Estimation is an important math skill because it allows for a reasonable guess before something is actually measured or counted. Coming “close enough” to the actual number is a real accomplishment, and part of higher quantitative thinking. Developing your child’s sense of estimation goes beyond school math—it’s a life skill.
As adults we are constantly estimating. How long will it take to get there? Do I have enough coins for the parking meter? Will that size sweater fit Dad?
Here are some great ideas for fun estimating during the summer, using common household items to help your child become a good at it.
Start simply with one or two of these items. Then mix it up any way you and your child would like.
Items that can be used include:
- A clear, small jar full of pennies
- A large pitcher
- A plastic measuring cup
- A pail or large bowl of water
- Paper clips
- Blocks or Legos of the same size
- A timer
- Forks or spoons of the same size
- Any safe household items of uniform length and width or size
Use any of the items above to present a question that needs solving, such as:
- How many pennies do you think are in the jar?
- How many cups of water do you think it will take to fill up the pitcher?
- How many Legos do you think it takes to fill up the measuring cup?
- How many blocks will fit across the doorway?
- How many paper clips, laid end-to-end, are needed to measure the long side of a book?
- How many spoons, laid end-to-end, does it take to line the side of the table?
- How long will we set the timer to see how fast you can pick up those paper clips?
After your child has estimated how many items are needed to complete a task, or how long something takes, count and work the solutions out together.
Estimation is important for critical thinking and reasonable responses. Have fun practicing because the more young children can refine their estimation skills, the higher they develop number sense.