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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

10 fun activities to teach Estimations to young kids.

We use estimations in our daily life more often than we can estimate. How much salt should I put in this soup? How long will it take me to get to my destination? How hard should I kick for the ball to reach the goal post? How much lumber should we order for this project? What should be the ballpark answer to this math problem? How fast do I have to merge the paints on my canvas before paint will start drying out? We constantly ask such questions to ourselves and most times we get the answer by estimating. Needless to say, it is an important skill for kids to have. Little ones need to practice many different skills besides grasping the mathematical concept of estimations to be able to approximate with ease.

When kids estimate they need to have a good understanding of quantities. Even if they don’t know the standard units, they still need to understand that numbers correspond to quantities. Then they need to learn how to assign a certain number to a quantity. It gets even more complex when we move away from counting physical objects and start estimating required time or how far a place might be. Kids need to draw conclusions from their past experience, use their working memory and executive functions to mentally manipulate the quantities on hand before they can answer how many grapes are in their bowl.

Estimations is a concept that can be taught as soon as kids are about 15 months old and continue to add on to it well into their time in the elementary school. You never know, some of them might even get a PhD in Statistics to learn more sophisticated forms of estimations. Here are 10 fun activities to teach estimations to young kids.

1)   Start by counting steps or apples in the basket to kids as young as 15 month old. They might not be able to count accurately but will learn that numbers correspond to quantities. When my son was 17 month old, I asked him to check if the tub was full. It had hardly filled up and he said mommy it is 1. After some time he rushed to tell me, “tub full, 5 full”. I was amazed to learn that not only had he grasped that numbers correspond to a quantity but 5 was somehow more than 1.

2)   Let them help with table setting. Initially they might not count number of people and decide how many plates they need. Depending on their age, they might even need to physically put a plate in front of everybody present and still not be able to verbalize the exact number of plates that were needed. Help them count as they place the plates in front of each person. This is not only a great basis to learning estimations but also to learn another mathematical concept of one to one correspondence.
3)  I often ask my 3 year old to guess how many steps there are before he starts climbing or guess how many strawberries are on his plate or how many floors does he think a certain building has or how old does he think that little boy playing at the park is? He loves these games. The answer to these questions helps us understand the concept of quantities.
4)  When playing in the sand, try to wonder aloud as to how many scoops might fill up that bucket.

  5)  Include various size measuring cups in their bath toys or water play. Even if they are just playing and pouring they will take note of the quantities.

6)     Cooking is a great activity to not only teach estimations but many more concepts and skills. Let them help you measure and mix while cooking and baking. It will be great fun. Granted a little messy but very well worth it.

7)    Give them a big box and many small boxes or balls and ask them to guess how many will fit and then actually see how many do. Help them count if they can’t count to the number of boxes on hand. This will also hone their spatial visualization skills.

8)  Try to introduce things of drastically different sizes while doing the counting activities like pillows, small boxes large balls etc. This will also introduce them to the concept of volume. They will learn that only one pillow might fit in a box but 20 small boxes might fit in the same box.

9)  Even if your child can barely count till ten do point to things that might be in hundreds or thousands or more. My son loves the classic picture book called ‘Jamberry’ by Bruce Degen. I have read the line ‘billons of berries for blackberry jamble’ to him without even realizing it. But when we were on our long flight to India and he was bored, he asked me if it would take us a billion hours to get there?
10)Show them pictures of a large field of flowers or point to the crowd at a stadium and discuss how many people or flowers there might be. This gives them a visual of large quantities. You can make fun travel games around it too. You can read a fun example of the same in my 'making the most out of travel experience’ post. I also liked the books called ‘Great Estimations’ and ‘Greater estimations’ by Bruce Goldstone. Some of it was beyond my 3 year old but he still loved them and learned a thing or two about large quantities and estimations.

So can you estimate how many words in this post? Do share your guesses in the comment section and we all can have some fun with it.