Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Estimation. You can hear the groans from the students when asked to estimate the answer to the problem. They want to jump to solving the problem and getting an exact answer. Estimation, for many, feels like extra, useless work. But estimation is a critical skill for students. Annie Murphy Paul, in her TIME magazine article titled “Why Guessing is Undervalued” claims that strong estimation skills in young children lay a good foundation for further math learning as children grow older.
So why teach estimation skills?
First, we want students to be able to determine the reasonableness of their answers. Without this estimate, we see students make computation errors that don’t even raise a red flag. 33 x 18 = 264. If the student had estimated an answer (30 x 20 = 600), he or she would have seen that a computation error had been made.
Second, we want students to be able to use mental math to quickly get to a ballpark solution. An example of this may be when going out to dinner with friends and we are dividing up the bill. A ballpark solution is usually acceptable among friends.
Third, we want to estimate about time and distance. These estimation skills are essential for executive functioning. How long will it take us to get from Point A to Point B? How long will it take you to do your homework? Skill in estimating time is essential for success with both short term and long term projects.
How can families encourage and support these skills?
Estimation skills are used in everyday life and create critical thinkers who understand what the task requires. Parents and family members can help foster these skills by reminding students not to skip this step when they are explicitly asked to do so. Students can also be encouraged to use estimation as a strategy for checking over their math work, even when the task doesn’t specifically require it. Demonstrate the the importance of these lifelong math skills by thinking aloud when you find yourself using estimation and showing students the many ways that estimation will apply to their everyday lives in the future.
Why Teaching Both Estimation and Accuracy is Important