Common Core Math in my Life

The Standards for Mathematical Practice describe varieties of expertise that mathematics educators at all levels should seek to develop in their students. These practices rest on important “processes and proficiencies” with longstanding importance in mathematics education. The first of these are the NCTM process standards of problem solving, reasoning and proof, communication, representation, and connections. The second are the strands of mathematical proficiency specified in the National Research Council’s report Adding It Up: adaptive reasoning, strategic competence, conceptual understanding (comprehension of mathematical concepts, operations and relations), procedural fluency (skill in carrying out procedures flexibly, accurately, efficiently and appropriately), and productive disposition (habitual inclination to see mathematics as sensible, useful, and worthwhile, coupled with a belief in diligence and one’s own efficacy). by Shot 2014-11-08 at 9.54.11 PM

I know many people are not happy with “Common Core Math.” However, I just want to share my life experience with math. I spend very little time lining up columns, borrowing numbers, carrying the one, and coming up with a final product. I do, however, spend lots of time playing with numbers in my head. This is exactly what Common Core tries to teach kids. They want kids to have number sense so they can figure out solutions in a variety of ways. This is how I use math:

  1. When I am running I have a constant math conversation with myself. I’ll share a script from running a marathon. It goes like this. “Ok, I’m at mile ten and I’ve already been running for an hour and thirty-five minutes. That means I’m running a 9:30 pace.  But, I want to finish the marathon in four hours I need to run a 9:09 pace. So, that means I need to run the rest of the race in 8:something minutes per mile. That isn’t going to happen. Ok, so if I run at 9:30 that means that 20 miles would be 20 miles at 9 minutes or 180 minutes plus 20 miles at 30 seconds each which is 10 minutes and I add those together and that makes 190 minutes divided by 60 is, well, three hours plus 10 minutes. Then, I have six more miles so that is 54 minutes plus 3 minutes and that total is 57 minutes. I add those all up and I get, more or less, four hours and a little less than ten minutes. I need to run faster.”
  2. I used a lot of math when I was having my babies. “Ok, the contractions are 90 seconds long and they happen every two minutes. That means I only get 30 seconds off. I’ve been in labor for 12 hours and the last baby came in 18 hours and 18 minus 12 makes to many hours and I think I’m going to die.”
  3. Vacations are a great time for math. “We’ve been driving for four hours. We still have 72 miles to do and if we drive sixty miles an hour we will get there in a little over an hour. But, if we hit traffic and only drive thirty miles an hour that means it will take us more than two hours and then we’ll get there after 7 p.m. and that is too late for the kids to eat so we should stop now and eat or at least pick up food and if we do it in ten minutes then we will arrive between 6 and 7 p.m.”
  4. I do it with my age as well. “I had my first child at 34 so when she’s in college (18) I’ll be 30 plus ten or 40 and I have to add 4 plus 8 which is 12 so that means I’ll be 52.” I’m always separating my numbers into manageable chunks, no matter what math I’m doing. Who ever has a pencil and paper when you need to do math?
  5. I play with numbers like this in the grocery store, when I’m paying bills, when I’m figuring out how much we’ll have to pay to send kids to college. I do it when calculating vacation costs, times, and distances. I do it when I have a kid awake at night and I’m figuring out how much sleep I’ll get before the alarm goes off.

Real life numbers are estimations and calculations and moving numbers into places that make it easier for us to understand them and use them. Numbers and number sense help us make sense of where we are and where we are going. Doing math in your head is also a great distraction (see marathon and labor above). I love common core math partly because I never understood why all those columns and calculations worked out the way they did. I was taught to carry the one and I did, but I didn’t really understand why. But, figuring out numbers in your head is fun! I would have liked my classroom a lot more if we had spent more time doing that instead of just practicing problems on paper over and over and over again.

Because, math is really a treasure hunt, a scavenger hunt, a mystery to be solved. It should be fun and exciting as you figure out how to get to the end. It’s also flexible. If you are running slowly and won’t get to your target time to finish the race, then speed up and recalculate! If you don’t have enough money to buy all those groceries, put something back and recalculate. It’s fun!

How do you play with numbers in your head?

Ten Minutes a Day

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 12.40.40 PMWhat skill do you want your child to improve this year? Writing? Reading? A musical instrument? A new language? The ten-minute rule is a great way to slowly and steadily build important skills. Pick one skill and commit to practicing it for ten minutes a day for all of 2016.

We have all heard of the Tiger Mother (and some of you are Tiger’s. This post isn’t for you. If you think you need to practice a skill for six hours a day then you should read a blog about helicopter parenting.) Anyway, this system isn’t for getting your kids into an Ivy League or ready for the Olympic qualifiers. This is to build a skill until it is better, passable, more functional. You can learn a lot about music by practicing just ten minutes a day. You can absorb a lot of vocabulary words if you study a language ten minutes a day. You can finally do that back walkover if you slowly work up to it for just ten minutes a day. But, you have to commit, and you have to be consistent.

The great thing is that kids will not only learn the practiced skill, but they will learn about dedication and focus and consistency. Sometimes they will just want to go to bed but instead they will have to finish their ten minutes. This teaches kids about a lot more than just a skill.

How do you do it? Buy a calendar and check off each day you do your ten minutes. Better yet, create a visual progress report. If you are practicing piano, record your work on the first of each month. If you are learning Spanish vocabulary, keep a running list of words you have mastered. If you are trying to do a back walkover, take a picture of your progress at the beginning of each week. For extra motivation, make incremental goals for each month or quarter. Post those in your calendar. Celebrate victories, celebrate milestones, and show off your progress.

Help your children improve a skill, any skill, by committing just five minutes a day.


“Does it Help?”

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 12.36.28 PMMy new mantra for social media is, “Does it help.” Before I post, comment, or email, I ask myself this question. I am one of those opinionated, enthusiastic, and sometimes cranky person who has (a time or two) added my two cents when it wasn’t welcome or necessary. I have also been guilty of sharing posts or articles that reflect my personal opinion even though I know many others care passionately about the issue (and often in a different direction).

Social media isn’t the place for political discussions, personal advice, or snarky comments because it comes in a vacuum. You aren’t interacting with the person and seeing where they are coming from. Perhaps they are depressed, personally affected by the issue, or maybe they are even right (and you are wrong). Without the interplay of sight, sound, and emotional connection, we can’t really tell what is going on when we are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or email. So, we need to be quiet. We need to not comment. We need to as ourselves, “Does this help?”

When does a comment help? If someone is asking for sympathy, understanding, or validation, give it to them. Better yet, just say, “I’m thinking of you.” If someone needs help, offer concrete suggestions. For instance, if they are overwhelmed by clutter and are asking for ideas, by all means post a link to that anti-clutter book. But, first, make sure it helps.

As a mother, I am trying to temper myself and be more mindful about the qualities I am modeling for my children. I have pasted the list below by my computer so my kids will see it, read it, and hopefully apply it to their own interactions.What are some “helping” comments? This is my list:

  1. I understand.
  2. I’m thinking (praying) for you.
  3. How can I help?
  4. You are beautiful/wonderful/awesome/fantastic.
  5. You are a great mother/father/aunt/friend.
  6. This book helped me a lot with this issue.
  7. This website was helpful to me when I had the same issue.
  8. Can I bring a casserole/cookies/gift card.
  9. Can I pick up your kids/walk your dog/help you out.
  10. Thank you for sharing.

Families Love “American-History-in-a-Box!”

We are excited to share some of our more recent comments about our “American-History-in-a-Box” program. We are always so happy to hear from our customers! Thank you for sharing! If you want to read previous comments, click here.


I was worried that my kids didn’t know much about American history. Thanks to your boxes, they now have a good foundation for future classes! The books are fun and interesting and the activity book is really great.

Love the box! We are going to order another for our younger son!

Hey – we just got your box and it’s awesome! Just wanted to let you know that you have another fan!

Thanks again very much — we just received our reimbursement payment from FSC, and our kids are loving the program.

Studying all the awesome contents of the “American History in a Box” – what an excellent model for kids living outside of the US to learn about American History! Thank you Leah Moorefield Evans – now we have books and activities to keep us busy!

My daughter loves her box! She is working her way through it and sharing what she learns with me. Thanks so much for putting this together!

We got the boxes yesterday and my kids are already playing the games and reading the books. Thanks for helping us figure out the reimbursement process.

My kids love their boxes!


Thanks again to everyone who has supported our business. We are thrilled that the history boxes help bring the story of America to children living abroad. If you have any suggestions or ideas, or have any questions about the boxes, please email us at Happy holidays!

Awesome Games and Toys for Fourth Grade

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  • Leonardo da Vinci Catapult Kit, Pathfinders – Assemble your own catapult and learn about basic scientific principals.
  • World Record Paper Airplane Book, Ken Blackburn and Jeff Lammers – Combine the principals of origami, the science of flight, and personal creativity in making a variety of paper airplanes.
  • Rush hour, Thinkfun – Think strategically and logically to get your car out of traffic.
  • Easy Origami, John Montroll – This book on origami mind-teasers will challenge all children.
  • Super Deluxe Solar Education Kit, Sundance Solar – Learn how solar power works and build a small solar system.
  • Disgusting Science Kit, Scientific explorer – Collect bacteria and make it grow at home.
  • Magnet Levitation Kit, Dowling Magnet – How do magnets work? Try your own experiments.
  • Pop Bottle Science, Lynn Brunelle – Make a volcano, quicksand, compass, or tornado with this kit.


Top Ten Questions to Ask Your Child About School

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I’m always so excited to see my kids after school but the rush of collecting kids, backpacks, and coats while talking to other parents means I don’t always connect the way I wish I had. After we get home and settle in to our routine, I try to ask the “how was your day” set of questions. There are a lot of great suggestions out there, but these are the few I’m working through this week. It’s a nice way to connect but also learn more about their experience in school while I am cooking, cleaning, or helping them with homework. Do you have any go-to questions that you ask your children?

Ten Questions to Ask Your Child About School

  1. My favorite thing to learn about in fourth grade was ______, because __________. What is your favorite thing to learn about and why?
  2. When I was in school, I used to dislike it when my teachers _________. Is there anything you don’t like about school?
  3. My favorite part of school was _______ because _________. What is your favorite part of school?
  4. When I was your age, I used to enjoy reading books about _______. What do you like to read about?
  5. When I was in school, I was once embarrassed when ___________. Does anything ever embarrass you or your friends?
  6. If you could change one thing about school, what would it be?
  7. Do you think your teacher and principal are fair to the kids in your school and to you? What could they do to be better?
  8. If you could create the perfect friend from scratch, what would they be like? Go ahead and be creative! For instance, would they have purple hair and live in a candy house?
  9. If you could create a perfect teacher, what would he or she be like?
  10. How can I help you have a great year at school? If you could tell me three things to improve, what would they be?

Do you have a U.S. Atlas in your home?

Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 10.38.21 AM Do you have an American atlas at home for yourself and for your kids? Most people do, and love looking through the book to learn about different places and what makes them tick. Our current favorite is this atlas by National Geographic. We run to it anytime we hear of a new country, or have a question about anyplace in the world.

Some fun activities at home to do with an atlas include:

  1. You can complete an atlas scavenger hunt. Follow this link for fun printable scavenger hunts:
  2. Have children plan your ultimate road trip. They can list locations, distances, and areas to visit.
  3. If you could move anywhere, where would you choose? Have your kids pick a new location and then write a letter to you about why you should move, using lots of specific details to bolster their argument, of course.
  4. Where do you NOT want to live? Try to find the worst possible place to live in the atlas and then share your picks and vote on which one would be the worst ever!

You can find more ideas for learning about your atlas here: