can you “Gauss” what’s coming up?

The Ottawa Jewish Community School has been participating in the annual 7/8 Gauss Math Contest for decades, and will continue with tradition again this year.

Over the past few years, we have opened this opportunity for any student interested in writing and participating in the contest at any grade. Last year was our first year to have students in grade four willingly participate and this year is no different!

As we continue to be aware and dive deeper in our North Stars, more personalization including “Owning our Own Learning” and “Floor but No Ceiling”, continue to strengthen, not just in theory, but in practice as well, and for some students this is a tangible and hands-on method to see and feel these “stars” in their learning day.

“The CEMC develops and administers many internationally recognized contests to help to inspire the next generation of students to develop an interest in and love for mathematics and computer science.” ~Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing, Waterloo University

Here is a short video about why contests can be beneficial to some students.


The Gauss contest, is created for students in grades 7 and 8, which different variations of the contest for the grade level are supplied’; however, it is also open to any student at any grade to participate, hence some keen students in grade six, five, and even four again this year.

This year, students who are participating, will write during their scheduled math periods during the week of May 15th – 19th.

We should be very proud of all of our upcoming participants and their efforts and risk taking in this contest, as they continue to display a heightened joy of mathematics learning!

For more information about Math opportunities, past contests, and even free access to courseware and information please visit the Centre of Education in Mathematics and Computing. 




…it’s baaaaaack…

The infamous … which (quickly and without fail) turns quite famous;  1, 4, 8, 9 Math Assignment has officially begun in Grade 7!

100 equations, 100 solutions,  100 proofs, and with only 4 numbers. Students in Grade 7 are using their advanced Order of Operations skills to find solutions that equal 1-100 by only using four numbers, 1, 4, 8 and 9.

Along their learning journey, they have explored and are now applying BEDMAS rules, along with laws of exponents, roots, summations, and factorials. Some students this year even learned and incorporated floors, ceilings and logs! Impressive!

They’re pretty much half way through, with due date fast approaching (before the Winter Break), and the groans and complaints are now ever so lovely changing to ” I need only one more!”, and “can I stay in at Study Hall to work on it?”, and the always heartwarming “YEEESSS! GOT IT!” heard from the back of the class.

Students then work on their paper and pencil organization to show proof, yes (that’s showing all of your steps) in proper form, for….you guessed it…every, single, equation.

To conclude; this assignment always ends with a reflection portion, where students share and reflect, on what they learned during this assignment, how they handled struggles or challenges,, where and when they found and patterns or connections with their equations etc etc. As SEL, is so much a part of the Math Curriculum, having students so happy, enthused and proud of their math struggle to success is what it’s all about!

….as excited as I am, hearing and seeing the pride and smiles at the end of this assignment- it just means that the day becomes closer to when I correct 100 equations from each assignment (yes, I correct each one…) so..this year,…21 kids and a potential 100 equations each…well… I’ll let YOU do the math on that one!



you CAN be a computer scientist: The Beaver Computing Challenge

*UPDATED INFO for 2023-2024. The 2023-2024 BCC will occur between November 6th and November 17th during math classes! 


Ever wonder what it takes be a Computer Scientist?

Along with hours of training, years of education, and learning about ram, binary sequences, and technical algorithms, as only some of the in-depth ideas and concepts,  it also takes a lot of hands on experience with information that you may not even know is connected to Computer Science and Coding. Mathematics is full of these hands on learning experiences and there are connections and foundations in almost everything within the mathematical realm.

For students, this means making and acknowledging these connections as they learn the skills. In class, I often hear: When am I ever going to use this? Why is this important?

Along with coaching and modeling how and why a concept works and how to be consistent with your work, it is also very (now more than ever) important to provide an actual meaning to the skill in class.

Through problem solving and learning how to navigate a problem based question through a math lens, this can be powerful. You can ignite passion in students that may not otherwise show interest, and/or you may also enlighten a curious student to why these processes are important to learn and know in other realms outside of math class.

When we approach a problem based question in the Middle School, we begin by using a template as a guide of steps:

We also go through ways to help plan out thoughts and ideas by using visuals and notes to keep track of information, plans, and steps:



So how does this all relate to Computer Science?

Well, did you know that when you sort items by certain criteria to narrow down a list (think organizing numbers from greatest to smallest, or arranging items by attributes; red, circle, lines etc.) what you are actually doing is working on your Boolean Logic!  If this –> then not that, or when this occurs –> this stops. These skills support how computer language actually works for CPU’s databases and even simple computer tasks: when I press the = symbol on my calculator, then the previous information works to complete a task.

Or maybe this one; say you are asked to order items from beginning to a certain point using a repeating pattern. This has so many mathematical concepts- linear relationships and algebraic equations..BUT did you also know that computers need to conduct orders in a certain, repetitive manner to express a result? This affects how the memory of our computers begin to find patterns in our search history, how predictive text works, and even how data in our digital devices store information in linked lists and even chained lists. Also saves time and makes the computer “work” faster to give the user the result they wanted.

…and one more… Let’s say you are using a scoring system in math to determine another central tendency. (think mode…) Providing score (points) for each item found or not found to come to determination on “overall score?” This is actually used in many professions through their assistive technology. Most recognizable is spam filters on emails. The more points above the mode, the more apt it will be distinguished as “spam” and sent to your Spam. This is also used is medical fields to look for abnormalities in medical images, as well as how facial recognition works to open that fancy new iPhone.

In the enthusiasm and dedication to mathematical growth and thinking at the OJCS, we are bringing back the Beaver Computer Challenge to all students grades 4 and above, again this year. Created by students, teachers, and professors from the University of Waterloo: The Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing, this contest is open to students around the country and around the world, and we are SO EXCITED to be participating this year!

The Beaver Computing Challenge (BCC) introduces Computer Science through problem based questions with a focus on the connections I’ve listed above (and that was just a few!) Students require no prior knowledge about computing, but rather work toward problem solving and using those “hidden” computer science skills for hands on learning and experience.

The contest is a 45 minute timed experience that involves a total of 12 (15 in grades 7/8) multiple choice questions at 3 different levels, A, B and C.  “A” level being the easiest of the three, and then becoming more challenging with level “C.” Students complete the contest on their own devices, and are allowed a calculator and are encouraged to use pencil and paper to use the strategies taught in class to: draw a graph, make a table, draw a diagram etc.

There are two different levels of contests, one for grades 4-6 and another for grades 7-8. This ensures that the math curriculum and material provided is aligned with the contest material and methods of strategy and answers by grade cohorts.


This year, the Beaver Computer Challenge Contest will be conducted on NOVEMBER 15th 2022 at the OJCS. Grades 4-8 will be writing this contest on the same day during a scheduled time with their Mathematics teacher in class.

Last year we had some pretty impressive results with some of our OJCS students ranking in the top 20% of all participants! 

We are thrilled for our students to be a part of this exciting contest again this year! Students are encouraged to demonstrate participation over competition as they work toward improving their problem solving skills, as well as perhaps inticing some possible future computer programmers in our midst. 

On your mark…get ready…COMPUTE!



Welcome Back!

Welome Back!

Four weeks into the 2021-2022 school year and already lots of fun, excitment, and learning has been happening in the Middle School! The OJCS Middle School Retreat was an amazing three day experience with the students and teachers, (re)Building Community. Holidays were in full force offering partial school weeks and meaningful time at home with family and friends, and math has happened in there. YES it has! We’ve taken every opportunity to include math into all of these activities and began dusting off those file folders from last year and showing what we already know!

Grade 6 has started with representing larger numbers over million in several forms. Grade 7 is investigating base 10 representations of larger numbers, and Grade 8 has dove in fast into learning and reading numbers in scientific notation and expansion.

Students have been directed to make sure they have access and use two resources on a daily basis to support their math learning.

  1. The homework boards, (see links to the right by grade) where they can find up to date homework assignments and links by subjects and teachers
  2. Math Weekly Slide Deck (at the top of the page and/or under grades/at top of page) These slide decks house all the math weekly slides for the year. Need to review what we did in class? It’s there! Need to remember what we talked about? It’s there! Need to remember what page or questions to do…it’s also there!

Students have been asked to bookmark both of these places, for ease of navigation in math this year.

It’s been a great month of September so far, and we’re all so looking forward to more full weeks, more routine, and more meaningful work in October!


Heading into Summer!

As we say so long to another year (and a different one for sure) we look ahead to summer and next year’s learning!

As always, I curate and place workbooks for summer practice and review of math skills on my blog for those students and parents interested.

Here is the link to the page on this blog, which can also be found under the Hybrid Learning menu at the top of the page.

Thank you for such a great, supportive and positive year, we all leaned on each other, and we all came out better on the other end knowing and feeling supported every step of the way!

Wishing you all a safe, wonderful, and healthy summer!

Best,Bitmoji Image

Mrs. Cleveland 


There’s an app for that…and grade 7 and 8 made them!

Yep! They sure did!

This year coding was placed into the new Ontario Math Curriculum, and as a person who enjoys dabbling in a little code herself, it was a great opportunity to share my enthusiasm around writing code, as well as connecting it to our  Financial Literacy Units!

Grade 7 just completed their Financial Literacy unit looking at/and understanding various chequing accounts, savings accounts, investment opportunities, federal taxes, earnings statements, and simple interest rates. We even had a guest speaker join us to talk about investing, trade, stocks and bonds. We also completed a unit on currency exchange. So to end things off, they are currently working on and almost complete in making their own apps that will covert five different foreign currencies into $CAD. Some students are even taking the initiative and extension to add more currencies and even a separate $CAD to foreign exchange rate program. One student, even enjoyed code so much that they went and created their own script through Java to do a parallel task. Take a look at his blog post!  Talk about personalized learning! Here are the blog posts from the grade seven students talking about their coding experience and their apps (yes.. you can even try some of them out!)

Grade 8 also just concluded their Financial Literacy unit where they investigated and calculated more complex foreign exchange units, credit card debt, monthly statements, and calculating simple and compounding interest. For their final task; they are also creating an app to calculate Simple and Compound Interest Rates, using various compounding rates (annually, semi-annually, or monthly) as well as varying principal amounts and future values.

Here are the Grade 8 reflections on their coding experiences and again, yes, you can try them out too (if they provided the link in their reflections!)




So if you know someone, who needs to convert foreign currency, or know how much interest they will have to pay on a 25 year semi-annually compounded mortgage…reach out to a middle school student….and yes- they are uploadable to your phone!


Pretty cool, right! Way to go Grade 7 and 8!

….and by the way…don’t worry Grade 6, you are currently finishing up your unit rates and taxes unit… you’re next in June! Get ready!


IXL: Four Highlights to Understand

Now, that as students, parents, and teachers, you’ve have had some time navigating the basics of IXL. I wanted to give you a little more insight into what the work you,(as a student) or you as a parent have been doing/seeing as result of the time and practice your son/daughter is putting in. Here are four things in which may be of interest to you: The Real-Time Diagnostic, The Recommendation Wall, Teacher Suggested Skills, and The SMARTScore.

The Real-Time Diagnostic

As in the previous blog post, I pushed out a lot of information, and one area included the Diagnostic portion. To go back and read the entire blog post again, you can so here. But for this post, I just want to highlight a few important key things to remember when using the real-time Diagnostic.



  • As independent as possible- if a student doesn’t know- encourage them to click the “I haven’t learned this yet button” on the bottom right
  • Students receive personalized recommendations that help them understand what actions to take for growth
  • Students play a more active role in their ongoing learning journey, and teachers can also use this truly up-to-date snapshot of their students’ understanding to challenge them at just the right level.
  • Diagnostics can be done anytime, and eventually once comfortable; completing at least 5-10 Diagnostic questions once a week to keep recommendations current and up to date
  • The more you do, the more narrowed down your level becomes
  • Levels with a Star have pinpointed an exact level and have a single number in the corresponding box.
  • A diagnostic level of 500 in a math strand represents a readiness to begin working on skills at the grade-five level. If a student’s number is 550, it indicates the student is halfway through the grade-five level. A 750 indicates the student is halfway through the grade-seven level.
The Recommendation Wall

IXL Recommendations are personalized suggestions for math skills. They update in real time and are based on the individual student’s skill practice and demonstrated knowledge levels in the Real-Time Diagnostic, providing relevant guidance for each student’s next steps.



With recommendations, students receive targeted support specific to their individual needs, while at the same time, they are empowered to explore and take ownership of their personal learning path. They can access this wall at anytime and work through the skills as they wish or as recommended by their teacher.

The Teacher Suggested Skills

Teachers may want to assign specific skills to a class, group of students or even individual students. When a teacher does this, students will see a yellow star next to any skill that you have suggested to them. They also can go to the top of their Recommendations wall to see a list of all the skills you have starred for them! It is important to note that the suggested skills will remain there until the teacher removes it. Your scores automatically save as you go, and your teacher can see them in real-time. You teacher may also give you a goal for that skill (i.e. a SMARTScore of at least 80, or maybe do at least 20 questions etc.)


The SMARTScore

The SmartScore is based on IXL’s proprietary algorithm and is the best possible measure of how well a student understands a skill. With the SmartScore, the learning process is rewarded and your son/daughter are constantly reassessed.

When a student starts practising a skill, the SmartScore starts at 0. As the student answers questions correctly, the SmartScore increases. If a question is answered incorrectly, the score decreases. However, the SmartScore is not just based on the percentage of questions correct. It is calculated using many factors, including the number of questions completed, question difficulty and consistency, and offers superior accuracy in assessing student achievement.

A skill is mastered when the SmartScore reaches 100, but the number of questions it takes to master a skill varies with every student. To continuously motivate students, teachers will recommend setting other practice milestones along the way to mastery. A score of 80 is good, and a score of 90 is considered excellent. When a student finally achieves skill  mastery, you can be confident that they truly understand the skill.



IXL: Online Math Forum for Personalized Learning

Hello OJCS Students and Families,

This year the school has purchased an online math subscription to IXL. IXL is an online forum that provides diagnostics of learning skills, promotes review, mastery and extensions of skills through practice, as well as providing students, teachers, and parents valuable information on student’s progress through grade data points. IXL will be used in all grades K through 8 this year.
IXL is divided into three main parts.

  1. Learning
  2. Diagnostic
  3. Analytics


Please feel free to watch the Parent Tutorial I have created for our OJCS families this year at the bottom of this post.
How IXL works?
First, your son/daughter’s teacher will have created a username and password for IXL. (Note: This is NOT their school email)
Once you have that information, it is important that you login to IXL through our school’s personal web access, here; https://ca.ixl.com/signin/ojcs 

You will know it’s the right homepage, as you will note the OJCS logo on the right hand side. 

I recommend that you bookmark this page, as well as “save’ the student’s password and username for ease of access when entering the site later on. Through some trial and error, although there is an app, the site works best through the website address.


Next, your son/daughter’s teacher will have already, or in class sometime over the next few weeks, begin the “Diagnostic” process. The Diagnostic is meant to be for pre-assessment to automatically determine which skills the student requires more practice and review, and/or areas of strength in where the student is ready to move at ahead. This allows all students to be progressing in their math learning, at their own pace, and with teacher support and oversight. It is strongly encouraged that if doing the Diagnostic work at home(as you can revisit the Diagnostic at anytime, and is ongoing) that the student is working on this as independently as possible. If a teacher or parent helps out during this process, the recommendations and next steps will be biased and not as authentic for the students to monitor their own growth, be confident in their abilities as well as provide authentic feedback to the teacher on his/her personalized math journey. The Diagnostic will then begin to pull out material in which will be the “next steps” or personalized math “playlist” for that student. It typically takes 5-10 Diagnostic visits of at least 10-15 minutes to gather a well rounded result. The Diagnostic will be promoted to also be completed again throughout the year, as this will measure the student’s growth in achieving and moving forward through the skills and material in his/her own learning path.
Following the diagnostic, on the teacher’s suggestion, the students will be directed to work on skills that appear on their “Recommendation Wall.” This can be found under the “Learning Tab” on the green tool bar at the top. The skills that curate here are either; skills in in which the student requires more review and practice, or skills in which the student is ready to move on to learn. Within the Learning scope, the student’s have motivated incentive through “prizes and awards” for scores, time spent on learning, consistent results, and even dedicated trial. Also on this page, students will see answers they have correctly achieved and a “Smart Score.” A Smart Score triggers both students, teachers, and the program to either move ahead with skills, or continue practice. A Smart Score of 90 deems the skill has been achieved at an excellent success rate, and 100 indicated Mastery. Some teachers may choose (depending on the skill, student, class etc.) to have various Smart Skill triggers to move on. 
*Audio: It is important to know that all grades K-5 have an audio option that the teachers have enabled that will read the questions a loud for the student. Only some questions in grade 5+ have this option (but most do.)
The “Analytics” tab (last one on the green tool bar at the top) is where students and teachers can see in real time how they are doing. Some teachers have opted to not show grade levels, and some have. Please confirm with your child’s teacher to check which they have opted for. In Middle School, I have opted for students to see their leveled scores and can track their progress and I see it myself on the teacher dashboard. Scoring and “grade levels” are divided into hundreds. 100 (grade 1) 150 ( middle of grade 1) 190 (end of grade 1) 600 (grade 6) etc etc.
Please note that due to all Diagnostics and learning being conducted and reviews at different times throughout the year, it is okay if a student is lower in one strand than another until it is reviewed again in class. This allows for re-activation of material, practice, and revisiting concepts from previous years. Diagnostics can be done at anytime, and for any length of time, so it is recommended to both teachers and students that they plan for Diagnostic time at least once a month.
Here it is also important to mention that teachers can directly highlight skills in which students should be practicing on, at any given time as well. On the Learning page, on the right, there may be a star, following by *#* of skills recommended by your teacher. This means that if the grade 1 class is working on patterning at the current moment, the grade 1 teacher can highlight specific skills and questions for student to practice, so that the teacher is able to gain another insight into how students are doing in that particular skill or strand.

It will look something like this.


From the teacher dashboard, teachers are able to not only see what skills, levels and grade points each student is currently achieving, but also the recommended next steps, any potential gaps in learning from previous years, as well as collectively or personally as a class or individual, the needs of students to continue on their math path with success.
IXL is a meaningful tool and can be supportive in a child’s math success and growth when:
  • Diagnostic is used as independently as possible
  • Students have highlighted skills from the teacher
  • Students take ownership of their learning to practice, review, or move forward
  • Is only ONE data point in the process of learning
As all students learn differently and at different paces, IXL is only one finger on the pulse at one time. It is not the only standard of measurement that will be used to assess or evaluate a student’s progress and growth; however it can be a meaningful one to support the growth of individual needs at appropriate skill levels and strands at a given time. 

IXL is also a meaningful opportunity for students to either enrich their own math learning inside of the classroom or at home, as well as build on skills in which they are currently being challenged; making IXL a true personalized learning tool for all. 

I encourage any parent that would like to know more how IXL will be used this year in their child’s class, to please contact their child’s Math (General Studies) teacher, and as always you can always contact me at anytime regarding the program or overall math concerns or questions. I always welcome your thoughts and contributions.


Mrs. Cleveland

IXL Tutorial


“Forward” to School Night

Welcome Middle School Parents

It’s that time of year to meet and greet parents and get to know the teachers a bit more.
As the OJCS is going ‘Forward to School,’ welcome to “Forward” to School Night with Mrs. Cleveland and Middle School Math.
I am hoping to see many of your faces this evening on our google meet; however, if you are unable to join us, and/or if you would like a more in depth explanation of my slides, I have recorded a video of my presentation (longer than on the google meet) for you to enjoy. (scroll below)
As always, if you have a question or concern at anytime, please never hesitate to contact me or any member of the Middle School Team.
Here’s to a great year!

Grade 6 Math Presentation

Grade 7 Math Presentation

Grade 8 Math Presentation







Distance Learning: Math Style!

Hi Everyone!

Lots has been going on in Middle School Math even through our distance learning platform!

I have been posting a lot on my personal professional blog about my experiences with Distance Learning. If you haven’t checked them out, and if you are interested…you can take a read through my last three (latest) posts here!

As for grades 6, 7, and 8, here’s a snapshot of some things we’ve been doing!

All Middle School math students have been learning through various online platforms along with live experiences each day with me. For assessment and practice, students have been using EdPuzzle, Knowledgehook, and Quizziz.  In addition to those we began an IXL and I had the students work on self-diagnostic as their “recommendation wall”. The kids loved it, but unfortunately my free trial ran out in the end of May. Perhaps something to look into for next year. It was great as the students were able to complete and navigate their own abilities with a personalized “playlist” of next steps and grade levels that they were able to complete with independence. Nothing more I love hearing than- “Mrs. Cleveland can I do more diagnostic to raise my math grade level?”… YES, YES,You can!


In Math (generally in school) we mostly focus our attention on our “Left Brain”. We took time in May and now into June to explore what “Right Brain” Math would and could look like. It was a great and is a great way to engage all students, at various entry points and perhaps push some to a place where it is more challenging, and on the flip side to some, more accessible! Are you left brained or right brained?



To get students moving around more at home and looking for math in their everyday lives, we have been using GooseChase to find and write and answer math questions and examples in teams! Also extra bonus points for getting a laugh, being creative, and putting in effort! I always comment with a supplementary math fun fact or funny quote. Grade 6 has taken off with this format and has enjoyed very much the connection between math and real-life. Here is a small small sample of the LOADS of submissions that came in… below.


Along with that, students have been using Geometry and their learning this term of 3-D shapes and rotations, flips, and translations, volume and surface area by experimenting with isometric paper. (dotted triangular paper that is able to to be used to draw perspectives of shapes) Students created and navigated how to make their names using this paper, as well as draw some 3-D mazes! Take a look! I even gave it a go myself!

Students also explored how empty space is meaningful in Geometry with the help of fun toothpick riddles. Some had some students wanting to keep the struggle going, while others may never want to look at toothpicks again. It was great to see the students “dontstealthestruggle” and keep with them. Here is a peek into some samples from the students themselves.

Also in personalization mode: students have had opportunities to work on weekly tasks that include either an enriched Waterloo format from the University of Waterloo, or “Weekly Tasks” personalized for student needs. Here are some examples of the different forms of work that displays their understanding through these concepts.

Grade 7 students are in the beginning stages of creating their own “Math Genius” slides and booklets that display all their knowledge of math facts so far from this year. This will be a great tool for them to keep to refer to next year, and in years to come, as they are required to write detailed steps with examples to how to solve math equations :multiplying decimals, adding/subtracting and multiplying fractions etc. Here’s a sneak peak to what has been started so far…

The grade 8 class, is almost completed their 2020 Pool Project which uses all grade 8 concepts in unison as a cumulative practice and review, as well as learning the features of a spreadsheet and formulas to add to create automatic sums and differences. As we paced ourselves along, the students have also been exposed already to grade 9 concepts that will support them even more next year in High School. We have explored simplifying expressions with 2 variables, the use and concept of distributive properties, and how to solve for two unknowns, while giving y a 0 value to find x, and then substituting x in the original equation to find y. Even if come September, they forget most of what we did, it’s a great head start; seeing it multiple times already, so next year a refresher can dust off their summer math brain! 🙂

As we get ready to head into summer, and with school winding down, there is still a lot of more fun that will take place in Middle School Math. Small adjustments will be made in the quantity of work, but the learning will continue to happen!

I continue to be amazed each day by how the students are eager to learn, try new things outside of their comfort levels, and reach their full potential. Plus… their conversations and smiles are something you can’t beat!

Whether in the classroom or together from a far online, Math IS FUN!


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