On Monday, I wrote about a really interesting estimation activity that one of my students worked on in her student teaching classroom. Today, I want to show you another estimation activity that is an example of what I see much more frequently.
For this activity, the teacher put marbles in a large glass vase. The children each then had a turn to “estimate” how many marbles were in the jar. Seems simple enough. However, let’s take a look at how this differs from Monday’s example and why these distinctions are important.
The first thing to notice that even as an adult, you couldn’t possible estimate how many marbles are in the vase. It really wouldn’t even be an estimate as much as it would be a guess, and a pretty random one at that. The smaller jars with fewer items makes far more sense for young children. Most three and four years olds can’t even imagine what 45 or 70 marbles look like since they probably haven’t developed a solid sense of number that big. And remember, just because children can count to 45 does not mean they have any concept of what 45 is.
I love that the children wrote their names and their numbers but you can see that their “estimates” are not even close. This takes us back to the original intention of the activity. If the learning outcome for the children was to write their names and a number then the learning outcome was met. If the learning outcome was about estimation, I am not so sure.
The teacher wrote the word “Predictions” on top of the first column. Was this a prediction activity? A prediction is a guess about the future, so this language is not quite correct. We want to be sure to use exact and correct language with children all of the time. This is especially true when we design an activity and the results of that activity will be a part of the classroom over time. Having this graph up in the classroom may reinforce misunderstandings about what a prediction is, and it doesn’t say anything about estimation.