There or There Abouts – Using Estimation to Build Number Sense
‘Explore MTBoS’ is a series of challenges put together by a group of experienced maths education bloggers to help those of us with less experience to find our way around the world of maths blogging. I’ve found it a useful way of finding other people who blog about maths teaching and have already encountered lots of new tools to explore and ideas to reflect on. This week’s challenge was to engage with some collaborative sites and although I was already familiar with some of these, many were completely new to me and well worth exploring. I’m sure I’ll be coming back to them.
One that really caught my attention was ‘Estimation 180’. This is a site put together by Andrew Stadel who teaches middle school maths. He has posted hundreds of estimation challenge pictures which could be used as starter activities to lessons. There is a handout that can be used to keep track of estimations over a period of time. Students are encouraged to give an estimate that is too high, one that is too low and then their best estimate. Importantly they are also asked to explain their reasoning, based on contextual clues or pre-existing knowledge. There are lots of ways of using the challenges. Students can submit estimates online and explore the answers that others have submitted and their reasoning. They could fill in the handout each day and keep a record of their estimates. Or the challenges could just be posted up by the teacher at the start of each lesson. The challenges are varied – estimating heights and weights, number of objects, ages etc. and often build from day to day so that the answer to the previous day’s challenge can inform today’s estimate. Key to using this effectively would be giving students the opportunity to explain and share their reasoning. Sharing strategies and approaches could make a valuable contribution to building number sense. I like the fact that many of the challenges involve measures as I often find children find estimating these particularly difficult.
The site is a very useful resource because estimation can be a tricky skill to teach. Give children a typical sheet with pictures of objects and ask them to estimate and then count, and all but the most compliant will probably sneakily count first then make their estimate very close to the actual count (and the reasons why they are so reluctant to risk a wrong answer will probably make a whole new blog some time soon). I’ve found the Primary Strategies Estimation Spreadsheet (shown above) useful as it can be used on an IWB, and the stars can be shown and quickly hidden before the children have a chance to count them. It can be downloaded here. Another interesting looking site is the ‘Guess It’ game on the Problem Site. This gives children a series of estimation challenges by showing dots of different sizes and colours. There is a timer which can be used to adjust the number of seconds the dots are shown for.
I also like the idea of having an Estimation Station in the classroom, a transparent container that is regularly filled with small objects. Children then estimate how many objects are in the container and strategies are taught and compared. Looking at the price of the Amazon one though, I think I could probably come up with a cheaper alternative!
Some of the resources I have mentioned in this blog, can be found on my Number Pinterest board