Estimation is a very challenging skill for elementary grade students, and yet I find it to be the most important skill to teach. We survive life through estimation:

The Estimation challenges are photos of various items, people, or things. Students are asked to guess how many, or how tall, or how long something may be. The photograph always gives enough clues for students to make a reasonable estimate-using math. For example, in the very first challenge, Mr. Stadel is standing next to a fence. Students must figure out how tall Mr. Stadel is using the information provided in the photo as well as prior knowledge. In the various subsequent challenges, we use the knowledge of Mr. Stadel’s height to figure out the height of the rest of his family, and even his Christmas tree. I love how the challenges build on one another; this helps students to use math, rather than just a guess. In addition, each challenge requests students to make a low estimate, high estimate, and reasonable estimate with an explanation of their thinking. My students are very comfortable with this process.

Recently, my fourth grade students worked through the following challenges:

The objective of these challenges are for students to estimate the value of each glass container of coins. Working through the very first challenge with pennies was a "doozy." They simply did not know where to start. I noticed through explanations that all 26 students guessed. This is very surprising that they did not have prior knowledge of rolling coins. The scaffolding started there. Just like in reading I wanted to build some prior knowledge. We talked about what we knew about a penny: the size and value. We established vocabulary of what a “roll” and “container” meant in this challenge. From there we determined an estimate for how many pennies in a roll and how many rolls do we think are in the container? We followed this process throughout the challenges.

Overall, my students did better with each challenge, and some felt comfortable with the stated process; more than half continue to display difficulty. Explanations lacked reasoning, but guessing. And some students had troubling explaining how they received the value of each container. My biggest take away is that some students simply were not listening to strategies from other students and their learning did not progress. If they were confused they didn't ask questions. As much as I had other students reiterate was they learned from their peers, some just weren’t absorbing what was happening in these very similar problems.

As a result, I realized the importance of continued practice with estimation and tasks like these. I understand that the fear and frustration of slow growth may deter teachers from continuing to provide these types of tasks during whole group instruction but rather use it as an enrichment for children who finish early. I look at it differently. This is important. This builds number sense. This is a must. Perhaps visiting Estimation180 one time a week is not enough and maybe I need to increase time spent on it?

I believe that all types of learners can be successful with Estimation180; I just need to adjust the way in which it’s scaffolded based on the needs of the class. Strategies that I’ve implemented with my fourth graders since the stated tasks include :

These strategies increased student success. I'm optimistic that with continued practice, my students' critical thinking skills will improve. The best part is that even with the struggle, the kids still enjoy our Wednesday with Estimation 180. If you have additional comments and/or suggestions, do not hesitate to reach out.

]]>Overall, my students did better with each challenge, and some felt comfortable with the stated process; more than half continue to display difficulty. Explanations lacked reasoning, but guessing. And some students had troubling explaining how they received the value of each container. My biggest take away is that some students simply were not listening to strategies from other students and their learning did not progress. If they were confused they didn't ask questions. As much as I had other students reiterate was they learned from their peers, some just weren’t absorbing what was happening in these very similar problems.

As a result, I realized the importance of continued practice with estimation and tasks like these. I understand that the fear and frustration of slow growth may deter teachers from continuing to provide these types of tasks during whole group instruction but rather use it as an enrichment for children who finish early. I look at it differently. This is important. This builds number sense. This is a must. Perhaps visiting Estimation180 one time a week is not enough and maybe I need to increase time spent on it?

I believe that all types of learners can be successful with Estimation180; I just need to adjust the way in which it’s scaffolded based on the needs of the class. Strategies that I’ve implemented with my fourth graders since the stated tasks include :

- Continuing down the money path, searching for other Estimation 180 tasks that may have children finding the value.
- Performing a “
*What do I Notice in the picture and how can it help me?*” prior to sending children off to work in pairs or independently. - Having children write reflections on what they learned after the discussion. Did students pick up on big key ideas?
- Creating a visual activity sheet for students to complete to guide thinking, rather than using a blank sheet in the notebook.
- Reiteration of what they understand from a friend, as well as when confusion happens, they state the last thing they understood.

These strategies increased student success. I'm optimistic that with continued practice, my students' critical thinking skills will improve. The best part is that even with the struggle, the kids still enjoy our Wednesday with Estimation 180. If you have additional comments and/or suggestions, do not hesitate to reach out.

Lets take a look at it in action…

To start my fourth graders off with a unit on fractions, we dove into a

Before reading the scripted story, I posted four photos to the board (provided by MITC). Each photo showed the various groupings and sandwiches. I gave students a few minutes to Notice and Wonder before we started to chat about what we saw.

I have found through the years that its always best to write down everything students say. For example one student noticed that in the poster two boys looked like they were thinking. Essentially, it didn’t help with what was mathematically happening, but I noticed that by writing this thought down, it helps with student buy in. This willingness to continue the mathematical journey goes a long way. They feel great about sharing something. It must be valuable if the teacher is writing it down…right?

So what happened in this 10-minute process? Students noticed the sizing of groups, how many sandwiches each group received, which group got more sandwiches, how many total sandwiches are there, how many total children are going on the field trip. They wondered what the groups would do with the subs, wondered if the subs would be split, wondered if each student would get the same amount, and wondered how to cut the subs fairly. They set up the entire story problem before I even shared the scenario! At this moment, I have super engaged students that did all the heavy lifting, and are ready to tackle the problem with great understanding of the goal.

Whether you are a teacher, tutor, or a parent trying to help your child with homework, I challenge you to start a lesson with: What do you notice? What do you wonder? I’d like to hear about your success. Comment below! ]]>

Getting students to persevere through multistep problems is a math teacher’s goal. Sometimes these problems turn into a reading extravaganza and the math simply gets lost. After, looking at student data, multistep problem solving is always an area where we need to improve.

So how do we get them to persevere?

This past week the fourth graders learned a strategy of unraveling the problem. Reading the entire problem at one time is tricky for these youngsters. So the strategy involves students reading the problem one line at a time. All problems are written on one page and folded in such a way that they can only see one part of the problem at a time. They unfold the first flap to see the first sentence of the problem and a prompt of:

What have I noticed? Students are slowing down and making sense of the problem. The questions they ask reflect understanding of what's happening in the number story. Often, I am finding students asking and answering the final question before they even unravel it. They get so excited when predict the question. The multi-steps become less daunting as they add various unknowns to their math model when they receive more information. The best part is…the students are enjoying it; looking at it as challenge, rather than impossible. They’ve demonstrated such success in a few short days.

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