Helpful Math Hints for SSAT Prep! Part 1

Studying for the SSAT

If you are writing the SSAT this fall, you are probably studying like mad for the quantitative section (aka the math section)!  There are two quantitative sections, with 25 question each. Each question is multiple choice with 5 options. Whatever you do, don’t completely guess, as you are deducted 1/4 of a mark for each incorrect answer.

We have a few helpful hints to guide you through the quantitative section that we’re sharing today, and we’ll share the rest next week!

Read Carefully and Underline Key Words

The questions in the SSAT can be tricky, so take a moment to make sure that you realize what the question is asking. Underlining key words will help you ensure that know what is important.  For example:

Read Carefully and Underline Key Words

In this question, it is important to underline what the question is really asking. That way you know that you will need to add the digits together, (2+8+1 = 11), and then multiply the digits (2 x 8 x 1 = 16), in order to determine how much less” (16-11=5). The answer must be D!

Eliminate Choices That Are Obviously Wrong

Sometimes at a glace you can see the obviously wrong answers. We suggest that you eliminate them from your answer options. For example,

Eliminate Obviously Wrong Answer

For a question like this one, we need to think about what we know. If a pizza costs $12, we can eliminate the answers that can be divided by 12, because a school can be all sorts of sizes, and perhaps not all kids ordered. The answer must be (D) because 254 isn’t a multiple of 12 and therefore it can’t be the cost.

Watch the Clock and Stay Focused

Watch the Clock

As there are 25 questions in each quantitative section, and you only have 30 minutes for each section, you have to work fast. Don’t spend too much time on one question – you really only have about 1 minute for each. There is no harm in skipping a question, with hopes that you can come back to it. Just don’t guess!  There will always be a clock in the room where you write, so that will help you to monitor the time. Some students like to make time estimations per page. For example, if there are 5 questions on the page, give yourself 5 minutes and then move on.

Staying focused can be tricky, especially on such a long test (3 hours!). If you are finding that you can’t concentrate, take a minute to close your eyes and take some deep, calming breaths. This is a great way to re-focus and conquer the rest!

If you are writing the SSAT this fall and would like to get some more helpful hints and great advice, contact us at Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space. We have qualified Learning Specialists that will teach you the best strategies to conquer the SSAT! We also have an awesome SSAT preparation workbook to help you master the skills and strategies for the Middle Level SSAT.

Rumack's SSAT Workbook Cover


Introducing…Our Halloween Literacy and Math Pack!

The kids are back to school, the leaves are getting ready to turn, and pumpkin flavored lattes are plentiful, which can only mean one thing: fall and Halloween are just around the corner.

Kids playing in leaves

We have released our Halloween pack on Teachers Pay Teachers just in time for the month of October, and it’s filled with literacy and math activities and lessons. Without further adieu, here’s a look inside the pack and how to use it:

Math Pack title page

We know how busy classroom life is, so each activity has a clear description and step-by-step instructions:

Grade 2 Contents + How To Use Them-01 Grade 2 Contents + How To Use Them-02 Grade 2 Contents + How To Use Them-03

Also included in the pack are the Common Core curriculum and the Ontario Curriculum strands links:

Grade 2 Curriculum Links-02Grade 2 Curriculum Links-01

Now, let’s take a look at some of the resources in the pack:

How to Carve a Pumpkin

This adorable activity practises procedural writing! You can model this activity in a whole class setting and then have students complete their own  in the classroom or for homework.

Monster Measurement Height (Grade 2)

This Monster Measurement activity pretty much speaks for itself and the terrifyingly adorable images are sure to be popular with your little learners!

Other activities include letter writing, word searches, colour by number addition/subtraction, and more! We hope that you enjoy all of the spookily-terrific resources in this pack!

For more fabulous resources,  please visit our Teachers Pay Teachers store, contact Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space at 416.925.1225, or visit our website.

How to Write Your First Persuasive Essay

You might have heard of this elusive ‘essay,’ but have never had the pleasure of writing one. It may seem overwhelming or daunting, but trust us, it isn’t!  Essays are just a way to argue a point. A persuasive essay is even more fun because it is just a way to argue in order to convince someone that you are correct — and we all love to be correct!

Often teachers will introduce the format of an essay by asking students to write an opinion or persuasive essay. The typical format of an essay while in middle and high school is usually 5 paragraphs: an introduction paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph. So, before you start getting anxious, follow these 5 steps and conquer your first essay!

#1 Select a Side

Considering Both Sides

Sometimes it’s hard to pick a side when writing about a particular issue, but essays require us to argue for one side, and one side only. So, before you pick the side you think is the strongest, why not prove it to yourself by making a T-Chart. Write the two sides of the argument (sometimes this is pros vs. cons, but not always) at the top of the T-Chart. Then, try to come up with at least 3 arguments for each side. The side with the objectively best arguments should become the basis of your essay.

#2 Prepare Your Plan

Prepare a Plan

Graphic organizers are the best. Whether you are just mapping out the sub-arguments, or if you are filling out a graphic organizer in complete sentences, organizing your work is immensely helpful. The internet is full of amazing graphic organizers, so snoop around and find one that you love! We also love using Inspiration because it is so colourful and customize-able!

#3 Think Through Your Thesis

Think about your thesis

Your argument should be summed up in one sentence, and that sentence is called your thesis statement. The thesis statement is usually found in the last sentence of your introduction paragraph, and it provides your audience with a clear understanding of what your essay will be arguing. It’s okay to change the wording or specifics of your thesis in the revising and editing processes, but just make sure it reflects your central point.

#4 Provide Proof

A.P.E.: Argue, Prove, ExplainProof for an opinion essay comes in the form of common knowledge, real-world examples, and/or personal experiences. Each paragraph needs a least one piece of proof, and often has three pieces of proof that supports each body paragraph’s sub-argument. We suggest using the APE Strategy to ensure that you don’t forget to introduce your proof and explain how it supports your overall argument.

#5 Revise and Edit

Revision and Editing

Revision and editing is the last step of all written expression, and for good reason. This step is crucial because you can catch silly little mistakes you might have made along the way. We recommend reading your essay out loud. You can choose to read it out loud to yourself, or to a friend or family member. We also recommend that you check for homonyms and other word errors while you’re proofreading. Common word errors are: their/there/they’re, affect/effect, then/than, and accept/except.

Still think you need some assistance with your writing?  Contact Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space to inquire about our newly developed online Essay Coach Program to help!  You’ll be introduced to each of these strategies and more during our extensive, skill-based essay writing programs. We offer online one-on-one, as well as group classes. 

Letters Galore!

School is now back in full swing and we have your ultimate guide to helping your little munchkins practise their letters, whether it be learning the names and shapes, ABC order,  beginning to print, or learning letter sounds!

Use an App:

From left to right: Wet-Dry-Try, Heat Wave

There are many fabulous apps out there that can help your children work on correct letter formation and alphabetical order. A couple of our favourites are Wet-Dry-Try and Fun Brain Jr. The Wet-Dry-Try app has children virtually wet the letter on the chalkboard, then ‘dry’ it, and finally write it! This activity replicates  the real-life chalkboard practice used in ‘Handwriting Without Tears’ that uses a chalkboard, chalk, and sponge, but is an easier on-the-go alternative.  Fun Brain Jr. has a variety of games that reinforce ABC order. In particular, we recommend Heat Wave, where children must tap the letters of the alphabet in the correct order to connect sections of pipe that fill up a pool. Perfect for the final few days of summer!

Use Bananagrams:

We LOVE Bananagrams since they can be used in so many fun and educational ways. To work on ABC order and letter sounds,  we suggest having your children lay out the letters of the alphabet using the Bananagrams tiles and then recite each letter name and sound. As an extension, you can take away tiles and have your children figure out which letters are missing.

Use Play-Doh and Letter Stickers:

This multi-sensory approach to learning letter shapes is bound to be a hit with your kids. For this activity you will need letter shaped Play-Doh cutters, Play-Doh, and stickers. Give your kids the supplies and watch them have a blast making and ordering their letters! To extend, kids can work on forming the letter shapes by hand with the Play-Doh.

Use Small Objects:

FullSizeRender (1)

Having your children make letters using small objects practises both letter formation and fine motor skills. Plus, you can use whatever small items you have hanging around the house.

Use an Alphabet Book:


We recently released our “Amazing Alphabet Book” that includes a two page spread for each letter, with activities to reinforce letter formation and sound-symbol correspondence. This book is available for download on our Teachers Pay Teacher page. 

Let use know which of these strategies worked best for your little learners!

For more information on helping your children with letter formation and alphabetical order,  please contact Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space at 416.925.1225 or visit our website.

Navigating the First Essay of the Year

It’s that time of year again. The leaves are starting to change colour, the weather is getting cooler, and you’re settling into your new school year routine.

As September speeds along, school work picks up again and, in the back of your head, you know that sooner or later you’re going to be asked to write a dreaded… dun dun dun… ESSAY! Don’t sweat. Even if essays are totally not your thing, we’re here to help with some helpful strategies to get you through the first essay of the year.

#1 Create Soft Due Dates

Soft Due Dates

As soon as you get the assignment, start planning out when you will work on it and what you need to do to complete the task. Give yourself lots of time. Do not write it the night before. Use a calendar or an agenda and give yourself ‘soft due dates.’ For example, you could make sure that you complete the outline two weeks before the hard due date (when you will need to submit it to your teacher).

 #2 Check Your Thesis

If this is your first essay of the year, or if this is your first essay ever, make sure that you have a thesis! We recommend asking your teacher before you finish your essay outline if he/she approves of your thesis. That way if your teacher thinks you should change it, you won’t have to rewrite everything! The thesis is the heart of your essay, so it is crucial for your success. Remember: ‘thesis’ is just a fancy word for argument, and most teachers want to find your thesis statement in the last sentence of your introduction.

#3 Ask Questions

Asking Questions

Your teacher is new to you, and you are new to your teacher. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! From an educator’s perspective, we LOVE when students come to us and ask questions. It shows that you are motivated, trying, and engaged!  Teachers are a wealth of knowledge and are always there to help.

#4 Proofread

Spelling error correction in writing

Give yourself lots of time by setting soft due dates and, whatever you do, don’t forget to proofread!  It’s so incredibly important and you’ll be amazed at the silly mistakes you’ll find. We always suggest reading your essay out loud while you proofread because it’ll be easier to catch awkward sentences, omitted words, and repeated ideas or words.

Here at RRLS we offer incredibly thorough programs that teach the essay writing process so that students not only leave with a finished product, but they also leave with pertinent writing skills they will use for the rest of their lives. We offer three different Essay Coach Programs: opinion essays, literary essays, and research essays. 

Beef Up Your Vocab for the SSAT!

The SSAT (a standardized test that is part of many independent schools’ applications) is right around the corner, and if your child is planning to write it this fall, now is the perfect time to start studying. If your child starts studying a little bit each day, he/she will be ready for the big day! Here are our Top 6 favourite ways to improve your SSAT vocabulary.

Know Your Words:

Find Quality SSAT Vocabulary Lists


There are a many online resources that provide excellent lists of vocabulary that might come up on the SSAT. has almost 500 words with the definitions that you can print off to make cue cards and play online games with. also has a smaller list of vocabulary words suitable for SSAT studying, but you need to login with a Facebook account.

Pick a Word of a Day

From one of the vocabulary lists, choose a word each day to use in everyday conversation.  Try your best to use the word at least three times. This is a tried and true strategy that will help you memorize and understand the context of new words.

Affixin’ the Root

Affixin' the Root Game

Learning the meaning of prefixes, suffixes, and root words can help you understand a word’s meaning, even if you’ve never heard it before! In order to practise and keep things fun, we love playing this silly game, “Affixin’ the Root.” First, you will need a lot of cue cards.  On each cue card write a suffix, a prefix, or a root word. Keep these in separate piles, and flip the cards upside-down. Arrange the three piles in order of prefix, root word, and suffix.  Turn the top cue card over of each pile to reveal a made-up word. Using your knowledge of what these affixes mean, come up with a definition for the silly word you created.

Memory Match Synonyms!

When you look up a new word, find it’s synonym as well. Write these words down on different cue cards. When you get between 5-10 pairs, play a memory matching game. It’s a great way to test yourself to see if you’ve really absorbed the meaning of each word. Play with a friend who is also writing the SSAT or challenge an adult!

Read Read Read!

Brush Up on Classic Novels

The SSAT fiction reading passages are often taken from classic novels with an older style of writing.  The more you read classic novels, the more comfortable you will be with the vocabulary. We recommend that if you are reading classic novels and encounter new words, write them down.  Take a guess at the meaning of the word based on it’s context in the passage before you look it up. Give yourself a point if you guess the meaning correctly! We will be posted a list of our favourite classic novels to read when prepping for the SSAT, so stay tuned!

Get your read on!

Read the Newspaper

Newspapers help you stay current and they are also full of great vocabulary! Online newspapers are a great way to start the morning.  Don’t feel like you need to read every section, but try to read from a variety of sections each week!

Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space has wonderful SSAT programs that can be taken one-on-one or in a group class with a qualified learning specialist.  We also have our very own SSAT Test Prep Book that is full of useful pointers and fantastic strategies. For more information call 416-925-1225. 

Getting Ready for Kindergarten (Part 2)

We hope that you enjoyed our “Getting Ready For Kindergarten (Part 1)” blog that was posted last week. Today, we bring you a few more key skills that will help your children have a happy and successful transition to kindergarten.

Skill 6: Fine Motor Skills

Boy with letters

Developing strong fine motor skills (the ability to coordinate small muscle movements in the hand) is an important part of being kindergarten-ready. Your children will need their fine motor skills for a variety of tasks, such as holding a marker, counting small objects, and turning the pages of a book. Helping your children to develop these skills is actually not so tricky and it’s FUN! Our favourite fine motor skill building activity is “Play dough Pull Apart.” For this activity you will only need two things: play dough and popcorn kernels. To begin, hide some kernels in the play dough. Then, have your children pull apart the play dough to find the kernels. To extend this activity you can have your children count the kernels as they find them.

Skill 7: Phonological Awareness


Phonological Awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate sounds within words. Strong phonological awareness is one of the best predictors of reading success. There are many games that you and your children can play to develop and strengthen their phonological awareness skills. One we love is “Rhyming I Spy”. To play you ‘spy something’ that rhymes with the word you are thinking of. For example, “I spy something that rhymes with mat…cat!”

i heart rhymes

Skill 8: Love of Books

Two children are reading books on long, surreal wooden chairs in a library with books and papers flying around them for an education or imagination concept.

Cozying up for bedtime stories can be the best part of the day. To encourage your children to become more comfortable with books and with reading, we suggest that you to hand the book over to them and have them tell the story through the pictures. If you are reading the story to your children, still have them hold the book and flip the pages. The more familiar they are with books the more likely they are to pick up a book in their new classrooms.

We hope that you have found this information helpful and we wish you and your children a safe and happy first day of Kindergarten!

For other tips, suggestions, and support in helping your children get ready for kindergarten, please contact Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space at 416.925.1225 or visit our website.