Take advantage of your young child’s natural curiosity by using estimation! It is a great way to help your child improve her overall math skills.

Estimating gives a child the opportunity to “guess” a math answer, using his prior knowledge of numbers.  It’s a useful tool to get your child thinking about a math problem before actually solving it.

For a young child it’s best to start with a visual.  Here are some simple ways to incorporate estimation into your child’s thinking.

•  Fill a small, clear container with pennies, M & M’s, Legos, or any other small objects.  Keep it on the kitchen counter, or some other place where it’s easily visible.  Let her hold it, shake it, try to count through the container wall, etc. Have her guess how many objects are in the container. Delay opening the container and counting the objects right away.  It’s okay if she changes her guess a number of times.  After a day or two, open the container and count the objects together to see how close she came to the correct number. Refill the jar with different objects and keep practicing until her guesses are very close to the actual number.

Take an estimation “walk.” For example, let your child guess how many heel-to-toe steps he will have to take to walk from the kitchen to the computer.  Then have him walk and count the actual steps. For fun, have him guess how many steps it will take you to do the same walk! Talk about why you, as an adult, would use fewer steps.

Have your child grab a handful of pennies, raisins, Goldfish crackers, or other small objects. Let her estimate if the number of objects she has in her hands is “odd or even.” Help her arrange them in pairs to find out. “Even” numbers will always be in a pair. “Odd” numbers will always have one left over.

Simple games like these give you the opportunity to create an environment that puts the “fun” in math fundamentals!