This is the third year that the math department at my school has had a Halloween contest for our students. The students guessed how many candies were in a container that we had in a display case in our hall. The first year we did this, we had a large container filled with candy corn and last year the container was filled with small candy pumpkins. The containers looked very nice and the winners received all the candy. However that candy is just so sweet! Ugh, it sends shivers down my spine thinking about how sweet it is. The winner received the container with the candy and had their picture taken. The picture was posted in the display case and it was placed in the yearbook as well. This year instead of candy I found pumpkin containers filled with cheese balls. We placed two containers in the display case and students gave their guesses to the math teachers. I actually found the actual number of cheeseballs in BOTH of the containers. Don't worry, I used plastic gloves. When the teachers were giving me their guesses to determine the two winners, we were all shocked at some of the guesses the kids made. 29 cheeseballs, 109 cheeseballs, 14 and 72 were numbers that kids actually thought were the total number of cheeseballs. WHAT!!!! How is it even possible? This just confirmed that our students need help improving their number sense.
These two young ladies both guessed there was a total of 2000 cheeseballs in both containers. They were the closest to the 2012 actual total.
So we have decided to do a couple of things to help our kids improve their estimating abilities. First of all, we decided that we are going to have bimonthly contest so the students have an opportunity to make an estimate more often than just once a year. For our winter theme, we are going to get a tall thin container, probably from IKEA, and put red and green peppermint candies in it. Valentines Day is going to be candy hearts. I would be fun to find something in the shape of a heart to be the container for that season. Spring will be something in spring colors and we still need to figure out May. ( Suggestions anyone?) I will also put a cup next to the containers and show how many items are in one cup to help them get a start on a good estimate.
The next step, and I am sure some of you are yelling this at the computer screen right now, is to start using Andrew Stadel's, Estimation 180 site daily. I showed this site to my department and everyone loved it. (Thank you Andrew for this awesome site.) So we are starting all together next week. I am going to run off the sheets that accompany the site for students estimates. It is going to be interesting to see how their estimates improve throughout the year.
We are going to start with these two ideas along with everything we are already doing in class and see what happens. I'll keep you posted.
Oh, one more thing. One of my students whispered this to me:
Student: "Mrs. Lichtenberger, Ms. Arman told me a secret."
Me: "What did she tell you?"
Student: "Length times width times height."
Me thinking: "Gee, who knew that was a secret?"
Til next time,
Jan

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