres, Dr. Spencer Lilley, Cat Criger, Larisa Lam, and Jisoo Seo


Yesterday, we attended a thought-provoking lecture by Dr. Spencer Lilley (Te Putahi-a-Toi, School of Māori Art, Knowledge and Education, Massey University, New Zealand) entitled, "From the Dark into the Light: Taking Control of Māori Educational Success." 

The lecture outlined the educational innovations initiated by the Māori that led to successful educational outcomes for Māori people. 

Many thanks to Dr. Sandra Styres and Julie Blair of OISE's Indigenous Education Network for organizing and hosting the event. 

- The Robertson Team

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October 20, 2015

Focussing on Early Years Math in Northwestern Ontario
Professional Development and Research

Building on the success of our previous partnerships with schools and communities in the Rainy River District School Board, we were invited to collaborate with Seven Generations Education Institute’s First Nation Student Success Program. For two weeks at the beginning of October, OISE's Jackman ICS/Robertson team travelled throughout Northwestern Ontario along with Anna Demchuk and Kim Kirk (Seven Gens) to provide teacher professional development in spatial reasoning and geometry. We also collaborated with early years teachers and students in four First Nation communities: Pegamigaabo School (Big Grassy First Nation), Lac La Croix First Nations SchoolWindigo Island First Nation and Mikinaak School (Onigaming First Nation).


Pegaamigabo and Robertson Team members Lac La Croix School and Robertson Team members Windigo Island School and Robertson team members
The ICS/Robertson/Seven Gens team at Pegamigaabo School The ICS/Robertson/Seven Gens team at Lac La Croix School The ICS/Robertson/Seven Gens team with Windigo Island School

We are very grateful for the opportunity to build knowledge alongside elders, Indigenous educators, Ojibwe language teachers, community members and Kindergarten to Grade 3 educators in the areas of geometry and spatial reasoning. In each school, we worked together to create engaging “Family Math Parties,” connecting with the community as a whole. 

This project is an extension of the Math for Young Children (M4YC) project and examines how young children learn geometry – a fundamental pillar of mathematics - and how teachers can best support the development and enrichment of the students’ spatial reasoning skills through playful mathematical activities and lessons. 

Onigaming School Math Party Onigaming School Math Party with Bev Music and Onigaming School's Math Party
Kim Kirk and Jisoo Seo with educators, students and families at
the Mikinaak School Family Math Party
Dr. Bev Caswell with a student at 
the Mikinaak School Family Math Party
Live music at the
Mikinaak School Family Math Party!
Lac La Croix's Principal with a student The CN Tower at Lac La Croix's Math Party! Windigo Students play with pentomino
Lac La Croix principal Debbie Attatise
at the Family Math Party
A student builds the CN Tower at
the Lac La Croix Family Math Party
Windigo Island students
play with pentominos
Julie Comay and a Windigo student play with Pentominos Family fun at the Pegamigabo Family Math Party Jackman ICS's Carol Stephenson plays math games with a student at the Pegamigabo Family Math Party
Former ICS JK teacher Julie Comay
and a Windigo Island student
play with pentominos
Family fun at the
Pegamigaabo Family Math Party
Jackman ICS kindergarten teacher
Carol Stephenson at the
Pegamigaabo Family Math Party

We felt welcomed, inspired, and excited to continue our work together. We had a great time and look forward to seeing everyone again!

Participating OISE's Jackman ICS/Robertson team members: Dr. Bev Caswell, Dr. Joan Moss, Carol Stephenson, Zach Pedersen, Jisoo Seo, Larisa Lam, Julie Comay, Zack Hawes, Mischa Berlin.

Stay tuned for more from our trip in Northwestern Ontario and be sure to follow us on The Robertson Program Facebook page.

- The Robertson Team

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October 19, 2015

Grade 5/6 Jackman ICS students urge you to exercise your democratic right and  vote today!

All along the playground fence at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study (OISE) a beautiful gallery of artworks has appeared, promoting important election issues. 

Election posters at ICS Election posters at ICS 2 Election posters at ICS 3
  Election posters at ICS 4 Election posters at ICS 5

- The Robertson Team

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August 20, 2015

Dr. Bev Caswell attends the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium Meeting and Research Conference 

winhec team

Indigenous leaders, educators, students, and non-indigenous allies from around the world gathered at Seven Generations Education Institute in Nanicost, Fort Frances, Ontario August 10 – 14, 2015 to  recognize and reaffirm the educational rights of Indigenous Peoples and to share ways for improving the educational system for indigenous students around the world.

Robertson Program Director (Caswell of OISE) with colleagues from the Rainy River District School Board and Seven Generations Education Institute present at the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC) Meeting and Research conference. Our presentation was part of a panel highlighting “Indigenous Peoples Achieving and Enjoying Educational Success as Indigenous Peoples.”  

For a look at the conference, please see this 3 minute clip from APTN news: 

For an overview of the Research Conference please see:

To find out more about the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC), click here:

- Dr. Bev 

Back row (from left to right): Sharla MacKinnon (Numeracy Facilitator, Rainy River District School Board), Shelly Jones (Early Years Aborigial Curriculum Coordinator, RRDSB), Tracy Kabatay (Educational Counsellor, Seine River FN), Bev Caswell (Director, Robertosn Program), Jason Jones ( Ojibwe Language Coordinator, RRDSB).
Front Row: Brent Tookenay (Director, Seven Generations Education Institute), Donna Chief (Aboriginal Education Leader, RRDSB), Dennis Jones (Received Honorary Doctorate, WINHEC).  

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August 1, 2015

Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo Visits the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study

picture of atleo page

The Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study had the great honour of hosting Chief Shawn Atleo on May 25, 2015. The day began by sharing results and highlighting our ongoing research partnership and teacher professional development project with Seven Generations Education Centre and the Rainy River District School Board in schools serving First Nation children and their families. We were thrilled that Brent Tookenay (Director, Seven Generations) and Donna Chief (RRDSB) flew in from Fort Frances for the day, and that Jennifer Brennan (Senior Advisor, Indigenous governments and Organizations) could join us as well. When Chief Atleo heard about how the collaborative math project empowered communities, children and families as well as educators and school districts, his response was: “This is reconciliation.

Dr. Atleo also made a point of visiting several classrooms at the Lab School. It was such a pleasure to observe the way in which he built such a warm and immediate rapport with the children. He was so fully and deeply present as he interacted with the children. Chief Atleo’s true joy at being with children in the classroom was so evident and shone through each of the classroom visits he made.

Shawn Atleo is former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations and Hereditary Chief of the Ahousaht First Nation holds the appointment of Distinguished William A. MacDonald, Q.C. Fellow in Indigenous Education and adjunct professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto.  

More photos of this day will be posted on The Robertson Program Facebook Page soon!


- Dr. Bev and The Robertson Team

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July 6, 2015

Origami inspiring art and science development

Origami - ori meaning folding and kami meaning paper is the art of paper folding. A flat sheet of paper is folded, and transformed into many different art pieces, the most common of which is the paper crane. The principles of origami have gone beyond inspiring beautiful art by also influencing engineers and other scientists. Using the theories of origami, scientists and engingeers have been able to create prototypes from spacecrafts to micro-scale medical instruments.

Watch this Popular Science video that shows how origami can inspire art and science development.


- The Robertson Team

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