Choosing a Grade 10 Math Course: 4 Considerations That Will Result in a Successful Student


It’s a new school year and your grade 10 student will be experiencing a lot of new changes: a new school, new friends, new teachers, different classes, more freedom, and more responsibilities. One factor that can make a big difference in their success is choosing the right math class for them. Their grade 9 teacher most likely gave a recommendation. This recommendation is highly dependent on their grade 9 marks. So, is your student’s grade 9 math mark the best and only deciding factor for their choice of a grade 10 math class? What else should you consider?

  1. Does your student have a learning disability in math? Has your student been on an IPP throughout their junior high academic career?

If you’ve answered “yes” to either of these questions then Grade 10 Essentials is most likely where your student will be the most successful. Concepts taught are just that, the essentials: math you can use in everyday life. They include mental math strategies; calculations for earning money, taxes, budgeting, and making purchases; calculations for banking, saving, and interest; measurement, including conversions and estimation; geometry; calculating the costs of owning and operating a vehicle; and probability.

Two mathematics courses are required for graduation, so these students would continue with Math 11 Essentials.


2. What career does your student want to pursue after high school?

Once you’ve narrowed down career options, then you can do some research into which programs are appropriate for attaining the qualifications needed. Then you can make a list of which schools are of interest to the student and from there determine what the academic requirements are to apply to the school.

This question might not be so easy to answer. Your student may not be able to pinpoint exactly what career they want to have right now, but having a general idea of what field they’re interested in will help narrow things down. For now, knowing if they prefer hands on work or academic work will narrow down either a career in the trades or academia. And knowing if they prefer Arts, Business, or Science can help decide what requirements they need for university.

This alone can be overwhelming, but there are services that can help:

  • Make an appointment with the guidance counselor for their input.
  • Visit the colleges and universities the student might be interested in and take a tour.
  • Make an appointment with an advisor at the university of interest to gain more insight into the specific program the student is interested in taking.
  • Hire a professional to guide you through career exploration and the admissions process including applying for scholarships, such as My Campus GPS.

Keep in mind that their interests and abilities can and most likely will change. The student will need to be prepared for that. If your student completed Math 10 and 11 Essentials, then their choices for post secondary education may be limited. For example, NSCC requires Grade 12 Math, so if your student has only completed only grade 10 and 11 Essentials they will need to upgrade before applying. Whereas applying for an Arts program at Dalhousie does not require grade 12 Math.

Consult the Math Pathways document provided by the Halifax Regional School Board to ensure you’ve signed up for the right math classes throughout your high school career to meet the requirements needed.

If your high school graduate hasn’t completed all the required math courses necessary for admission to their preferred program, they aren’t out of luck but can be out of pocket between $300-$500 per class to upgrade.

3. Did your student apply themselves in junior high?

Your student may have graduated from grade 9 with a not-so-desirable grade in math. It’s important to reflect on why that may be the case.

Did your student not understand the concepts they were required to master or did your student not put forth their best efforts?

Gifted students who are bored in a class may not complete work that they will be graded on because they are not engaged by it. If this behaviour occurs enough times, it’s reflected in their overall grade. The result is that the teacher recommends a lower level math course for grade 10 when really they are capable of so much more. If you are aware that your student is gifted, choose a higher level class that will be more interesting and meaningful to them and they will be more successful.

Students in junior high learn early on that regardless of poor grades they most likely will be passed on to the next grade. For some students, knowing this leads to poor work ethic and as a result poor grades. Once again, the student is recommended for a lower level math course when they are capable of more.

There are other students who have never needed to put a lot of effort into schoolwork and still get very good grades.  In junior high a week may be spent on the same concept allowing this student to gain all the review they need. In comparison, in Pre-IB Math (in preparation for the International Baccalaureate Program) teachers are introducing several new concepts in one class only. Independent work outside of school is required to keep up and do well. The student who never needed to study before didn’t develop work habits, organizational skills, and study skills because they’ve never needed to try. If this student enters the Pre-IB program with the same work ethic, their grades may suffer.

Have a serious and honest conversation with your student to determine what kind of effort they put forth in junior high and what they are willing to put forth in their high school career to determine which grade 10 Math class will lead to their success.

Map with Math

4. Is the IB Program a good fit for my student?

Some parents are of the understanding that their student will not be prepared for university without completing the IB Program. This cannot be further from the truth. Which math classes an IB student chooses to take in the IB program will determine what field they are prepared for.

With respect to math courses in the IB program, when students enter the grade 11 year they will choose one of the following routes: Math Studies, Standard Level Math, and Higher Level Math.

  • Math Studies is appropriate for students entering a career and a university program in the Arts. The course teaches how to use calculator functions on the TI 84 graphing calculator. There are critical thinking problems (problem solving) in each unit. Students taking this course will not be prepared if they want to enter a science degree. They will need to upgrade through a continuing education program.
  • Standard Level (SL) Math is appropriate for students entering a Business or Science program at university. A student in the regular program who completes grade 12 Calculus will have covered and mastered more material than an IB student who completes SL Math. IB students who have taken SL math will sometimes comment at university that other students in their calculus course have a better understanding than they do. This may be partly do to the speed at which concepts are taught in the IB program. Also the amount of independent learning that they are expected to do in order to excel in SL math might not be realized. It’s easy to forget math concepts if students have not had enough time to practice enough problems.
  • Higher Level (HL) Math is appropriate for students entering a Science program at university. This course is an extension of the Standard Level Math course. They will learn some additional concepts and some of the problems will be more challenging. Once again, a student in the regular program who completes grade 12 Calculus will have covered and mastered more material than an IB student who completes HL Math; although, some of the problems in HL Math may be more challenging.

So, if your student decides to take the regular program up to and including calculus, they will be as well prepared, if not more prepared than an IB student.

Students who take the IB program will benefit from the following: learning how to cope with a heavy course load before entering university, develop stronger critical thinking skills, are eligible to apply for universities and colleges in different countries without needing to take any additional courses or tests, and are able to apply for scholarships that other students will not be eligible for.

When taking the IB program students also need to complete a certain number of CAS hours. In addition to their studies students will be required to dedicate a certain number of hours to creativity (such as music or art), activity (such as sports), and service (volunteer work in their community).

It’s important to keep in mind how time consuming the IB program is. Students in the regular program can still participate in extra curricular activities to add to their resume but they have the luxury of taking on as many hours as they can handle and can quit if it becomes overwhelming. It’s important that your student have excellent time management skills to be successful in the IB program without experiencing burnout and anxiety.


To make the best decision regarding which math class is best for your student, don’t rely on your student’s grade 9 math mark alone. Also consider their ability, work habits, level of motivation, and their future goals. If you help your student choose the best math course for them, they will be successful and happy.

So tell me, which grade 10 math course did you sign up for and why? Let me know in the comments below.


Help! I Think My Son/Daughter Needs Extra Support at School!


Have you noticed your son or daughter struggling with schoolwork and having difficulty keeping up with the curriculum? At some point or other, many students need a little extra help in the form of tutoring or teacher support after class. But other times, the problem is bigger than that. As a parent, you can see that something is wrong, but you might not know what next steps to take or what resources are available. I didn’t have all the answers myself, so I asked my colleague and friend Lindsay Leighton, a registered psychologist, the tough questions.

  1. What signs should someone look for that my child requires extra support at school?
  • Poor motivation to complete school work but typical motivation with activities they enjoy
  • Studying, feeling prepared and then “blanking” during a test
  • Needing a new concept explained many more times than the classroom teacher is able to provide
  • Difficulty rhyming, spelling or sounding out words
  • Difficulty memorizing basic math facts
  • Trouble remembering things: within a few minutes after being asked, or being able to do a problem one day but not the next
  • Has great ideas but cannot get them down on paper
  • Not able to concentrate on a task even though they want to be able to complete it
  • A major change in success at school
  • Your gut as a caregiver tells you something is up
  1. How can I tell if my child is really struggling or just not trying hard enough?            

In general children want to be successful! The first thing to ask yourself is, “Does my child have the skills needed to complete this task?” If they are not actually able to complete the task independently, you’ll want to look at what skills are they missing and work on building those. If the child has the skills and capacity to complete the tasks but still doesn’t follow through, then you may want to investigate further.

  1. Is an assessment required before my child can receive extra support?

There are many different forms of extra support; some are informal, while others are very structured. Many resource teachers are trained to administer informal assessments that help guide teachers in knowing what support is needed. A classroom teacher is able to identify when the child is having difficulty keeping up with the expected outcomes. If typical classroom interventions are not able to support the child sufficiently, then a more thorough assessment may be needed.


  1. At what point should I consider having an assessment done?

Consider having a psycho-educational assessment done when the underlying problems or necessary interventions to support the child are difficult to identify (more about this later). This involves meeting with a psychologist who is trained in cognitive assessment and able to perform a series of tests to identify the child’s strengths and needs. The results of a psycho-educational assessment may or may not result in a diagnosis that is impacting learning (e.g., learning disability), provide suggestions regarding emotional and behavioural functioning (e.g., attention and concentration concerns, school anxiety), recommend teaching strategies geared toward the child’s strengths, and aid in the placement and planning for a child.

If your child is not responding to a variety of teaching strategies and classroom assessment, the sooner you seek help the faster the concerns can be addressed. Many caregivers find that these evaluations are helpful when looking at what learning style, academic needs, and possible accommodations a child might need as they enter middle school, high school, university, or the workforce.

In addition, if you feel your child/student may not be reaching their potential and could be challenged further, psycho-educational assessments can also provide recommendations for gifted and talented students.

  1. What kinds of assessments are available? How do I know which assessment my child needs?

Schools are able to do informal testing that will help screen for learning difficulties. These tests are able to be completed at school and may help guide a resource or classroom teacher in the right direction.

The most comprehensive form of learning assessment is called a psycho-educational assessment. Generally a psycho-educational assessment will look at the child’s background information, cognitive functioning, processing abilities, academic functioning, and social-emotional functioning.

This is conducted by a psychologist and identifies the strengths and needs of a child in such areas as learning, behaviour, and social-emotional development. This form of assessment involves gathering information from the caregivers, teachers, and student. The child will participate in a series of tests, which are completed in a standardized way, in order to get the most accurate measure of their abilities.

Each test chosen will measure specific skills, abilities, or other qualities related to the reason for assessment. The psychologist will be able to tell you what each test measures and why that information is important.

The psychologist will then produce a report that provides detailed explanations of the child’s performance along with recommendations for how to support the child moving forward.

  1. Where do I access the assessments my child needs? What are the costs?

Your school may be able to refer your child to the school psychologist for a psycho-educational assessment. As schools are responsible for many students, caregivers often find that there is a long wait list with this process—but the bonus is there is no outside cost.

Another option is to find a psychologist in private practice that is trained in the administration and interpretation of these tests. Although you will need to pay for this assessment, a psychologist in private practice is often able to see the child quickly.

The costs associated with a private practice psychologist are not covered by MSI; however, many company and private insurance programs cover these fees. For example, if you have dental or physiotherapy coverage, you may also have insurance to see a psychologist. In addition, the costs associated with psychological services are tax deductible.

Effective October 1, 2015, the Association of Psychologists of Nova Scotia (APNS) have set the recommended fee for psychological services provided by psychologists registered with the Nova Scotia Board of Examiners in Psychology at $170 per hour.


  1. What kind of support can the school provide?
  • Trouble-shooting by the classroom teacher to trial various strategies
  • Discussion of the student at a program planning team meeting
  • In-class support provided by the classroom teacher, a co-teacher or a resource teacher
  • Out of class support should be personalised to meet the needs of the child; however, it should not extend beyond the child’s need for specialized programming and interventions (“only as special as necessary”)
  • Programming in resource centres should be designed to support programming in the classroom
  • Adaptations
  • Individual Program Plan
  • It is also worth noting that classroom support persons (i.e. TAs, EAs, PSAs, etc.) are not responsible for teaching outcomes
  1. What other measures can I take to help my child?
  • Talk to the classroom teacher – he or she will have valuable insight into what supports your child may need.
  • Many children benefit from the use of assistive technology.
  • Attempt to help your child with homework, but if you find your child is consistently frustrated, unable to complete the work on their own, or resistant to try assignments, you may want to have a conversation with the classroom teacher about how you can support the child.
  • During long learning tasks, have your child take “brain breaks” (5-minute breaks in which the child does not look at the work, relaxes, and/or burns off energy).
  • Maintain achievable, yet high expectations for your child.
  • Be generous with praise and cautious with criticism. Praise can be a natural motivator as long as the child feels the praise is genuine and deserved. It is important to let the child know why they are being praised rather than just to provide vague praise.
  • Catch the child being good. All children want attention. It is better to give them positive attention for good behaviour than negative attention for misbehaviour. Comment on something positive each day!


Tips for the child:

  • Ask questions in class as soon as you begin to feel lost. Ask your teacher, tutor, or friend to help you with the concepts you don’t get. Do not ignore gaps in your understanding because they will come back to haunt you!
  • Be an active learner rather than a passive one. Take control of your own education as much as possible. The more empowered you feel, the less intimidated you will feel when you encounter unfamiliar material.
  • Be as well prepared as possible.
  • Try not to measure your abilities against those of your classmates. Learning is not a competition!


  1. Will receiving extra support at school affect my child’s chances for admission to university?

Adaptations are strategies and/or resources to accommodate the learning needs of an individual student. They are developed to enable a student to reach the regular learning outcomes. Adaptations will not affect your child’s ability to continue on with post-secondary schooling. They are simply the teacher’s documented strategies to help your child meet the regular curriculum outcomes.

An Individual Program Plan (IPP) changes, omits, and/or individualizes the regular curriculum outcomes. The child works toward their own set of goals, not those defined by Nova Scotia’s public school program, and this will be noted on the transcript. It is important for caregivers to be aware that an IPP will place limitations on what post-secondary options a child will have.

  1. Will the extra support be documented on my child’s transcript?

Only if a student is on an IPP will there be anything noted on the transcript. Adaptations, strategies, and resources are not indicated on a student’s high school transcript.

  1. What kind of support is available at colleges and universities?

There are supports, both academic and social-emotional, available at colleges and universities, but the student must be willing and able to seek these out. It is the student’s responsibility notice when something doesn’t feel right and then take the necessary steps to get help. In contrast to high school, it is unlikely that anyone is going to chase a university student down to offer those supports.

  • Private assessments are available for mature students and adults as well.
  • Academic advisors can help address concerns related to career/study goals and determine where to go for additional information.
  • Tutors can help a student bring key concepts together from lectures and textbooks, prepare for exams, and improve study skills. They are an excellent option when the student is capable of doing the work but needs extra assistance in getting skills up to par.
  • Workshops are one-off sessions put on through a student services department. They are often offered several times throughout the year and cover topics such as effective learning strategies, test taking strategies, setting goals, and time management. They are a good refresher for many students.


You’ve recognized that your child is struggling at school, that is the first step. Now with Lindsay’s advice, you know that there is support for you and your child. Talk to your child about his/her frustrations and discuss with your child’s teacher to determine what kind of support is best for him/her. A weight will be lifted off your shoulders when you see your child’s frown turn upside down!

What challenges is your child having? Have you received support? What worked and what didn’t? I am interested in knowing what supports have been most effective and I’m sure my readers will love to know that they are not alone. Share your story in the comments below.



Lindsay is a registered psychologist currently working the Valley area of Nova Scotia. Lindsay has experience working directly with children/students as a school teacher and as a psychologist. Presently Lindsay works with youth who have cognitive and behavioural difficulties that are impacting learning and success. She works directly with these youth and their families to assess and develop plans that will help her clients gain skills and flourish!

Lindsay Leighton, MA
                                                   Registered Psychologist

46 Fun and Fascinating Things to Do in Nova Scotia: A Guide for New Students


Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, photo by Sara Young with the aid of Vision Air Services

Are you new to Halifax? Welcome to your new home! The city of Halifax and the province of Nova Scotia are famous as much for their natural and historic beauty as their warm and friendly people. There’s a ton of fun and fascinating places to see and things to do listed here, many of which your campus staff may not have mentioned.

Below you’ll find a list of places to go to enjoy the great outdoors, stay fit, learn a new skill, or have a unique shopping experience. These are some of my favourite activities, but this list just scratches the surface of all that’s available. For more ideas, The Local Traveler does a great job of keeping us informed about what’s happening around town, and be sure to check out Gillian’s post, 10 Fall Day Trips Within Two Hours of Halifax, if you’re looking for some scary Hallowe’en fun!

For concerts, events, and places to eat, consult The Coast. They publish a weekly paper in addition to their website.

point pleasant

Point Pleasant Park, photo by Sara Young


  • The Public Gardens are on Spring Garden Road. Take a stroll and stop to smell the roses!
  • Point Pleasant Park is near Saint Mary’s University and is the home of Shakespeare by the Sea.
  • Hemlock Ravine is my favourite park in Halifax and is near Mount Saint Vincent University. There are several loops, so you have the choice to make a longer or shorter walk.
  • You’ll need a car to get to the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park, but the trip is worth it! Go in the spring to be sure to see some baby animals!
  • Kejimkujik National Parkis my favourite park for camping. Camp by RV, in a tent, or an oTENTik (tent meets rustic cabin). Camp in the main campground or in the back country. Rent a canoe or kayak to explore the lakes or rent a bike to ride the trails.
  • Check out some of the other provincial parks in Nova Scotia.


Snowshoeing at Nichol’s Lake, photo by Sara Young

Hiking and Snowshoeing

My personal favourite is Wood Brook Falls. There’s no trail—it’s a bushwhacking experience—but it’s so worth it!


Scuba Diving in Prospect Bay, photo by Sophie LaVoie, watercolour artist

Outdoor Fun

Markets and Fairs

christmas house

Beautiful Christmas lights on Connaught Avenue, Halifax, photo by Sara Young

Christmas Craft Fairs

  • The Dartmouth Handcrafter’s Gulid has a Christmas Craft Festival at the Dartmouth Sportsplex.  It typically runs the end of Octobter; the earliest Christmas craft fair.  Give yourself lots of time, as there are many vendors.
  • Christmas at the Forum, in halifax, also has many vendors.  In addition to crafts and food, the Forum also has an antiques room.
  • The Christmas Craft Village at Exhibition Park features The Guy Show.  There’s sure to be fun for everyone!
  • The Nova Scotia Designer Crafts Council has a Christmas Show.  The exhibitors are professional artisans.
  • Watch the Dalplex Facebook page for the Dalplex Christmas Craft Market.
  • Support local crafters from the Halifax Crafter’s Society at the Winter Market.
  • The Last Minute Christmas Craft Fair at the Forum will be your last opportunity to score unique gifts made by crafters.
  • While on the topic of Christmas, you should take a drive around the city to see the Christmas lights in December.  Some neighbourhoods go all out, like you can see in the photo above.  Check out the interactive map to find the most spectacular displays.

jewellery school

 Jewellery pieces made at the Nova Scotia Centre for Craft and Design,

made by and photo by Sara Young


  • The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) has a School of Extended Studies. You don’t need to be a registered student at NSCAD to take their courses. Learn to draw, paint, take photographs, throw ceramics, make jewellery, learn bookbinding, and more.
  • The Nova Scotia Centre for Craft and Design also offers classes. They range in length from 1 day to 10 weeks. I took their Introduction to Jewellery class. I learned a lot and had fun!
  • Patch Halifax offers workshops for sewing.
  • Paint your own pottery for yourself or to give as a gift at The Clay Cafe.

Pat at Pound 4 Pound

Patrick Murphy, owner and personal trainer at Pound 4 Pound Fitness

Dance and Fitness

  • Classes and parties: pole fitness, trapeze, and ariel hoop at Studio in Essence.
  • Classes and parties: bellydance, burlesque, Latin dance, hula hoop at Serpentine Studios.
  • Programs: ballet, modern, jazz, contemporary, creation, tap, and more at Halifax Dance.
  • Classes and programs at The Maritime Conservatory, including ballet, modern dance, flamenco, and jazz.
  • Looking to get in shape? My partner can help you out! Come visit Pound 4 Pound Fitness to get on track with your fitness goals.

Cell Phone 1011

The Halifax Central Library, photo by Sara Young

Indoor Fun

  • Like to write letters? Get together with a group of like-minded people from the Halifax Snail Mail Society. Swap stationery, make envelopes, and just have fun!
  • Have your fortune told at Broom Closet Tarot.
  • Laura Byrnes is a local psychic medium who has been working to connect people with deceased loved ones, spirit guides, angels and even pets for the past nine years. Laura offers private and group readings, aura balancing and cleansing, home and office cleansings, crystal attunement therapy, and her own energy infused jewellery line called Lola Designz.
  • There are lots of activities at the public libraries, including author readings and laughing yoga!
  • See an on-stage performance at Neptune Theatre.
  • Why not eat while you’re at the theatre? At Grafton Street Dinner Theatre.
  • Have a laugh at Yuk Yuk’s, Halifax’s stand-up comedy club.
  • Race your friends in go-karts at Kartbahn.
  • Jump around on the trampolines at Get Air in Dartmouth.
  • Play glow-in-the-dark mini golf at Putting Edge in Bayer’s Lake, Halifax.
  • Get some henna art at Sushma’s Henna for You.


I’ve only just scratched the surface of all the fun things you can see and do in and around Halifax!  Have you discovered any hidden gems? I’d love to hear about them! Share your faves in the comments section.


Back-to-School Necessities: The 5 Items You Can’t Live Without


It’s a brand-new school year. A chance to start fresh with new habits, new lessons, and new school supplies. You know that if you want to do a job right, you need the right tools. Well, if you’re ready to make mastering math your goal this year, to finally stop struggling and start feeling confident that you’ve got this, then there are a few key supplies you absolutely must have.


1. Calculator


The number-one thing you must have to be successful at math is a good calculator. A good calc doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be up to the task. If you’re planning on going into the sciences, it’s worth investing in a good one. (I’d recommend the TI 83 or 84, the graphing calculator used in Nova Scotia public schools, available at Staples, Best Buy, Walmart, Amazon, and Kijiji).

For high school and university math, go with either a graphing calculator or a scientific calculator.  A graphing calculator will do all the things a scientific calculator will, but in addition it will graph functions for you.  If you go with a scientific calculator, get one that shows two lines of input so you can see what you’ve entered into the calc.  A well liked scientific calculator is the Casio because the math mode will show your entries just as you see it on your paper (for example, fractions look just like they do when you write them).

The new high school curriculum does rely somewhat on graphing calcs, so if you have one at home you’ll get more practice with it. You can also practice using a graphing calc on your Android smartphone (search for the TI 84 app, select the “Wabbitemu”) or on your computer. This video will show you how.

Yes, there are calculator apps for your smartphone, but I don’t recommend using them. Why not? They’re just too distracting. Be honest: If you reach for your phone to do a math problem, how likely are you to check Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram while you’re there? How much math time will be eaten up by screen time this way? If you’re serious about conquering math this year, it’s worth it to purchase and use a proper calculator.

Pro Tip for University Students: Not all courses will allow you to use a programmable calc for your tests. If you are allowed, and you have a TI 83/84, I can show you how to use all the fancy functions to help you answer questions faster while still showing your work.

2. Agenda


One of the most common reasons students have trouble in school is that they have poor time management skills. You can easily solve this problem by buying a daily agenda book and using it regularly. If your school doesn’t sell them, it’s worth your time to find your own at any office supplies store. Some universities give them out for free. My favourite is the Quo Vadis Scholar (find it at Staples or the Dalhousie University bookstore).

Again, you could have an agenda app on your smartphone, but I wouldn’t recommend it. In addition to being distracting, it’s usually faster to pull out your agenda and write a note than it is to scroll through pages of apps on your phone, not to mention that the agenda book is much less likely to fall into the toilet or crash!

Pro Tip: There are secrets to making your agenda work for you. I can show you how to manage your time more effectively using your agenda so that you can stay on track with your goals in less time.

3. Graph paper


In addition to being a huge time saver when drawing graphs by hand, graph paper will keep your notes neat and actually help you do better in assignments and tests. How? Some questions will ask you to draw a graph and then find the pattern. If you don’t have your grid spaced correctly, you might not be able to see the pattern. Graph paper takes out the guesswork so you can focus on the problem at hand.

You can find graph paper anywhere paper is sold, but I personally prefer Staples Reversible Graph Paper 4 square/5 square. It comes in notebook form with holes so you can keep it neatly in your binder, and the pages are perforated so removing them is easy.

Pro Tip: Why not use graph paper notebooks for all your schoolwork, whether you’re graphing or not? It’ll keep your notes super neat, and you never know when you might need a table of values or to draw a rectangle.

4. Notes/papers organizer


Everyone’s different, and we all have our favourite ways to organize ourselves . . . the key is to find a way that works for you, then use it.

If you tend to make stacks or piles of papers, an accordion-style folder system might be perfect for you. Label each slot so you can find things easily, and always put new papers at the back of the slot they belong to so that your notes will stay in order.

For many people, binders are the best choice. They help you to keep everything in place and make it easy to add handouts to your notes, which is not possible with spiral-bound notebooks. Binders also keep things in order, which is especially important in math. Concepts build in math, so you will need to master what you learned on Monday before you can complete your work on Friday.

Avoid zippered binders. It’s too easy to throw everything in and zip it up. You won’t lose anything, but when it comes time to find a specific piece of paper you’ll have no idea where it is in the pile.

Even with a binder system some students still lose their papers because they rip out easily.  To avoid this problem, you can get 80 page exercise scribblers that you most likely used in elementary school.  You can use one scribbler for your notes and a separate one for your practice problems.  Then store the scribblers in your binder or accordion-style folder system.

An organized binder is the key to an organized mind. Use a different colored binder for each class. Choose bigger ones (3-inch) for paper-intensive subjects like math.

Pro Tip: Number your pages to keep track of the order in which you received them. This will make things easier when you return to earlier notes when you’re studying.

5. Backpack


As a high school or university student, you will have homework and assignments you need to work on away from class. How will you keep everything you need with you when you’re on the go? A backpack, of course.

A backpack keeps everything in one place: your binder, textbook, pencils, calculator. So when you’re ready to work, you’ll have everything you need to get the job done, without the frustration of having to hunt for what you need.

Be sure to get a backpack big enough to hold your largest binder, a textbook or two, and other supplies. L.L. Bean makes excellent backpacks in multiple sizes with handy compartments. They cost a little more, but they’re incredibly durable and will last for years.

Pro Tip for Students: If you’re finding lots of loose papers in your backpack, it may be a sign that the organizational system you are using is not right for you. Scrap it and try a different method. You don’t want to miss passing in important assignments you worked for hours on just because it was misplaced.


So there you have it: the 5 items you can’t live without this school year. You might be surprised to see how much your grades and your overall feeling of confidence in your work improves when you have all the supplies you need and everything is organized to help you succeed.


Is there a school supply you can’t live without? Tell me about it in the comments . . . I love a trip to the stationery store!