Back-to-School Style Icons


It’s that time of the year again! That’s right, Back-to-School season is upon us. What better way to ease yourself back into a school-centered mindset than with the help of a couple pop culture figures? We’ve gathered a list of our top back-to-school style icons to provide you with some serious #throwback first day of school outfit inspiration.

Cher and Dionne from Clueless

dionne-cher-cluelessOK – so maybe this one is kind of a given, but we couldn’t help ourselves! The girls in Clueless are always dressed on point, and we love that they aren’t afraid to dress in bright and bold styles!

The Cast of Degrassi


If Cher’s wardrobe is a little out of your budget (which we reckon it most likely is), then look no further than our own “6ix-grown” characters of Degrassi. Since the show has run for so many seasons, you can take style inspiration that spans over three decades.

Harry Potter


Now, we’re not saying you should show up in a full-length cape with a wand in hand on your first day back, but we DO encourage showcasing your originality and uniqueness at school. We love that Hogwarts students look super put-together with their coordinating ties and scarfs- and you can never go wrong with a crisp white shirt.

Lizzie McGuire


Another very “throwback” character, Lizzie McGuire tackled middle school with some of our favourite outfits ever. Lizzie has a very outgoing personality, and her wardrobe choices reflected that. She’s inspired us to always look cute, fun and comfortable – no matter what sticky situation you might find yourself in!

Blair Waldorf

636041263608035445304168023_blair uniform

For all our private school students out there, this one’s for you! The girls of Constance Billard sure knew how to take a basic uniform and make it look runway-ready. We know that different schools have different dress-codes and rules on just how far you can take the accessorizing, but if you’re in doubt you can’t go wrong with a classy hairband à-la Blair Waldorf!

Best Apps to Beat Boredom AND LEARN


Here at The Math Guru, we strongly believe that summer should be all about fun and games, but that doesn’t mean letting your brain turn to mush! That’s why we’ve compiled this list of apps you can download on your iPad/iPhone/Android/whatever the newest gadget is to keep yourself entertained and educated. From crosswords to math games, we’ve got you covered. So next time you’re looking for something to do on a quiet night or rainy day grab that screen of yours and get learning!!


Sushi Monster

This adorable and super delicious looking game helps to reinforce your math fluency using sashimi as the inspiration. We’ll take 6 pieces of california roll + 3 dragon rolls please!


Little Crossword Puzzles

Don’t have much time? Looking to kill a few minutes while you wait for your friend at Starbucks? Whatever the case is, the Little Crossword Puzzles app will keep you busy for a short period of time. The app comes with a bunch of puzzles that can be solved in under  than 5 minutes.

screen480x480Pizza Fractions

What’s better than Pizza, how about Pizza FRACTIONS. This app is perfect for kids who are being introduced to fractions, but we have a feeling some of our older students could also always use a little fractions refresher…


Sudoku Puzzle World

Sudoku Puzzle World is a super aesthetically pleasing game that’ll also get you to put your “thinking cap” on. With stunning backgrounds for each puzzle, this is probably the most calm you’ll ever feel when dealing with numbers.


Crossword: World’s Biggest

Looking for a challenge? Try the world’s “biggest” crossword puzzle! If you’re up for testing your all-around general knowledge (topics range from history to pop culture to science) then this app is for you! Download it to get access to over 300 puzzles and 7000 clues. That should definitely keep you busy for the next couple of months..

Math & Memes & Talk Shows, OH MY!


It’s the second week of June and we know that can only mean one of two things – you are either in the thick of exams or soooo close to the finish line you can almost taste it. There are of course a couple of you lucky ducks that are already out for the summer and (whom we are totally jealous of). Whatever your current situation, we thought we’d brighten your Thursday with some math related (but totally awesome) content.   

If you’re one of those people who thinks that math and science are reserved strictly for textbooks and classrooms, think again! We’ve scoured the internet to find you some of the most hilarious articles and videos that combine our favourite things: academics and pop culture.


  1. This article from U.K. Complex that worked out how Reddit used calculated how much money Joey owes Chandler (plus many more pop culture math problems). 

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 10.17.36 PM


2. These videos from Jimmy Fallon where he explains “popular mathematics”. Definitely not the most accurate source for educational resources, but we give Jimmy credit shining a spotlight on the concept of math, and giving the subject a prime time TV spot! (We’ve linked two of them below, but Jimmy’s made several of them!)


3. This math meme ft. Lady Gaga that will totally help you remember how to deal with polynomials. BEST.



4. The PBS Math Club just about knocks our socks off. This collection of Youtube videos riffs off of well-known movies to explain mathematical concepts. Videos range from a Wes Anderson style satire that explains how to multiply positive and negative numbers to a Mean Girls/Darth Vader collab that lays out adding negative numbers. We’re OBSESSED.                        

Mathflix and Chill


The countdown to summer is ON. We know that for the next few weeks, most of you will have your heads buried in your textbooks and class notes, but we promise, the end is near. Studying hard now will pay off, and you know that all the effort is only temporary- in a short while you’ll be able to chill out and relax for 3 whole months! Although we don’t recommend you spend your entire summer on a couch in front of the TV, we know it’s bound to happen on on a rainy weekend or at the end of a busy day. Instead of watching mind-numbing reality TV shows, or whatever over-hyped summer blockbuster is out, check out the Math Guru’s favourite movies instead. Each one has some relation to math/science, but it won’t feel like you’re sitting in your 9:00am functions class. We promise, it is possible to learn and get a little inspired while still Netflix and chillin.


The Imitation Game

This historical drama is based on the life of Alan Turing, a mathematician who was basically one of the first computer coders. He helped fight the Nazis in World War II by deciphering the messages sent over the Enigma machine (the tool the Nazis used to secretly communicate their radio signals). Obviously, the story has been “Hollywoodized” but one thing is made clear, Turing’s work was essential in giving us modern day computer science and artificial intelligence.  

anigif_enhanced-2069-1441191175-2_previewMean Girls

An all time classic, so many people forget that the main character Cady Heron (a.k.a. Lindsey Lohan) is actually a huge math nerd. Though we don’t approve of Cady’s attempt to at first hide the fact that she is a complete math genius, she redeems herself in the end when she competes with the Mathletes and ends up winning the competition for her school. If there’s one thing we can learn from Cady, it’s that beauty and brains are not mutually exclusive and you should always own it!!


Good Will Hunting  

This is probably one of the most #inspirational films listed here. Starring Matt Damon (so you can’t complain), this drama is about a delinquent who works as a janitor at MIT. When he happens upon a difficult math problem left on a chalkboard, he’s able to solve it correctly. What follows is a series of dramatic/emotional events, but the film is rooted in Will’s newly revealed genius. Bonus trivia: University of Toronto Prof. Patrick O’Donnell served as a mathematics advisor for the movie. He also made a cameo as the character “Marty” and it’s his handwriting that appears on all the blackboards throughout the movie.



For the sports fans (and/or Brad Pitt enthusiasts), Moneyball combines both plus a whole lot of math vibes. The movie is based on the true story of Oakland Athletics baseball team’s 2002 season. It follows how the General Manager and Assistant General Manager draft a team using a “Sabermetric” approach- which is the fancy term for analyzing baseball based on empirical evidence (a.k.a STATISTICS). Didn’t think math and sports could co-exist? Think again.


The Theory of Everything

Ok, don’t expect to finish watching the Theory of Everything and understand quantum physics. Less educational and more biographical, this film follows the personal life of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. Though the movie does portray some of his his work it does focus more on his disability and family life. Pick the Theory of Everything if you’re being tempted by a sappy rom-com, but want to go for something that’ll make you feel a little more cultured.


MMMVAs (Much Music Math Video Awards)


Sometimes the internet just blows us away. Between the thousands of memes, Buzzfeed lists, and those quick speed cooking videos all over our Facebook feeds, it’s never a dull moment. YouTube in particular is home to some pretty sweet content, including these HILARIOUS math parody music videos. Today, in our own version of the Much Music Video Awards, we’ve rounded up our favourites. If you’re in need of a little pre-homework pump up, get into the zone with one of these videos. We promise they’ll have you calculating to the beat.

“It’s Just Math” – Frozen Let It Go Parody

Yes, Anna and Elsa love math. This song has an emphasis on geometry, which makes perfect sense, since Elsa’s frozen castle was basically constructed out of ICEsoceles triangles. (Pun, very much intended).

“Teach Me How to Factor” – Teach Me How to Dougie Parody 

What’s better than catchy rap? How about a catchy MATH rap. This parody of “Teach Me How to Dougie” will actually teach you how to factor. So if you’re tired of staring at your notes from class, drop this beat in the background while you’re doing your homework and you’ll be a factoring pro in no time.

“All I Do is Solve” – All I Do is Win Parody

Ok huge shoutout to the WSHS math department for killing it with these videos. The same school who put together “Teach Me How to Factor” also has this gem of a song. “All I Do is Solve” focuses on solving equations, and it even goes through the three different methods, graphing, elimination and substitution!

“Slope” – Hello Parody

Ok so maybe this one is significantly cheesier than our other picks, but if you’re trying to learn slope, this parody of Adele’s “Hello” is pretty bang on. Also props to this teacher who clearly just really wanted to sing about mx + b.

Uptown Factors – Uptown Funk Parody

We’ll finish up on an upbeat note! This is another video about factoring, but this time featuring a slightly more recent chart topper with this parody of Uptown Funk. We’re obsessed with everything about this video – from the dance moves, to the outfits to the informative equations that pop up throughout! You won’t be able to help but sing along!

Study Skills That Actually Work!

Friends who study together, stay together!

“I studied SO hard for my math test, knew everything, and still BOMBED it – what gives?!”

Sound familiar? It does to me! Being in the tutoring business, I hear many of the same things over and over again – and that’s what gives me insight into what our tutors need to tackle with students. Test taking – a huge one!

It’s been one month since school started, which is about the time is takes for teachers to assign their first major test – aka FREAKOUT TIME!

Sure, learning the actual math and science curriculum is a given when it comes to tutoring, but there is often a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to getting good grades at school. Knowing the material is half the battle – but the OTHER half is a combination of things, one being the development of study skills…that ACTUALLY work. I say it this way because many of our students ‘study’…they just don’t study effectively. This often results in frustration and a lack of confidence that goes on to negatively affect their math marks and even their attitude towards school, which totally sucks.

I was recently on Global’s The Morning Show talking about how choosing the right strategies to study effectively can be daunting, especially because there are so so many to choose from, and their effectiveness really does depend on the individual. So let’s start here, with a list of study techniques that might REALLY work for you!

1. Choose your work space wisely!

When I was in high school, I could NOT stand working in a quiet space. Libraries? Forget it. Kitchen table? No way. It made me restless and lonely and I just felt like studying SUCKED when I was all alone. The best thing for me was to set up at a cozy coffee shop and study for hours – I loved it. The buzz around me was bustling enough to make me feel like I was part of something, but not loud and distinct enough to distract me from what I was doing. To this day, my favourite places to write, study or do work are coffee shops! Plus, if you need a snack break, you don’t have to even go anywhere – perfection.

That being said, the “coffee shop strategy” won’t work for just anyone. Some people get distracted by ANYthing and really do need to be sequestered, alone, somewhere. If that’s you, it’s important to have a designated space to study – your kitchen, den, bedroom – whatever it is, make it THE place you study, and have everything you might possibly need in that space so that when you’re ready for it, it’s ready for you.

2. Skimming doesn’t equal studying!

Reading over your math notes in NO way replaces actual practice. This is one of the biggest ways in which students misuse their studying time! The best way to study for a math or science test is to go over past problems you’ve done in class, in previous quizzes, or in your homework. Do them ALL over again and make sure you get them right the second time around!

3. Your teacher gives you freebies – you just need to listen!

If you’re short on time and wondering which questions to focus on while studying, always start with the questions your teacher covered in class! Chances are, those are the ones they think are the most important!

4. Study before you actually HAVE to study!

We all know that cramming isn’t exactly the best way to study for a test – and there’s an easy way to avoid it! In addition to doing your homework at night, take a few minutes to go through the notes you took in class, fill in any gaps, and make sure you understand them. If there’s anything that you don’t fully get, address it with your teacher the next day. By the time you get assigned a test, you at least know that you get the gist of the subject matter – now you just have to fully nail it down!

Quick Fix: Do’s and Don’ts to Studying Effectively

  • DON’T have your phone ANYWHERE NEAR YOU. It literally cannot benefit you in any way – trust me! Take a ten minute phone break every hour if you absolutely need your instagram fix;)
  • DO get organized from day one – get a binder for every subject and make sure that it’s organized on a daily basis! That way when it comes to study time, you have everything ready to go!
  • DON’T “borrow your friend’s calculator”! Every calculator is different and you want your very own that you can get to know and master before test time strikes!
  • DO study with friends – as long as they don’t distract you! Make sure you all study independently, even if you’re in the same place – that way you’re still getting actual studying in, but have someone to ask for help if you’re totally stumped on something!
  • DON’T stay up all night! All-nighters are one of the worst things that can happen to your brain – check out this article for the sordid details – ew!
  • DO take breaks! Your brain needs to rest and rejuvenate, so take a ten minute break every hour. If you want to get really hardcore, use that ten minutes for exercise – 100 jumping jacks go a long way towards rejuvenating your brain AND getting your blood flowing after staring at a textbook for an hour!

Craving more knowledge? Check out ASAP SCIENCE’S quick video on the 9 best scientific study tips – it’s one of our favourites!

Cheers and happy studying!



Why Peace. Love. Pi.?

The Math Guru

Well, as the sweet scent of September soars in the air (along with the equally sweet scent of those school supply stacked Staples aisles), I figure it’s time to do what I should have done LAST September: Start a blog!!!

Hold up, we’re moving too fast. Let’s start at the beginning:) Hello, my name is Vanessa. I am the founder/director of learning and inspiration of The Math Guru, a boutique math and science tutoring studio in uptown Toronto which I started almost four years ago! Why did I decide to do such a thing you ask? Well, when I was in high school, I actually failed Grade Eleven math twice. Twice! Like many people who haven’t found their educational guru, I hated math; until one day, I found mine.

My parents weren’t too pleased with my whole “I’m just not a math person” thing and so they decided it was time for an educational switch. So, in Grade Twelve I headed to another school – and found my mathematical guru. Not only did my new teacher speak to me in words that made sense, but she inspired me to find the ‘math person’ within – the one that lies within us all. Most importantly, I learned that even though some things don’t come easy, that with enough perseverance and perspective that those things do come – one way or another.

I couldn’t believe that I had wasted such a huge chunk of my teenage life convinced that math just wasn’t something that I was ever going to ‘get’, that this wonderful world of mathematics was simply off limits to some one like me. Totally insane, right?!

I became totally obsessed with the fact that there are a TON of people out there who just THINK that – believe that there’s this type of person out there, with mathematical powers or something. Where do people get this idea in the first place? Why did I, for example, think that I didn’t belong to this group of people?! Was it because I didn’t fit the mathematical stereotype? Because I was artsy? Because I didn’t have glasses and a pocket protector?! Because I totally didn’t know the first thing about video games?! I was obsessed. So, I decided to get a closer look at the STEM fields (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and the way that those fields intersect with teenage culture – or don’t! Pretty cool, I know. I ended up publishing a paper titled Imagining a World Where Paris Hilton Loves Mathematics and becoming an expert on the ridiculous ways that the media generates and enforces stereotypes of what it means to be a mathematician!

So back to the whole tutoring centre thing. After all that, I decided that my goal in life was to rid math & science of their bad reputation – to salvage those intricately beautiful bodies of knowledge from the clutches of media-induced stereotyping: To make math and science cool. That’s right. Believe it! But first, I wanted to make sure that I did whatever I could to make sure that no one ever ever went through life thinking that they simply weren’t ‘a math person.’ And so…I started The Math Guru, a super chill boutique math and science tutoring studio! TMG is a safe space where tutors are people too, where learning takes place with tea lattes in hand, and where anyone and everyone can learn to love math and science!

Over the years, I have seen an amazing number of math-haters convert to math-lovers, have watched countless teens change their view of what it means to love math, and have had the absolute pleasure of watching those who think that math and science are totally beyond them eventually get their dream job – you know, the one you imagine you’ll have when you’re a kid and you haven’t learned that society views math and science as the domain of a chosen few.

Most amazingly though, I have seen countless teens experience what I experienced when my world was rocked by an awesome math teacher: not just that “I can do anything” feeling, but that “I can do anything and I want you to feel the same way too” feeling.  It’s not just me that wants to make math and science accessible to everyone – it’s all of the wonderful kids and adults that walk through our doors. How cool is that?!

So, what’s the deal with this blog? Well, this is where you will find my musings on a variety of things including (but not limited to!) math and science education, teenage culture, our education system, STEM, and well, the way all of those things intersect – or often don’t. You won’t just be hearing from me – but from guest bloggers as well. You know what they say: It takes a village!

If there’s a particular topic that you’re interested in reading about, if you’ve got ideas on how to begin to unravel the tightly wound STEM stereotypes out there, if you get your hands on something I absolutely have to see/share, or if you want to write for The Math Guru, get in touch – I would love to hear from you!

The ocean can do what the drop cannot – let’s DO THIS!

peace. love. pi.