This article appeared in the Winter 2013–14 issue of Erikson on Children.
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McCormick Math Minute: Discover foundational mathematics for young children — in 60 seconds or less

Estimation is a practical life skill, as well as the basis for mathematical thinking. Tracey Fisher and her prekindergarten class at Helen C. Peirce School in Chicago practiced estimation using a clear jar with toy bunnies inside.

Fisher displayed a chart asking “How many animals are in my jar? 4, 6, or 10?” and asked the children to estimate. Only one answer was correct.

One by one, each child placed a card with his or her name on it in the 4, 6, or 10 column. By constraining the number choices, the teacher helped the children focus on reasonable estimates and encouraged strategic comparison and logical thinking. The students began to realize that if there seemed to be more than 4 bunnies, either 6 or 10 had to be correct.

After everyone’s card was posted on the chart, the class analyzed the results. Fisher engaged the class in a mathematical discussion, asking, “Which amount has the most votes? Why did you select the amount you did?” One of the children then counted the bunnies and announced the correct estimate.

Estimation isn’t the only math concept reinforced by this exercise: the children practiced number and operations, number sense, and data analysis in one fell swoop.