Year 1 of my blog – My Top 10 posts.

I started this blog mid-November, 2015.  As of today, 12/31/16, my blog is 13.5 months old.  As we are about to enter 2017, I thought I would share a few things I’ve learned during the last year as a math teacher blogger and share my top 10 posts as determined by your views.  Let’s get started!

#1: The 5×5 Game

5x5 game

This was one of my first posts and has 19 times the views of my average post this year.  It taught me a lot!  #1, I learned that my most popular posts (not always my goal) will be ones that are ones that you can easily do in your classroom tomorrow.  #2, I learned about the power of Dan Meyer.  He tweeted a sassy tweet with a link to this post and my numbers of views & followers skyrocketed.  #3, I learned about the power of Pinterest.  This post has been ‘pinned’ thousands of times. Crazy.  All that said, this game is GOOD.  You should play it with your students.  It is always a win.

#2: 100 Numbers to Get Students Talking


This post is one of the reasons I started a blog.  I kept having people ask me for this task (I reference it often when I speak).  One of those people, Megan Schmidt (@veganmathbeagle) lives near me and kept bugging me to stat a blog.  So I did.  I’ve used this task week 1 every year for the last 10 years.  It is great for setting group work norms. I think I had 100 of you tweet me photos using this task in your own classrooms.  I loved everyone of them.

#3: Secondary Number Talks (& ducks)

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I am convinced that every math teacher should be doing Number Talks regularly.  They have changed me as a teacher.  I have also learned that Secondary teachers are scared of using these and that there are very few of us talking about using them at the secondary level, particularly HS.  I have received speaking requests from this post and also numerous requests for me to write more on this topic.  If you live in MN, I’ll be doing some PD on this topic summer 2017.  Until then, you can read about my journey above.  I am still learning a lot on this topic.

#4: Modeling Googling


This post was a favorite of the Ed-Tech community.  Somehow they found this post and shared it widely.  I heard from many non-math teachers thanking me for writing about the importance of modeling googling in your math classroom.

#5: Name Tents

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This post was not about math really, but it is something I think all of you should be doing week 1 of school every year with me.  It works in any subject area.  Again, I loved all the tweeted photos from those of you who used the Name Tents.  What I know for sure is we need to all be doing more in our classrooms to solicit and give feedback to our students.  The time we invest in this is always well spent.

#6: Math Wall of Shame Part 1

wall of shame featured

I have become a bit of a minimalist in my classroom.  That said, I do have an entire wall dedicated to 8.5×11 inch laminated Math Fail Photos.  This post has 80 you can download and use.  This post is the closest I’ve come to creating a hashtag, #mathfail or @mathwallofshame.  About once a week I get a tweet with a new math fail sent my way.  I received so many I posted ‘Math Wall of Shame, part 2’ with 70 more downloadable fails you can use.  Part 3 will come out in 2017 sometime.  Keep sending them my way.

#7: The best thing I ever did in my Support Class

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The response to this post taught me that everyone is looking for ideas of how to support students who struggle.  It was another post that generated emails asking me for more information on this topic.  This post is about my favorite thing I did in my support math classes, but I also bluntly speak about all the other things I believe about support math classes.

#8:  The Pursuit of 100% (Engagement)

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If you are looking for a good post to share with a newer teacher (or a teacher struggling with engagement) this is a great first post from my blog to share with them.  It has 7 ideas for engaging students that I talked about when I did a Global Math Department presentation in June on the same topic.

#9: Crazy Math Badges

featured image badge

This post brought out all of your creativity.  Many of you created your own badges after reading this post.  Many of you asked for me to share my documents where I created the letters – I’ve not done this yet, but it is on my 2017 to do list.  This post also taught me the power of Sarah Carter.  She tagged me in several of her posts this year including this one where she was inspired by my math badges.  So many people come to my blog through her blog almost everyday.  She has an amazing platform in math ed.

#10: How Grand is Your Total?

grand feat

This post is a simple task that I’ve used for 25 years.  So great.  I’ve been amazed at how many of you had the old school version I had turned digital.  Love it.

Some Additional things I learned while blogging this year.

dimensionsEveryone should be blogging.  Really.  I learned a ton this year.  I learned things that I never would have learned if I had not been blogging.  During Twitter Math Camp I tweeted this image.  Blogging had widened my world in a really great way.  Above you can see what I have learned so far – I highlighted my learnings in yellow.  Here are a few more…

  • I learned I love feedback on my posts.  I have loved the tweets with photos from your classrooms showing how you used what I wrote about.  I love that when I meet some new math teacher now I often have them tell me something they have used or loved from my blog.  Thank you.
  • I learned that the numbers/metrics I can read about views and things are fun and a bit addictive.  I am not blogging so that I get views – really I am not – but I am continually interested in how you find my blog and what resonates with you.
  • I learned this year that my favorite posts are not your favorite posts.  I have lots of posts that represent what made me a better teacher for all my students this year that were not as widely read as others.  Perhaps I’ll share my favorites in another post. Let me know if you are interested.
  • I learned that if I am open and vulnerable in my blog it opens me up to more intimate conversations with people I don’t know well.  So many of you thanked me for being real in my blog (not sure what this means entirely) and thanked me for speaking about things like Grief.
  • I have learned that I can be brave and speak about issues that are often elephants in the educational professional world.  I got lots of feedback from non-math teachers about these posts.  Here are 2 that did not make my top 10, but that resulted in the most satisfying conversations after I posted.  I hope to do more like these in 2017.  Check out The Subaru Effect and The Number 61 & read about when I get a bit political.
  • I learned this year that writing is an amazing way to reflect and change in your classroom.  I have never written a ton and frankly I have never thought about myself as a writer, but I have loved what I have learned this year through the writing I’ve done.  Seriously, you all need to join me in this.  Writing is where it is at.
  • I learned this year that math teachers are frighted to blog because they all say to me when I ask them to write something…”Sara, I am not a writer.”  Seriously, almost everyone I’ve asked said this. And I’ve asked 100 people to write something for me (or our state organization this year) and us math teachers are seemingly scared of writing.  Here is what I have to say to you if you are thinking this….Have a growth mind-set about writing.  You get better at it when you do it.  You all need to do more writing.  Join me.

Some things I hope to do with my blog in 2017:

  • My goal is 52 posts again in 2017.  I can do it!  1 per week. (most likely it will mean a bunch over the summer and fewer during the school year).  I have 55 posts started on the back side of my blog – this should be a no brainer.
  • I am going to do a redesign of my blog soon.  I know a lot more of what I want from my blog.  My brother-in-law, Brian, has offered to help me.
  • I want to post more guest blogs from the amazing math people I know who do not have blogs of their own.  There is so much great stuff out there.
  • I want to post at least 10 blogs that are short….just a couple of paragraphs.  My blogs tend to be LONG.  I can’t stop the long, but I can post some short blogs once in a while.
  • What ideas do you have for me?  Let me know.  I love hearing from all of you.  If you have ideas, suggestions, feedback… TWEET me @saravdwerf or EMAIL me at

Thank you to everyone who came to my blog in 2016.  I am humbled by how many of you come to my blog.  I love how many of you actually used things from my blog.  I feel like such a bigger part of the MTBoS community now.  I look forward to meeting more of you in 2017 and sharing more thoughts and ideas from my classroom in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


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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