# Blog

## Common Core Rant

As a private tutor, I am incessantly met with complaints about the current method of educating students in mathematics.  In many cases, when I meet with a student and parent for the first time, the topic of the dreaded Common Core methods come up.  Time after time I hear the same frustrations.

“Why do they make it so much more difficult than when I was in school?”

“What’s wrong with the old way they taught it?”

“If I can’t understand it, then how can my kid?”

“Why do all these steps when you could just do it like this?”

These concerns are very real, and it is never a bad idea to be involved in your child’s education.  Taking an interest in how your son or daughter learn lets them know that you care, that you’re there to help them should they get discouraged, and helps them realize the importance of practicing their academic skills.  However, I take the unpopular position that the Common Core methods are not inherently bad.

What many people do not realize is that math builds on itself.  It is very difficult to comprehend a topic without the foundation beneath it and fully grasping the necessary prerequisite skills.  What many Common Core strategies address is not only how to arrive at a correct solution, but also how best to build up the techniques that will be used later on in math.  Let’s look at an example.

Say we want to multiply 364 by 12.  One of the Common Core methods for this is to use something called partial products.  Instead of brute forcing it with the algorithm that many of us know, we do it in pieces.  One way would be as follows:

364 x 10 = 3640

and then,

364 x 2 = ?

Here again we break into pieces:

300 x 2 = 600

60 x 2 = 120

4 x 2 = 8

All together we have:

600 + 120 + 8 = 728

So our final answer would be 3640 + 728 = 4368.

I know what you’re thinking (because I’ve had it yelled at me before), “That’s so many steps!  Why bother?”  Well, what do you really do when you line up the numbers and follow the algorithm?

364

x   12

You would multiply 2 by each part on the top, and get 728, then you would go down, put your zero because it’s in the tens place, and then come up with 3640.  Hmmm.  Hopefully it seems a lot more similar now.  It’s the same concept, just the way it has been written is different.

Unfortunately, people are creatures of habit.  I will be the first to tell you that if you know how to do something in math, good for you.  By all means stick with it, and keep practiced!  Where we run into a problem, however, is when a student does not understand how to do the algorithm the way you do.  What then?  Should I simply keep telling them to do it until he or she might finally accept the process.  How many of you knew why to put the zero in the second line when you first learned multi-digit multiplication?  How many of you just thought about it now?

Is it important to be able to simply arrive at a correct answer?  Of course it is!  Wouldn’t it be far more useful later on to have the knowledge of why a process is happening?  You be the judge.

The reason I tutor is so that I don’t have to stick to one method only.  (More on that in a little bit.)  I get the opportunity to find out which method makes more sense to a child rather than only staying stuck, nailed, and riveted to the same techniques regardless of what helps a child learn.  Because of this, I have taught both ways to multiply on numerous occasions.  Here is what I’ve noticed.  When I teach the algorithm to someone who is struggling and it takes hold, they can usually get it and very soon are having no problem.  Then I ask them to multiply by a three-digit number and….they get stuck.  No idea what to do on the third row with very few exceptions.

The kids who happen to like the partial products method more, however, rarely get tripped up when moving into three digits.  Why is this?  It’s simple really.  The students who do the longer steps don’t need to learn a new rule.  Instead they are prepared to extend their knowledge and tackle a larger problem.  With the algorithm, it must be taught to put two zeroes on the third line as you are now in the hundreds place.  Usually at this point, the child sees a pattern and can move into 4 and 5 digit numbers with little trouble.

Does this mean that one way is superior to the other?  Nope.  Whichever way makes more sense is the way to teach it.  The ability is more important than the method for sure.  Once understanding has taken place, then other methods can be taught to help improve speed and efficiency.

But that brings us back to our initial complaint.  Why does the school force everyone to do the first way then?  Now we are asking the correct questions.  There is nothing inherently wrong with the Common Core methods.  In fact, they are better for preparing students for more advanced topics later on, if any comparison needs to be made.  Where we run into trouble is that the school system has made the mistake of assuming that every person needs to perform calculations in the same manner.

Every person learns differently, and the key to education is figuring out the best way to convey a topic to a student.  When the schools only teach one way in order to attempt to reach the majority, there will always be those who are left out.  The problem with the new Common Core system is not necessarily the methods being used to teach, but rather the ideology behind when and how to use those techniques.  So the next time you have trouble with a topic, or you see your child working through a method that you question the usefulness of, try another approach instead of complaining.  I think you’ll be surprised how it takes away the frustration and helps kids grow in leaps and bounds.

## Aspiring to Aspiring Writer

My entire life has been devoted to simply getting by. Only in the past few years have I even attempted to settle down and focus on myself. Amidst all this recent self-discovery, I have found just how badly I want to write for a living. As I’ve stated numerous times, I have always loved the written word. So it wasn’t much of a revelation to me that an area that I needed to foster in my life was to simply write more.

What did come as a shock, however, was the depth of this desire to write and become an author. Thus, for my first true blog post, I will not write about “How to Become an Author” or “7 Tips for Writing a Bestseller” or even “How I Made Writing a Career.” No, instead, I will take you through my journey from the beginning as I am still aspiring to reach the point in my life where I can call myself an aspiring writer.

Here I will explain the major characteristics that I feel define a writer that you can identify in yourself to see if pursing the profession seems as alluring as it still does for me.

# That Story Won’t Go Away

First and foremost, you probably have that idea in your head that you just can’t shake. Perhaps it is some amazing story that you were inspired to conjure up through some major happening in your life. Possibly you simply enjoy writing, and the culmination of all of your experience has brought forth a masterpiece in your mind. Or maybe you are simply like me with a recurring daydream that somehow pieced itself together into an irresistible urge to be recorded for others.

Regardless, you now cannot get this immense story off your mind and think it’d be awesome to share with the world in the off chance they might enjoy it, too. I believe this is one of the most deciding characteristics that people such as myself find to push them forward in their pursuit of becoming an author. Money is nice, as are any rewards for our work, but in the end it is the desire to fulfill our artistic sides that drive us forward to immortalize our thoughts on paper. Having such a tale ready to burst forth is definitely a good sign that you are researching the right career.

So if you are reading this thinking “Hey! He’s talking about                         !” then chances are that you may just yet realize your dreams. (And I might get to read that little nagging story inside your head.)

While this might seem like a no-brainer, I still feel it is worth mentioning. I don’t know of any writer I know, have read about, or whose work I’ve read, that does not admit to being an avid reader. After all, such amazing works as Artemis Fowl and Harry Potter had to draw inspiration from some source. Their respective authors drew on a combination of life experiences and stories they themselves were fans of to cultivate their own imaginations to birth amazing tales that have become staples for the industry.

Speaking solely for myself, Harry Potter was my childhood. Growing up I was completely enamored of the wizarding world. With age I began to respect the multitude of unique characters and each of their developments throughout the story. Now I love to get lost in the universe that is witches and wizards to imagine the untold tales that surely happened behind the scenes. This passion and love for such an amazing book series fostered my own abilities and desire to emulate my author heroes.

More than that, reading is the best training to hone our craft. Increasing vocabulary, finding new ways to build a scene in the mind of a reader through descriptions, and even deciphering the tone of a story can all shape our own style and help us to find ourselves within the scope of our own writing. Classes and practicing actual writing are of course just as necessary, but without taking the time to stop and enjoy the instruments that lead us to aspiring to become authors ourselves, it would all be for naught.

# You Love Your Own Story

I know. It sounds a little narcissistic or even silly, but hear me out. If you don’t enjoy your work, why would anyone else? As I said before, Shifter began merely as a string of daydreams I had while on the bus or train commuting to work. I loved losing myself in the world I was creating inside my head and seeing the different characters live out their lives taking on challenges to overcome them heroically. Shouldn’t it be the same for any book that is headed for the #1 spot?

Again referencing my favorite series (I’m guessing it’s pretty obvious.), Harry Potter not only became a household name due to it’s immense universe, but remains such today due to the never-ending possibilities that exist within. The movie industry is still cashing in on the title for exactly that reason. They can find obscure characters and tell their stories so viewers can see how important they were behind the scenes all along. And that is only part of the puzzle.

Forget media rights and future works. What draws you into a story and keeps you coming back for more? Really take the time to answer that before reading on……Ready? It is losing yourself in pondering what goes on after the main story. What happens next? What went on during this event? I wonder what so-and-so was like before. I wonder if this character and that character were ever romantically involved. I wonder…I wonder…I wonder…That wonder is what makes a tale wonderful and continues to not only bring us as fans back for more but also drives us to talk so passionately about them to bring in new readers.

# You Want to Work

Making money as an author isn’t hard. I’ve managed to make some money selling my ebook to a few friends and even a random clicker-through. Earning a living as an author, however, will put all your patience and researching to the test. All I’ve learned in the year and a half that I’ve been going through site after site and book after book reading up on how to best get my book out to the world and then promote it so the world sees it has taught me one thing: nothing comes easy.

And it truly excites me! I’m well aware that nothing worth doing is all easy all the time. What matters is that I am not only willing to take on that challenge but that the prospect is one that I look forward to every day. As an avid consumer of the internet, the idea that I get to get on every day to write something for a blog or try to make new connections with awesome people is a task that does not seem like work to me. Sure building up that animal called an email list is an uphill battle, and sure it takes a good deal of time networking and making sure I’m reading up where to throw my hat in to the reader-blogger pool can be a lot to handle. But at the end of the day, it is a war I am fighting because I believe I can win.

This is where the “want” part comes in. Many sites that I myself have read will let you know that you will need to work, but I’m willing to bet that you already know that. After all, you are either writing, considering writing, or have already written your masterpiece. That was most definitely work, which shows your work ethic. I believe it goes beyond that. A certain level of desire has to be present to make this commitment every day. And what I would like for you to take away more than anything else is that we can all enjoy it together. Which brings me to my last point.

# You Love People

This one is purely me, but I am a firm believer that it is, or should be, the guiding principal in any profession. You will need to network, as I’m sure you are aware. That isn’t what I am referring to, though. No, what I mean is that you want to make a connection to your readers. After all, writing is all about giving them a window into your mind and soul and allowing them to take on your story in their own imaginations to make it their own. As they read you get to share an intimate bond with each one where you create a world or worlds together.

Just as paramount is the idea that we authors are not competing. If I become the next big author success story and everyone wants to read my series, does that mean they won’t read yours. Certainly not! I would be honored if anyone who has read Harry Potter reads Shifter and enjoys it because I know they have the same taste in literature as myself. The greatest thing about our line of work is that we do not need to fight one another for “customers.” Instead, we share our friends with one another to cultivate the world through the written word.

# So, What Now?

Now go on to finish your book and let me know once it is done. At least for now I know I’ve got plenty of time to offer book reviews to help you on your way as well as to share ideas and build a new friendship. I’d love to hear about everyone’s progress regardless of where you are on your own road to fame.

Though this list is by no means exhaustive, and of course is only the key qualities I would like to believe that I have that have driven me thus far, it hopefully is encouraging to see in yourself so that you know you are on the right track. I will continue writing about the things in my daily life as I work through trying to become a real author. So keep aspiring to your own title of “aspiring author.”