#NCTMannual 2018 Engaging Students in Seeing Mathematical Structure

I am doing a session at NCTM’s annual conference in Washington DC on Friday, April 27th at 11:00 am at Walter E. Washington Convention Center Room 145 AB.  I looked up the room space and there is room for 552 of you all.  Yikes.  I hope a few of you show up.  My session is titled ‘Engaging Students in Seeing Mathematical Structure.  I will share resources here in this blog post shortly after my presentation.  Between now and then I will  be sharing a photo or phrase or._____________….something from my presentation to give you some hints about what I will share.  I am excited to bring the work I’ve been doing in Minnesota to a larger audience.

I’ll also be sharing tidbits from my presentation on twitter @saravdwerf everyday until the 27th.  Follow me and teh hashtag #NCTMannual – even if you can not join us in DC this year.  If you can come, please stop by and see me and introduce yourself.  I’d love to meet and put a face to as many of you who read my blog or follow me on twitter as I can.  Until I see you in DC… enjoy these clues and tidbits from my presentation.

April 2nd – 25 days until my session

Can you see it??  This is slide 1 from my presentation and will be the slide I also use at the end.  So, can you see it?

April 3rd – 24 days until my session

I’m from one of ‘those’ families….

April 4th – 23 days until my session

Slide from story at beginning of my presentation – ‘Ticket to Ride’, European version – How did this game make me a better teacher?

April 5th – 22 days until my session

It was the USA version of the game ‘Ticket to Ride’ that turned a light-bulb on for my work in my classroom.

Find out why at my session #374 at the NCTM annual conference in DC.

Note:  I’ll also post here on my blog the answers after my session if you can’t make it to DC -but I hope to see you there so you can see the live animated version of me (and I can meet the live animated version of you) – not just the blog version of me you see here.

April 6th – 21 days until my session

2 questions I ask myself as I plan

April 7th – 20 days until my session

After seeing this student work on a pretest several years ago I knew something needed to change.  

April 8th – 19 days until my session

I have had 3 orange plastic golf balls hanging from the ceiling in my classroom since the start of school.  It is one of my favorite teaching moments each year.  Why do you think I hang golf balls from the ceiling of my classroom?   (click link for more info)

April 9th – 18 days until my session

A time saving stand and talk!

April 10th – 17 days until my session

What do you notice?

April 11th – 16 days until my session

I used this one tonight with a group of really great University of Minnesota Math Education Students.  A unit of MS review in 10 minutes of notice & wonder with a Stand & Talk….What do you notice?  What do you wonder?

April 12th – 15 days until my session

Convince me this is true or false.

April 13th – 14 days until my session

I have this hanging by my desk at work.  Find out why at session #374.  2 weeks from today!  Yikes – I have work this weekend to do to be ready.  Good thing we are expecting 12″ of snow on Saturday – I have no where to go and lots of work to do.  I hope it is more spring like where ever you are!

April 14th – 13 days until my session

Advanced Algebra (Algebra 2) Day 1 Notice Wonder.

April 15th – 12 days until my session

Convince me which calculator is correct.

April 16th – 11 days until my session

This is what I don’t want my students math learning in their brains to look like.  (even if the desktop of my computer looks close to this).

April 17th – 10 days until my session

If you are coming to my session (or plan to look at the resources later) – I have some pre-work for you to do.  The decisions I make when I plan lessons start with what I believe math is.  If you’ve not read my blog post ‘What is Math?‘ – I would love it if you did prior to attending my session.  Thanks.

April 18th – 9 days until my session

You would think since I am posting a picture a day from my session that I am close to ready to present.  You would be wrong.  I am a die-hard procrastinator that seems to always pull out a win.  This is not my favorite trait, but one I’ve accepted about myself.  I am freaking out though because between now and May 5th I am giving 4 new presentations – none of which I am close to being ready for.  Send me good wishes.

Today’s photo represents a fact about me from my introduction.  Study it well.  The first story I tell you will require you to know a detail in this slide.  If you are from a state near me – no worries – you already know – but to the rest of you – look closely.

To save time in my session I most likely will say very little about myself in my presentation.  I thought perhaps you would like to hear what I would say if I had tons of time (and for any of you readers who are new to my blog)….Without further adieu….Imagine a loud booming voice (this is my natural voice – it is work for me to speak quietly)…

My name is Sara Van Der Werf.  I’m Dutch.  My grandfather always said, ‘if you are not Dutch, you are not much’. At 5’11” I am the shortest kid in my family.  I have worked for Minneapolis Public Schools in Minnesota for over 25 years.  I’ve taught HS, then MS then spent 5 years at our district office as the K-12 Math Lead and returned to teaching MS and currently back in HS.  My heart is in Middle School – I love it.  I’ve taught in our wealthiest and poorest schools.  I am an urban teacher currently teaching Algebra 2 ELL sections.  I am passionate about building community with other math teachers in my district, state and in the #MTBoS community.  I have been very involved in my state’s NCTM affiliate and currently serve as its past-president.  I started my career as an IMP teacher (which I LOVE) and if you love it like I do – then we can be friends.  I’ve lived in Minneapolis my entire life – nearly 50 years.  I have no children but I love hanging out with my nephews and niece who all live nearby.  I love my hanging out with my family, farmers markets, cooking, baking and walking around one of MN’s lakes when it isn’t snowing 23.8 inches in April.  I currently can only ride a backwards bike – and need to relearn how to ride a regular one.  I love, love, love doing professional development with math teachers.  My presentation style can be best described as Southern Baptist Preacher – though I am neither southern, baptist or a preacher.  I think people enjoy my sessions because I a passionate and focus on practical tweaks all of us can implement.  People who’ve worked for me tell me I wave my arms a lot and point at people all the time and say “You know what you should do?” and then proceed to tell them what to do.  I am an introvert who looks like an extrovert to all I meet.  After 50 years I can finally say no.  I prioritize sleep over perfection.  After starting a math ed blog, I for the first time in my life call myself a writer.  I am currently passionate about learning about elementary math and how I can work to dismantle the systematic racism in the venues I work starting with working on my own self – it begins with me.  I have lots – lots – lots left to learn and I am make mistakes everyday that I work to learn from them.  When I know better, I do better.  That’s all for now.  Ask me anything.  I am happy to answer whatever you would like to know.

April 19th – 8 days until my session

Cal Armstrong tweeted out this meme a couple of days ago.  In a sassy, sassy way it gets at what I’ll be talking about.  I would do a Stand & Talk with this photo and ask “What is the story of this picture?”.  

April 20th – 7 days until my session

1 week until my session #374 at 11am!  If you might come, I’d love for you to do some pre-work and read my blog post on STAND & TALKS – they are literally the best thing I ever started doing to get students talking out loud about mathematics.  Thanks in advance.

April 21th – 6 days until my session

OK – so today is ‘I have to get serious about finalizing my session’ day!  (Then I have 3 more to prep for the next week for our state conference).  Why do I do this to myself.  I am not sure if I am going to use this picture -but it is one I’ve made in my current journey with my students that I’ll be talking about…..I am looking forward to seeing many of you in DC.


If you like these 2 visuals – also check out the one in this document.  I’d love to know your thoughts.  squares and square root what do you notice?

April 22th – 5 days until my session

Yesterday I spent the day with my family and 3 nephews.  It was youngest nephews birthday – I was excited because I could now arrange them into this photo!  It made their math teacher aunt happy.  What do you notice?

I was excited the youngest turned 3, because now their ages were perfect for…

In 2 days the oldest has a birthday.  I have another photo in mind – but this one also includes my only niece who is 8.  Can you guess what my photo will be?

April 23th – 4 days until my session

I head to DC early Wednesday morning, but I am already in the #NCTMjealousy camp wishing I was at NCSM – but there is no way I can be out of the classroom that many days.  3 days of subs is enough (and I have an incredible student teacher).  I present in 4 days.  I am at a coffee shop putting final touches on the presentation (so that I can then prep the 3 presentations I am giving the next week at our state conference).

Here is today’s picture of the day – from my presentation.

What do you notice?  (note:  Ideally all 3 of these pictures are side by side -but to increase clarity I made them a bit bigger vertically)


April 24th – 3 days until my session

I fly out of Minnesota tomorrow morning at 7am and will be in DC by 10:30.  Before I leave MN, today’s picture celebrates what is amazing about the math community in my home state.  One of the amazing people in our state is Christopher Danielson.  Christopher not only works for Desmos, he is also the creator of an amazing 12 days of fun each year at our state fair ( one of the largest in the country) called Math On-a-stick.  Christopher’s latest book, How Many?, was released this week.  You need to stop by the Stenhouse booth in DC and buy one (or you can buy one here).  Be sure to get the companion teacher book too.  You might think that this book is not for you HS peeps – you are wrong.  Christopher allowed me to use visuals from his book (mine is still in the mail) to use in my presentation.  Here is small section of one of the amazing photos.  Come see the entire picture in my session and how you may use this with secondary math students.

Do you know what this is?

Better yet – How many (not necessarily a fair question with only part of a photo)?

Here is what his book covers look like so you will not have problems spotting them when you enter the exhibit area.

April 25th – 2 days until my session

I’m in DC!  I flew in this morning.  I had lunch with 2 of my MN math friends and who is the first person I recognize when I get here?  TRACY JOHNSTON ZAGER!  I love her!  The best news – she recognized me!   I visited the African American Museum (so great).

I’m now at a coffee shop charging my phone and fine tuning my presentation.  This is the picture I just put into my slide deck for my presentation.  I hope you will join me at 11am on Friday to find out whey.

Until then – be kind.

April 26th – 1 day until my session

I will post a link here tomorrow with the visuals I will use in my presentation (in lieu of handouts).   If you have a device you can view these from (phones work great) – I would love it if you pulled up this blog post during the presentation.  Until then – today’s last photo of the day is a picture of me.  This is what I look like if we have not yet meet.  If you see me walking around the convention center – stop me and say ‘Hi’!  I’d love to meet you and learn something new.

My presentation is in room 145AB at 11am Friday morning.  If you can make it great.  If not, I’ll post some resources here afterward.  Until tomorrow…..

April 27th – Presentation TODAY at 11am eastern time at Washington Convention Center – rooms 145 A&B

Look HERE for resources from my presentation within 24 hours of the end of the presentation – hopefully at the time of the presentation.

Sara VanDerWerf

I am Sara Van Der Werf, a 24-year mathematics teacher in Minneapolis Public Schools. I have taught math in grades 7-12 as well as spent several years leading mathematics at the district office. I currently teach Advanced Algebra at South High School and I'm also the current President of the Minnesota Council of Teachers of Mathematics (MCTM). I am passionate about encouraging and connecting with mathematics teachers. I'd love to connect via twitter.  Join the community.  Tweet me @saravdwerf.

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