This trip, these girls….why I do what I do!

If you follow me on Facebook, you probably could not have missed that the family was in Washington DC last week. I was posting Go Pro videos left and right!!!! I might have gotten a little carried away but I was having a blast.

I don’t want to get too sentimental here but every time I get the opportunity to do something like I did last week in DC, I get emotional about the opportunity I have been given and that I have worked very hard for. I don’t do the traditional thing….I stay home with my kids and I run a business from home…one that a lot of people don’t understand.



It wasn’t always this way as many of you know though. I used to have an engineering job. In fact, I lived in DC for 3 or 4 months in 2009 on assignment for that job. I also was in DC for two weeks in 2010 for the very same reason that we were there this time…only my wife was the one attending the same type of conference I attended in 2010 for my job. Every major project for the Department of Defense in our line of work goes out there to DC to go through a project team development seminar.

This time was very surreal for me because while my wife went to those meetings every day, I frolicked in our Nation’s capital with the kids. We had an amazing week making Mommy jealous and we documented the whole thing on video. Ok…not the WHOLE thing…but much of it. I just wanted to sort of compile all that into some text along with all the videos in one place here on the blog for memories. I hope those of you reading will enjoy.

My wife actually flew out to DC on Tuesday, June 16th. The kids and I waited until Friday because their last day of school was Wednesday and I teach a PiYo class on Thursdays and figured it would be easier not to have to get a sub 2 weeks in a row. So, we flew out on Friday and got to the hotel in Alexandria, VA right about the time my wife got back from her seminar for the day.

The hotel was a nice Embassy Suites right off the King St metro stop in Alexandria. I love Embassy Suites! Free beer and snacks every night, great breakfast, separate bedroom so you can close the door and let the kids sleep….awesome. The kids were disappointed to hear that “suites” was not spelled “sweets” though. LOL.


We had the whole weekend (almost) to spend with Mommy! She had one little 2 hour activity with the seminar group on Saturday and then we took the afternoon to go to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. I love that all the museums are free in DC…even the Zoo (see tomorrow…and Thursday).

I didn’t have the bright idea to use the Go Pro until Sunday so we ended up at the Natural History museum with no Go Pro AND a dead phone battery…so I have almost no pics. Just a couple of Hope Diamond that are not very good. But…we had a great time and went to the butterfly exhibit together. We even ended up going back to the butterflies with the Go Pro later the next week so you can see that video below.



Sunday was Father’s Day and the kids wanted to go to the Zoo. I have to be honest….the Zoo is NOT my favorite thing to do. Staring at animals at the Zoo is not a big deal to me in most cases. Sometimes you see something really cool but it just doesn’t do it for me most of the time. What a way to spend Father’s Day, huh?

On the contrary..while the Zoo doesn’t do much for me, seeing my kids light up and have fun DOES do it for me….and this time I brought the Go Pro. So, I got to play with my toy camera and capture the moments and they got to be the stars of the film.

Here is the video I made of our day at the Zoo on Sunday (oh, and we sang this song together the rest of the week….pretty catchy):


Awww….Mom back to work today. So, now it is just me and the kids and we just about ruined the rest of our week by going full throttle the first day! I had plans.

First stop:The National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall
Here is the video:

After the museum, we walked all the way down to the Tidal Basin between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials where they have paddle boats for rent! It was a LONG walk. We were taking the metro everywhere (which the kids loved…escalators and trains…a kid’s playground)…but there really isn’t a close metro stop to the Tidal Basin so we had to “hoof it” and it was HOT outside.

The girls did great until we got all the way to the boats and someone had to go to the bathroom! Gah! So, I ask where the bathroom is and they point to the Holocaust museum….which is a long way to backtrack in the heat. So, we trek back up to the Holocaust museum just to use the bathroom and then back down to the boats where we had the best time of the whole trip!

This is definitely my favorite video. The song describes exactly what I was feeling like all week!!!!


On Tuesday, we were all a little tired from the adventures over the three previous days (I was also getting up and working out at 5am before Paula went to the meetings)….so we just hung out at the hotel in the morning and then had a short trip to ride the carousel down on the National Mall and look around in the Smithsonian Castle (which doesn’t have much but they insisted…because it’s a castle).

However, when we were looking for songs for our videos the night before, we came across this silly robot song and the girls just started dancing and then they asked if we could make a video of them dancing to the robot song. I am not sure if this is a good sign or a bad sign but I was having fun with the videos!

Silly Robot Video:


Today we went looking for dinosaurs and then went to the Postal Museum and sent postcards back to Grandmas and Aunts and Uncles!
We also redid the butterfly exhibit with the Go Pro this time!!!!

Here are our videos:

Dinosaur Hunt:

Butterfly Experience:



Last day! We fly home tomorrow. The girls got to pick where to go and they chose to go BACK to the zoo! I didn’t get the Go Pro out for this round but I did get a video on my phone of like 10 otters. It’s awesome. Check it out here:


We flew home on Friday and then got home and the girls got invited to play with friends at the Bremerton fountains. I was so tired by this point but didn’t want them to miss it…so I made another video! LOL.

Thanks for following my journey through DC.  These experiences, these memories, they are truly everything to me and I am so incredibly lucky to be able to have the freedom to spend these years with my kids.

One Dad’s POSITIVE view on Common Core – Part 2


Part 2

In the first part of this blog, I gave some arguments to break down some of the anti-CC math arguments that are all over the interwebs.  In this part, I won’t be doing math problems or explaining specific examples so much.  I want to talk a little more about how, from what I see, this is a step in the right direction.  I also want to talk about the problems I see with it and speak directly to parents about what I think they can be doing to help their kids be successful in this program.  There is a lot to cover here!

They Still Teach the Math You Remember

I think this is one of the biggest misconceptions going around.  The idea that Common Core REPLACES the old algorithms (like the ones I showed in part 1) and all the “tricks of the trade” with a bunch of inefficient methods to solve problems is just bogus.  One of the videos I referenced in part one proclaims that they would never get out a piece of paper and draw a bunch of pictures to figure out how to add the price of two items together.  So true!  You never would AND Common Core would not have you do that either.

This is going to be a massive simplification, but from what I see, this is basically the difference that Common Core has made:

  • THE OLD:  Teach algorithms, operations, and memorization (times tables, flash cards) in the early years.  Leave the graphical representation, theory, and “why” behind it all for the later years (geometry, algebra, etc).
  • Common Core:  Push SOME of the graphical/pictorial representation, theory, and “why” down to lower grade levels.  Mix in the algorithms and “tricks” slightly later than before.

In other words, the algorithms are STILL taught.  The standard just forces the theory and “why” to be taught along with it.  Properties of operations seem to me to still be in the standard and well within the teacher’s freedom to teach.  They just have to ALSO teach them the other parts in order to meet the standard.

Are They Too Young?

One argument I have heard is not that the number theory and pictures and such are bad but rather that the kids they are trying to teach it to are too young to learn that kind of thing.  Some argue that the Common Core forces things to such a low grade level that kids cannot grasp it at that age.

I do not know if this is true or not.  When I read through the standard (and I have read through the math standards up through about 3rd grade), they seem reasonable to me.  However, I will grant you that I am an engineer with moderately high (everything is relative) levels of math education and I LOVED math…at least eventually.

While I don’t know if this is pushing things down to an inappropriate age or not, I do feel that it is way too early to say that.

This is Actually Not New

I actually grew up homeschooled from 4th grade through to high school graduation and we used a curriculum known as “A Beka” for that entire time.  To be honest, I don’t remember how math was taught in those books (and VHS tapes), but I do remember that when my younger siblings started school my Mom switched to a program called “Math-U-See” (clearly not a grammar program).  When I first saw some of the CC-related problems that my kids were bringing home, I was reminded of Math-U-See.  If you take a look at their website FAQ (CLICK HERE), you see that they welcome the “concept based approach” of the CC standards because it MOSTLY aligns with how they teach math and have been for many years.  They say:

As with most changes and legislation, there is a lot of debate and some disagreement. We carefully reviewed the Standards and we welcome their emphasis on conceptual understanding. For over two decades, Math-U-See has stressed the importance of conceptual understanding in mathematics education. Our curriculum focuses not only on mastery of procedural skills but also on understanding the concepts and principles which explain and support skill mastery. The Standards for Mathematical Practice, like Math-U-See’s educational philosophy, stress an approach to mathematics that is built around conceptual understanding and procedural fluency. The Standards for Mathematical Content apply this focus on procedure and understanding to specific ideas and skills.

I am also pretty confident that there are teachers out there that have been teaching math very conceptually for many years using standard text books.  The difference now is that CC is forcing the conceptual knowledge to be shown in testing whereas before your teacher could have explained the concept but the testing standard only required the correct answer and a little algorithmic work to prove the answer.  Good thing or bad thing?  I think it’s a good thing in the long run but there are going to be some serious growing pains.

There IS a Transition Period

I understand there are a lot of kids out there that are having a hard time with this testing standard and this method.  Honestly, I have no idea what the numbers are but from the uproar that I see, I am guessing the number is significant.  From what I see though, there are MANY factors that could be contributing to the number of kids being negatively affected by this change OTHER THAN Common Core just being stupid.  Here are the ones I can think of:

  • Teachers:  I am guessing that the current generation of teachers (especially those that are teaching younger kids and may not have taken higher level math) did NOT learn math this way.  This is going to be a problem for a little while.  Some will learn it and go all in and be great at teaching it.  Others will try to teach to the standard and be disgruntled about the stupid standard.  I am not pointing fingers at teachers here…especially any teachers in particular…but this is just how it works when any change happens.  Some will accept it and some will only do it because they have to.  This will go away as the standard becomes more accepted and new teachers come out of school with this as the norm.  It is also very possible that teachers WANT to learn the new standard but they are not being given the proper training and just being told to go do it.  This is not so much a problem with the standard as it is a problem with the implementation.
  • Parents:  As is made abundantly clear by the videos I posted in Part I, there are parents that are MORE than against this standard yet they don’t understand it’s purpose or the math itself.  This is the same scenario as the teachers.  Some parents will learn it and help their kids with it and others will be upset and disgruntled when they don’t understand it at first.  I know because I was one of those parents 2 years ago when I first saw the “32-12=20” problem floating around.  I did NOT understand it just looking at it on paper and I decided that CC was stupid.  It was not until I researched the math problem and listened to the logic behind it that I changed my view and began to understand it.  Thankfully, that was before my kids starting bringing home too much math homework.
  • Conspiracy Theories and other Anti-CC Propaganda:  You think even young kids don’t hear the buzz about CC being bad?  All this negativity affects the kids, too.  If their parents think it is stupid, their teacher doesn’t like it, and everything in the Facebook News Feed is a conspiracy theory, they are set up for failure all around.  This does NOT help our kids to go around posting and supporting negative views without full research and backing.  This is going to keep the program from moving forward and tweaking the bugs.
  • Curriculum:  Are the curriculum companies writing textbooks that do a good job of preparing kids for the standards?  In some cases, I am sure the answer is NO.
  • The Standards Are Not Right (YET):  This is the one we all want to blame, and it IS partially to blame to be sure.  I mentioned Math-U-See above.  In their FAQ, they make it clear that their program deals with the same info in the standards but sometimes in a different order, and they quote a review that says that they do it in a “more sensible order than the standards”.  Do the standards have kids learning the right stuff at the right time?  We talked about this a little bit earlier.  Maybe there is too much theory in the standard at too young an age.  Maybe there are some problems with the standards.  In fact, I would say that it is a safe bet there ARE problems with the standards, but there were problems with the previous standards and that is why many felt a change was in order.

Here is the thing:  Any time a change is made, there are going to be bugs.  When apple puts out a new OS, people hate it and at the very same time are defending the old OS…which they hated when it came out 6 months ago.  When Facebook changes the newsfeed experience, we all hate it…and defend the old newsfeed experience…which we hated 1 year ago when it came out.  This is what we do.  We hate the change and want it changed back until we get used to it.  Often, the people that made the change with good intentions (e.g. Facebook and it’s newsfeed) will make minor tweaks to fix things that were mistakes or were overlooked in development and then it becomes a success.

Many of the people that I see opposing Common Core (and remember, I am really only speaking to the “voodoo math” part of CC in this blog) are doing so with no suggested solution other than going back to the old standard…which currently (2012) puts the United States 31st in the world in math (slipping from 25th in 2009).  (SEE RANKINGS HERE).

My proposal:  Let’s focus on working on the standard and the implementation to make it better instead of trying to throw it out.

How Can We Help Our Kids?

When I got to higher level math in college, I thrived.  Yet, I don’t remember learning math conceptually in my textbooks.  Hmmm…what does this mean?  Does this mean that I just had a “mind for math”?  I don’t think so.  There is a missing piece that makes it all come together, in my opinion.

When I was in the early years of community college, I would come home with algebra and calculus word problems that I was excited about and show them to my Dad.  He would proceed to solve them in his head in a few seconds.  They were pretty easy for me too but I didn’t realize why until I started thinking about how my Dad could solve them in his head with no X and Y variables and balancing equations with order of operations and such.  My Dad was/is a builder…a general contractor and the ultimate “Do it Yourself” master.  I spent many years building fences, fixing cars, building an entire house from start to finish, and various other “chores” or projects around the house with him.  What I realize NOW is that he taught me conceptual math through practice over time.  He taught me how to figure out how far apart to put the stiles on a railing if you had a railing that was X long and you had Y stiles.  I didn’t know I was doing algebra.  Many times I would have to draw it out in pictures to figure it out (this sound familiar?….18 students count by 5 to get to 90…draw 18 circles….etc).  This prepared me for higher order math!!!!!!  I could SEE the math in my head and it made sense.  I could relate it to things I had done in real life.  It wasn’t just a set of meaningless rules and operations to memorize.

The truth is that the average adult understands how to manipulate numbers in their head well enough to help the average elementary school student learn the same thing in school.  You do it at the grocery store, the coffee shop, when you are quilting, when you are building a fence, when you are at work, or wherever.

So, here are a couple of things that I think YOU can do to help your kids find success in CC math programs:

  • Stop being negative about it.  This does nothing to help them.  If you aren’t going to take them out of the program and find a private school or homeschool them a different way (which is fine), then stop calling the program stupid…it only hurts their desire to learn.  Leaving them in the program, talking about it negatively, and expecting them to do well is insanity.
  • Find every opportunity to give them real world problems to help them practice the concepts in different ways.  When I drive in the car with my kids, I randomly ask them “Hey Maddie, I have 7 apples and I give 3 to Lucie, how many do I have now?”, “Hey Lucie, 7 is 4 and ______”.  You can ask your kids what change you should be receiving at the store.  You can do projects with them where they don’t even know they are doing math.
  • Read the standards for the grade level your kids are in right now.  Here is the link to the math standards:  CLICK HERE.  If you know what your kids are supposed to know, you can help them better.
  • Be super proactive and learn it yourself!  You can set up a “teacher” account for free at LearnZillion and get video lessons and lesson plans that teach to the standard.  You may just find that you actually like math if you stick with it.  😉  You may find yourself understanding numbers better and enjoying it.  Don’t knock it until you try it.  Remember, it’s like that new FB newsfeed that you hate now…you will love it in a month or so.


In summary, I think there are problems with the way the program has been rolled out, there are possible problems with the order and content of the standards themselves, and there is GOING TO BE a bumpy transition between the old and new.  However, I believe the new math standards ARE a step in the right direction.  They are not perfect, they may not be completely based on pure motives (I don’t know), and they may be causing major issues for some students.

In my kid’s school, they have done an excellent job of explaining it to the parents and getting them to participate in it.  The teachers seem to be on board with it and well-trained.  It seems to be going quite well!  This article from someone in DC seems to say the same thing (ARTICLE HERE).  Of course, the school my kids go to (it is a public school) is consistently ranked highest in the county and the school mentioned in the article in DC is a highly ranked school as well.  I don’t know what is going on in more troubled areas or schools that had consistent issues with test scores already.  I imagine it is as one would expect….NOT GOOD.  I think the fact that it is going well at highly ranked schools is a GOOD sign though.  No?

My plan is to work with the system for as long as my kids are in it.  If there is a problem with implementation at our school, I plan to get involved with it.  I hope this blog helps some who were misinformed about the common core math to buy in a little more and work with it to improve it and to improve the math proficiency in our nation.

Thanks for reading.



One Dad’s POSITIVE view on Common Core – Part 1

So, the title should hopefully alert you to the fact that this blog is going to MOSTLY be a POSITIVE view of Common Core (which I will refer to as “CC” in many cases for the purpose of saving bytes).  I think I should quickly alert you to a few other things before you read on though:

  1. I have NOT done extensive research into Common Core.  This blog is not intended to be a the world’s definitive source for information on Common Core.  This is simply my opinion based on the information I have from my kid’s homework, my educational background (bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering), the few videos I have watched, the ACTUAL common core standards that I have reviewed, and the articles I have read.  I have done some research and have formed an opinion.  That is all.  You are welcome to disagree (see item 3 though).
  2. I am going to focus ONLY on the math side of CC because it is what I see the most controversy over and it’s what interests me most and it’s what got me fired up to write this blog.
  3. I have been and plan to continue to be both HONEST and GRACIOUS in my writing about this subject.  I would ask that you are the same in any comments you may make.  Attacks on character, conspiracy theories, and rude comments are not appreciated.  As I write this, I just watched the new Cinderella movie with my girls and so I would ask you to “have courage and be kind“.
  4. I already mentioned conspiracy theories in the last point, but just to make it even more clear…this blog does NOT deal with the motives behind CC, who came up with it, Bill Gates funding of the standards, or any other conspiracy-like theory.  I have heard everything from “this is intended to dumb our children down and make them into submissive worker bees” to “this is intended to provide a new billion dollar market for services to aid teachers and schools in teaching common core”.  I don’t know anything about any of that.
OK…so let’s dive in.

What is Common Core?

I think it is important to make a point right from the start here:

  • Common Core is NOT a curriculum or a methodology.  It is a standard.  It does not tell teachers how to teach math to students.  It does not make up math problems for students to solve daily in the class room.  It simply provides a standard set of things that students should know at the end of each grade.

With that said, curricula have been and are being developed to teach to the standard.  So, I won’t say that all the arguments of “common core math is stupid” are irrelevant but I think it is important to note that the CC is not a curriculum that teaches weird math.  The weird math is taught to help students understand the concepts needed to meet the standard.

My kids are in Kindergarten.  Here is one of the Common Core math standards for their grade level under the “Operations and Algebraic Thinking” Section:

Decompose numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each decomposition by a drawing or equation (e.g., 5 = 2 + 3 and 5 = 4 + 1).[/important]

The problems that come home from the curriculum that our school has chosen (we use Engage NY) seem to teach them how to decompose numbers as required by this standard.  The standard does NOT dictate how to teach them that.

What Started It for Me?

Well, someone posted a video on Facebook titled “Arkansas Mother Obliterates Common Core in 4 Minutes!”  (You can watch it HERE).  It has well over 2 million views as of the time I am writing this and is one of the first videos that comes up when you search “common core” in youtube.  I watched the video when I saw it posted on Facebook and quite frankly I was very surprised at the title of the video and all the praise for the woman in the video.  It actually made me mad.  I found the woman condescending and in no way would want her thought process to be the basis of my children’s education.  In my opinion, she does not obliterate common core in any way in the video.  She actually made me feel better about it.  Here is the scenario in the video:
  • The Math Problem:  There is a class of 18 students.  The teacher has them count around the room by a number (as in counting by 2’s or 5’s or 10’s) and when they get to the last student they are at 90.  What number did they count around the room by?
  • The Arkansas mother’s way of doing the problem:  Divide 18 into 90 to get 5.  Simple.
  • The Common Core way:  Draw 18 circles, put one hash mark in each circle and keep going around until you have drawn 90 hash marks.  How many hash marks are in each circle?  Answer = 5.  As the video points out, this takes “108 steps”.
Then, I went down a few videos in the Youtube suggestions on the right hand side and found another video that was titled “Proof That Common Core is Killing Common Sense”.  Also one of the most watched videos on Common Core in Youtube and also highly condescending and also actually made me feel even better about common core.  You can watch it HERE.  This one starts with a simple problem that is made “harder” by common core and then finishes with conspiracy theory.  The person in this video makes the point that she would never draw circles and hash marks at the grocery store to do something simple like add the price of milk to the price of bread.  That is probably true, but she also would not do the standard algorithm on paper by carrying ones and all that!  She would do “common core math” in her head.  Here is the main scenario in this video:
  • The Math Problem:  530 – 270.
  • The “right” way according to the video:  Just do the algorithm.  Write 530 on top of 270, draw a line under it, subtract each column, borrow from other columns if needed, etc.  The standard arithmetic algorithm.  If you do it right, you get 260.
  • The Common Core Way:  Add 30 to both numbers to get 560 and 300 and then subtract.  Clearly, the answer is 260.
Finally, I saw this Math problem going around on the internet.  It’s probably the most viral math problem out there related to CC and widely used to prove how dumb CC is.

This one makes me like common core even more, too!  I will tell you why in a minute.

Why I Actually LIKE These 3 Problems

1)  Let’s start with the last problem in the picture above.  32 – 12 = 20.  The “common core way” (which is actually not dictated by CC) seems to take way longer and doesn’t even really seem to make sense the way it is written.  Let me try to give you the thought process behind it though.  It goes something like this:

  • If I start at 12 and count up to 32, I can figure out the difference between 32 and 12.
  • I know how to count easily by 1’s, 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s (most kids do by 1st grade).  So, one option is to get to the nearest number ending in 5 or 10.  There are many options here but I will choose to count up 3 to get to 15.
  • Now, I can easily count by 5’s to get to the nearest number ending in 0 (10, 20, 30, etc).  That takes me to 20 and the total I have now counted is 8 (3 + 5).
  • Now, I can easily count by 10’s.  So, I will add 10 to get to 30.  The total I have now counted is 18 (3 + 5 + 10).
  • Now, I can see that I am only 2 away from 32.  So, I will count up 2 more.  The total I have counted is now 20 (3 + 5 + 10 + 2)
Clearly, this takes longer than doing the algorithm marked as the “old fashion” way in the picture.  However, the “new” way demonstrates an understanding of manipulating numbers that can be done in your head.  It’s actually not even close to the only way to do that problem the “new” way.  For instance, you could simply count by 10’s from 12. First to 22 (+10) and then to 32 (+10 more) and arrive at 20.  You did the same thing but in fewer steps.  You could also count down to 10 (-2) and then up by 10 twice to get to 30 (+20) and then up by 2 (+2).  The answer is still 20, but you can demonstrate that you understand numbers well enough to get to the answer several different ways.
Oddly enough, it’s probably the way you actually do math problems in your head every day.  Maybe you just don’t realize it because you have learned it only through practical application and necessity rather than through school where you were only taught the algorithms.  Let me give an example:
  • You go to Starbucks (or your favorite coffee shop…no coffee discrimination here) and buy a coffee for $3.27 and pay with a $20 bill.  How much change are you owed?
  • If you were asked this question on the spot, my guess is that you would not write 20.00 on top of 3.27 and draw a line under it and do the algorithm.  If you were going to just do that, why not pull out your phone and use the calculator?
  • Here is an example of how you MIGHT think this problem out in your head:  $3.27 + 3 cents = $3.30.  $3.30 + 70 cents = $4.00 (total added is now 73 cents).  $4.00 + $16.00 = $20.00.  Change should be $16.73 (3 cents + 70 cents + $16).  That is just ONE way you might do it.  It’s no different than the 32-12 problem shown above.
If this type of skill is what they are trying to teach my child starting in Kindergarten, then I am all for it.


2)  I’ll try to make this one shorter!  Let’s talk about the problem 530 – 270 = 260.  This was reported as a second grade math problem.  To me, the “new” way to teach this problem does two things:
  • It begins teaching kids concepts that they will NEED for higher level math such as algebra where subtracting or adding things to both sides of an equation is essential to solving the problem.  It teaches them that they can manipulate the numbers to see the problem differently and still get the right answer.
  • It teaches them that they can manipulate the numbers in ways to make the problem easier to do in their head (much like the coffee example above).  In this case, when you add 30 to both numbers, the answer becomes much easier to simply SEE.  You most likely won’t need the algorithm when you see 560 – 300, and even if you do, there is no borrowing from other columns like you would have to do in the original problem (which makes no logical sense…it’s just a learned operation/trick).
3) Finally, the problem that “Obliterates” Common Core in 4 minutes says that it takes 108 steps to do the same thing that  you can do in one step.  My thoughts:
  • The point of the “108 step” exercise is not to get the answer in the fastest way.  The point is to understand WHY dividing 18 into 90 gives you the right answer.
  • You could argue that the circle and hash mark method is a dumb way to show students why the answer is 5.  However, again, that is a curriculum thing and not a CC thing.  There are many ways to teach students how that works visually.  This is just one way.  The point here is NOT efficiency but rather understanding.
Let me see if I can give a counter-example to show why I think the hype about these math methods is not the right way to think about it.  Let’s imagine a scenario where the standard method of teaching math has always been the “new” way shown in the picture above and we didn’t have the standard algorithms.  Imagine I came along with these new algorithms to teach math and taught nothing about why they work.  Would it be hated?  I think so
Check this out:
Why does that work?  Why does borrowing from the other column work?  It doesn’t make logical sense, but many of the anti-CC material out there is talking about how our standard algorithms just “make sense”.  They only make sense because we have learned them and know the rules.  If they came to us as adults and gave us these rules they would NOT make sense.  I just don’t see how borrowing a one from the next column makes logical sense.  I know it works…but that’s all.
In the “old fashion” way in this example, it’s quite easy to do in your head.  I can start at 47,299 and add 1 to get to an easier number to deal with:  47,300.  Then, I can easily count by tens to get as close as possible to 47,397.  That gets me to 47,390 and I have counted a total of 91.  Then, I can either go to the next 5 or easily just count up 7 more to get at total of 98.  Is this not how you would do the problem in your head at the grocery store?

One Last Example

For this part of the blog, I want to give one last example/resource in the form of a video.  This video, in my opinion, is a short and very good explanation of why we are teaching kids math this way now.  It is less than 8 minutes and will give you a few more examples of why this is a GOOD way to prepare kids for math in regular life as well as in higher level courses.

More To Say

I have more to say.  So, please make sure you read the other parts (and the requests at the beginning of this blog) before making any comments.  When part 2 is complete, there will be a link at the bottom of this post.
In the rest of this blog, I will cover things like:
  • The Standard algorithms are STILL TAUGHT!
  • Teaching math this way is not new.
  • How my childhood prepared me for Common Core Math
  • What I think parents can do to help their kids with Common Core Math
  • Why I think it’s too early to throw this out
  • How I think we are sabotaging ourselves by opposing CC because we don’t understand it
  • The problems I see with Common Core

Part 2


“Because of you, I didn’t give up”

Maybe you have seen this “inspirational quote” floating around on social media somewhere.  I know I have seen it many times.  Inspirational memes have almost lost their meaning these days though…they are often posted and reposted with no additional text to describe what it means to the person posting it.  I don’t know about you, but when I see a motivational/inspirational quote on a graphic like the one above without any amplifying context telling me how it spoke to that person, I USUALLY just scroll on by.  Every once in a while maybe one will grab my attention without any additional context…but not very often.

This one means something to me though. Maybe this one doesn’t need as much context as some do, but this one came to mind as I was working with someone today.

I meet so many people with so much potential to do more than they are doing.  Every day I talk to a person like this.  In fact, everyone has more potential than what they probably realize, right?  I think so.  I am included in that for sure.  Why don’t we realize more of that potential?  Well, there are lots of reasons.  The main one that I see is that WE TELL OURSELVES that we can’t, aren’t good enough, don’t have the potential, shouldn’t try, or won’t make it.  We are self-limiting…our own worst critics, as they say.  Certainly, to add to the problem, we are often told things by other people that solidify these self-limiting beliefs.

What Does it Mean to Me?

When I see this quote, what I think is, “I want to inspire people that are limiting themselves.  I want to inspire people to do more.  I want to inspire people to do things that they were already capable of but didn’t think they were.  I want to help people push through barriers that hold them back from what they can accomplish.  I want them to say, ‘Because of you, I found out that I CAN.'”

If my life and work would make me a part of testimonials like that, it would be work worth doing.

I think about this a lot with my kids.  Whenever my kids say, “I can’t”, this thought kicks in.  Most often, they absolutely can.  I want to be that person in their life that always says, “yes, you can and I will help you” and I want them to pass that on to others and to inspire!



You have a crush on who?

Looking around on the internet a few nights ago, I stumbled upon this guy’s blog.  His name is Justin Ricklefs, and he had an article on Huffington Post titled “15 Things All Dads of Daughters Should Know“.  That article led me back to his BLOG where I found a whole bunch more good stuff that really resonated with me.  It all got me just thinking a lot about the opportunity I have to be present in my daughter’s lives and how much good influence I can have.  I mostly was thinking about all the good stuff…all the stuff I will enjoy.

Then…the next day happened….

Maddie proceeded to inform me after school that Lucie has a crush on Cashton at school.  I had already heard a month ago that some boy named Andrew had a crush on Lucie but this was totally different.  Now SHE had a crush?

My First Thought:  Um…no, you do not!  I forbid you to have such a thing as a crush at 5 years old

My Second Thought:  What the heck kind of name is Cashton anyway?  That’s a stupid name!  He must be a dumb little boy.  I hate him.

[notice]I don’t actually hate Cashton or think he is dumb.[/notice]

PAUSE:  I was just having this conversation with some friends at church on Sunday.  Isn’t it funny that when we don’t like something about someone we will often look for other things about them to dislike as well?  “That person cut me off…AND who drives a Buick anyway!” OR “Ugh…she is so mean….AND she needs to do something about that hair too…it’s terrible”.  It’s true, right?  I seriously didn’t like that Lucie had this little crush and I immediately decided to make fun of a 5 year old boy’s name.  Wow.  Thankfully, I did not do this to his face but still…


My Third Thought:  I used to have girlfriends from the time I was 2 or 3 years old.  My Mom will likely confirm.  I had a crush and/or a girlfriend way before kindergarten.  Hmmm…maybe she gets this from me.

My Final Thought:  I am screwed.  I should write a blog about this and ask for pity from everyone that reads it.

In the meantime…Cashton is….

Let them Cry?

As my wife is away on a business trip right now, I am reminded of the things that are different when she is not here (there are quite a few).  For one, we often trade off workout times so one hangs with the kids while the other goes for a run or something.  That doesn’t happen when she is gone.

But, I am also reminded of how amazing we are for each other.  The two of us being parents to our children together is so much better than me by myself…and I am not talking about “workload” here.  What I mean is that our different styles and temperaments compliment each other in what I believe are wonderful ways.

EXAMPLE:  Large thud is heard in adjacent room, followed by 2 seconds of complete silence while Paula and I look at each other, followed finally by hysterical crying from child in adjacent room.

My Response:  Evaluate perceived injury level in crying tone and volume, make sure nothing requires immediate medical attention, MAYBE give a quick hug, find out if anyone needs to be punished for doing something they shouldn’t have been doing, and then let them and/or tell them to get over it.

Paula’s Response:  Snuggling, deep concern, kissing, getting an ice pack or band-aid, and general undivided attention.

Truth is, my response is probably too harsh and hers is probably overly attentive (my opinion, of course)…but what I believe they end up with is a good mix of “suck it up” and attention in the end.  I believe our methods work together to balance.

When she is not here though….they get the “suck it up, buttercup” method.  Balance to be restored next week, I am sure.  🙂

I miss my wife!


Consistency in an Instant Gratification Society – Part 2

In my last post on this, I gave a bit of an introduction and then an example of how my kid’s tastes have changed in regards to eating some foods because of CONSISTENCY (and persistence) on our part as parents.   We haven’t been perfect with it…but we have been consistent enough to see some change happen and COMPOUND over time.

One of my favorite examples of consistency at work is in my business.  I am not going to give you all the numbers through last year because I don’t want to make this a money bragging post….but I will give you this chart:

That chart represents my income since I started my business (this is JUST the Team Beachbody earnings and does not include triathlon coaching, clinics, or other ventures).

Here is the point of showing that:  The things I was doing in 2010 are pretty much the same things I am doing now in 2015.  I have tweaked some things, I have become more efficient at them over time.  But, there are a FEW things…VERY SIMPLE things…that I have done over and over again for the last 5 years to make this happen.

There have been a few “big ideas” that helped (like 90/10 Nutrition and the creation of “challenge packs” by Beachbody) but most of the success comes from doing a few simple things without ever stopping.  90/10 Nutrition and challenge packs were just tools I had at my disposal but they did not change the daily activities that I did to grow my business.

[important]NOTE:  The clear uptick near the beginning of 2012 is when I quit my job and had MANY more hours a week to build the business.  So, it wasn’t something I did differently…it was just the same stuff but MORE of it.[/important]

One Caution

Nothing is really that simple, right?  Just be consistent?  That’s it?  Well…no…that’s not it.  One thing may seem obvious but I need to mention it:  The things that you are doing consistently MUST BE the right things.  So, IF you are doing the RIGHT things consistently, you will win…but that is a big IF, right?  So, how do you know if you are doing the right things?

Two Pieces of Advice to GET IT RIGHT

First of all, the answer to the last question is this:  There is no way to know for sure.  Ugh.  BUT!….you can do several things to give yourself a pretty good idea if you are doing the right things when it comes to business ventures.  Here are my top 2:

1)  Find a Mentor that is Winning:  I did this.  I had a mentor that was further ahead of me on a similar path.  He said “do these things and you will win”…and he was winning with them.  So, I did them.  Chances are, someone else has done or is doing what you are trying to do (or at least something similar).  Seek out a mentor to help you figure out if you are doing the right things that you need to be consistent with.

2)  Ask Yourself this Question:  Is what I am doing adding value to the marketplace?  This is a simple test in any business to decide if you are at least headed in the right general direction.  If the things you are doing are not adding value to the marketplace (whatever marketplace that is), then it doesn’t matter how consistent you are with it.  You get paid for the value you add to the marketplace.  If you don’t add value, you don’t get paid.

The Importance of Having a VISION with your Goals

Imagine if someone just told you about Paris but you had no pictures.  Probably, to be more accurate, imagine that someone that is not so good at describing things is the one that tells you about Paris.  They try to describe the Eiffel Tower and tell you how amazing it is.  They describe the art in the museums.  The streetside cafes.  At the time I am writing this, I have never been to Paris.  I have only heard.  But….I have something else.  I have PICTURES to go along with the descriptions.  I have an internet full of videos, pictures, stories, descriptions, and more with which to formulate my VISION of what Paris is like.  It’s compelling enough to make me really want to go there.  The combination of the stories, the reputation, the pictures, and everything else available to me make it a destination that I want to experience badly enough to do what it takes to go there (make the time, pay the money, etc).

Yea, so what?

So, when people have a goal, they often neglect to gather some of the pieces that make that goal desirable enough to do what it takes to get there.  Weight loss is an easy example, but this could be applied to business goals or any other major goals that you want to accomplish.  I’ll use weight loss for this post though.

Having a goal to “lose 50 lbs” is admirable, but that statement alone is like hearing “The Eiffel Tower is pretty cool”.  It might be enough to make someone fly to France, but for most people it doesn’t even come close.  No pictures?  No description?  No story of what it will be like when I see it? Just a simple “it’s pretty cool”?

Now, add this to your 50 lb goal and see what happens:  “I have a goal to lose 50 lbs because when I lose 50 lbs, I will be able to hike the Pacific Coast Trail with my son…I can see us hiking it together and I can imagine how amazing it will be.”  What’s the difference?  It’s huge, right?  You have a vision of what your life will be like when you get there and there is emotion tied into it.

Imagine your best friend in the world comes back from Paris with a couple hundred pictures and you meet him/her for coffee to catch up and they tell you the most amazing stories about Paris and show you some epic pictures and then they say, “You have to go to Paris…this was the best trip of my life”.  Now, you have a vision of what it will be like when you get there, you have emotion tied into it, you have drive and desire.

[important]”A goal without a vision is like a poor description of a destination.  The chances that you desire to go there will outweigh the difficulty of going there are slim to none.”[/important]

Take the time to sit down and visualize the goal.  What will it look like when you ARRIVE?

Consistency in an Instant Gratification Society – Part 1

We live in an “instant gratification” society…we hear this term all the time, right?  I have even heard that we live in a “microwave culture/society”.  It’s hard not to agree with this.

When I look back at everything I would consider myself successful at in my life though…the number one thing that is consistently there is consistency.  Wait…did that make sense?  It felt like a bit of a double negative or something.

It’s true though.  I want my kids to like vegetables.  So, what do I do?  Feed them vegetables once and when they don’t like them, feed them something else?  No.  That doesn’t get you the result you want.  My kids get the same veggies they “don’t like” over and over again and they eat them anyway (or at least part of them…at least most of the time…when we are being….well…consistent).

Odd thing has happened SLOWLY over the last few years:  They now like SOME veggies that they didn’t before.  It varies night to night and with how we cook them but they DO begin to like them.  The ONLY way for it to happen is consistency.

I have some other examples and thoughts about consistency that I will muse upon in the near future.  Any thoughts from any of you about consistency?  Maybe some examples?

I love this quote from Tony Robbins.

Run Less with 2 IMPORTANT Focuses

On Tuesday, March 10th, I did a 22 mile training run in preparation for the Paris Marathon in April. I wrote a Facebook post shortly after. See below:


Truth is, people think I am crazy when I take my marathon training long runs up to 24 miles or more in prep for a marathon, and when I mention that I only run 2 to 3 times a week, they think I am really crazy. Here are some of the things that people say:

“Won’t you get injured?”

“You know, most marathon training plans don’t go past 20 miles.”

“Most marathon training plans average over 40 miles per week.”

“Most marathon training programs have you running 4-6 times per week.”

The response: “No, I likely won’t get injured….and yes, I know they do.”

I am NOT saying that other marathon plans are stupid and that I know everything and that everyone should train like I do.

Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That

Here’s the deal: I’ve got a lot of things going on. Twin girls, running a business, teaching PiYo and Insanity classes, doing kid’s music ministry at church, making my wife fall in love with me all over again every day, training for marathons/triathlons, training other people for marathons/triathlons, etc. I also have lots of interests. I like to play guitar, do fun stuff with my kids, there are a couple of shows I like to watch, I like to ski, I want to eventually restore a car in my shop (and really need to organize it), I write this blog and maintain other websites, I have friends to hang out with, and so on. Truth is…I want to run marathons but I don’t want to run 4-6 days a week. I just don’t. So what? Call me crazy but I have other things to do too!

So, What AM I Saying?

When I am not looking to hit a Personal Record (like I was in 2012 at Eugene), I like to train a different way. But, there are two VERY IMPORTANT things that have to be right for it to be possible. You cannot run 22 miles on the weekend with only 1 or 2 other runs during the week and NOT expect to get injured UNLESS you have these things in hand, in my professional opinion (I promise have a couple of relevant certifications).

The Dynamic Duo

Here they are, the two things I focus primarily on in running ESPECIALLY when I am running minimal mileage for long distance racing:

1. An Obsessive Focus on Efficient Running Form

Unfortunately, this blog is not long enough to give you every detail of what efficient running form looks like. It seriously would be impossible. Also, to give you a cursory overview of it would do you a disservice…because some of you would never look further than what I put in this blog and would never reach the “Obsessive” part but try this anyway.

If you want to learn to do this, you need to study running form…alignment, foot strike, toe-off, swing through, core engagement…all of it. AND…once you have the principles, you have to obsessively practice it during your running…with VERY mindful focus. This gets harder and harder the longer the run distance, but it’s also how you make it through a 22 mile run injury free. When you are at mile 19, and form is starting to fall apart, the only way to make it to 22 is to concentrate on the elements of good form and hold that together.

I won’t leave you completely hanging on this though. Here are two ways to begin your study into proper running form:

Option 1: If you are local to me here in Bremerton, WA, I do form clinics one on one or in groups upon request. Just email me at to set one up. They are not my primary business and the prices are reasonable (especially in groups).

Option 2: If you don’t want to do a clinic or aren’t local, you can start exactly where I started. Chi Running. It’s the simplest explanation of running form that I know of. You can go to and buy the DVD or the book or both, or you can find an instructor local to your area.

[important]I am not affiliated with Chi Running in any way and make no commission from any sales of their products.[/important]I

I PROMISE you that if you take the time to learn and practice good running form, you will not regret it.

2. A “Strong” Focus on Particular Areas of Strength and Flexibility

As someone pointed out in the comments to my Facebook post, the PiYo program is how I accomplish this focus. It doesn’t have to be how you accomplish this focus, but it’s an important focus. Here are the main areas where runner’s really have issues and need to focus:

– CORE STRENGTH: When most people think of core, they think of abs. So, I will just go with that even though I think the real definition includes a lot more than abs. Either way, having a strong midsection is essential for runners. You can do just about any 10 min core routine, 3 times a week to take care of this.

– HIP and GLUTE STRENGTH: This is probably the biggest culprit for injury and yet is talked about the least. Why? Because the injuries that result from weak hips and glutes usually happen elsewhere. For instance, a weak hip causes the knee to buckle a little in toward the center on each supporting stance and that causes the foot to overpronate and that causes tendinitis or ITB…as an example. Many people end up getting motion control shoes to stop the pronation when the real issue is a weak hip way up the kinetic chain. Strong hips and glutes are a very important part of the lower body kinetic chain that keep you from getting injured on longer runs. They have to be strong to maintain the proper alignment even at mile 20.

– FLEXIBILITY – PRIMARILY HIP FLEXORS, CALVES, and HAMSTRINGS: Many runners have seriously flexibility issues in those three areas. The hip flexors being tight limits your stride length (and therefore you primary means of going faster). The calves being tight can cause achilles and plantar fascia issues over long runs and the hamstrings can cause low back issues and stride length issues.

As I mentioned, I deal with all of these issues by doing PiYo. I don’t do the DVD program because I teach it live. I get 2 hours of PiYo in on Thursdays by teaching classes (that’s probably excessive for one day) and I practice the routines for class on my own 1 or 2 other times during the week. So, I do a total of about 3 hours of PiYo per week. With my integrated training programs that I have for PiYo, the average using the DVD programs is about 2.5 hours of PiYo mixed into the running. You can request access to the plans HERE.

As I mentioned though, you don’t have to work on these things through PiYo. There are other options out there.

In fact, I found a few good resources out there for you:

– Core work for runners with hip and glute focus section: CLICK HERE

– Stretching for runners: CLICK HERE

I would also add a bent knee calf stretch to get the other part of the calf. CLICK HERE


So, why these two things? Because when the right muscles are strong and flexible (focus 2) AND you learn to use the correct muscles efficiently (focus 1), you can go longer with less injury and with less energy. Strength and efficiency changes the whole running game.

In closing, I have to be clear. There are only two focuses here…but they are not easy, and unless you really enjoy the mechanics of how things work and are a real student of it, they won’t be fun either. Being an engineer (not a typical one in all senses…but an engineer nonetheless), I tend to enjoy running mechanics and form. I love to experiment with it and perfect it. You may not. But, even a short time of very focused attention on it will change how you run in a very good way.

I hope that helped and please feel free to leave comments and ask questions.