The Estimation Station

As teachers, we get stuck in ruts, teaching the same content the same way over multiple years. Having found www.estimation180.com has been a saving grace to break the monotony of a warm-up laced with redundancy and review. What I thought would be a nice break from the norm of practice problems to lead into the day’s lesson evolved into something totally different.

Knowing what Andrew Stadel had posted on Twitter was changing his classroom environment, I figured that I’d give it a shot. What could be the worst that happens? Maybe I lose 5 minutes out of my class period when they don’t really care how many glasses of water it’ll take to fill up a pitcher. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll take them so far off task that I need to corral them back in before we discuss the objective for the day. However, neither of those happened.

The first couple days we did it, students were giving half-hearted guesses aimed anywhere near the realm of possibility. How many glasses does it take to fill the pitcher? 41. No, not even close. It was a good learning tool, though, and I refused to abandon it so quick. We came back for day 3 and it stuck like molasses on a cold Alaska morning. I showed my class the Diet Coke example and they were sold. The class was quiet, some students measuring things out with their fingers, others counting in their head, but all students were thinking. This is a statement that couldn’t be made about my former warm-ups (or lessons, for that matter).

What Estimation180 has evolved into for my students is a time to think critically with justification. The reward for getting the answer correct is nothing material. Students know that I don’t believe in extrinsic rewards systems. What they get for having the right answer is the pedestal of perfection for the moment and a high five from me. So why is it so appealing to try so hard for something that there is no grade, no prize, and no direct correlation for? Because it’s interesting, that’s why.

After doing Estimation 180 for the past 2 months, students ask for it. They crave it. Some days, the entire class is within digits or decimals of the correct answer. Other days, we have a winner or winners. What is going on behind the scenes is what’s incredible and worth every minute of the class session. Students have begun thinking critically about what estimation is and how to make a good estimation compared to a blind guess. Using context clues, background knowledge, or reasoning skills have all been developed by a simple 5 minute warm-up. None of these skills, ones that are going to be used on a regular basis in the business world, are taught directly through any of the 21 Algebra 1 standards that I need to teach before the end of the school year.

This has never been more evident that when we started our unit about the application of the quadratic formula. In this unit, students will use

We will continue estimating because that’s what human beings do.

As teachers, we get stuck in ruts, teaching the same content the same way over multiple years. Having found www.estimation180.com has been a saving grace to break the monotony of a warm-up laced with redundancy and review. What I thought would be a nice break from the norm of practice problems to lead into the day’s lesson evolved into something totally different.

Knowing what Andrew Stadel had posted on Twitter was changing his classroom environment, I figured that I’d give it a shot. What could be the worst that happens? Maybe I lose 5 minutes out of my class period when they don’t really care how many glasses of water it’ll take to fill up a pitcher. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll take them so far off task that I need to corral them back in before we discuss the objective for the day. However, neither of those happened.

The first couple days we did it, students were giving half-hearted guesses aimed anywhere near the realm of possibility. How many glasses does it take to fill the pitcher? 41. No, not even close. It was a good learning tool, though, and I refused to abandon it so quick. We came back for day 3 and it stuck like molasses on a cold Alaska morning. I showed my class the Diet Coke example and they were sold. The class was quiet, some students measuring things out with their fingers, others counting in their head, but all students were thinking. This is a statement that couldn’t be made about my former warm-ups (or lessons, for that matter).

What Estimation180 has evolved into for my students is a time to think critically with justification. The reward for getting the answer correct is nothing material. Students know that I don’t believe in extrinsic rewards systems. What they get for having the right answer is the pedestal of perfection for the moment and a high five from me. So why is it so appealing to try so hard for something that there is no grade, no prize, and no direct correlation for? Because it’s interesting, that’s why.

After doing Estimation 180 for the past 2 months, students ask for it. They crave it. Some days, the entire class is within digits or decimals of the correct answer. Other days, we have a winner or winners. What is going on behind the scenes is what’s incredible and worth every minute of the class session. Students have begun thinking critically about what estimation is and how to make a good estimation compared to a blind guess. Using context clues, background knowledge, or reasoning skills have all been developed by a simple 5 minute warm-up. None of these skills, ones that are going to be used on a regular basis in the business world, are taught directly through any of the 21 Algebra 1 standards that I need to teach before the end of the school year.

This has never been more evident that when we started our unit about the application of the quadratic formula. In this unit, students will use

*h*= -16*t*^2 +*vt*+*s*to determine the amount of time it takes an object to hit the ground. I get excited when we start this unit because it takes something that’s completely abstract and adds meaning to it. We started in on one of the practice CST problems and, without having done the work, the majority of the class had the answer. I was astonished and a bit skeptical. When asked how they came to their conclusion so fast, one student explained that “since the person was 120 feet off the ground and he dropped the ball, I estimated that it had to have taken more than 2 and 3 seconds, and 12 seconds seemed like it was a major distractor.” After all of these estimations with visuals and videos, it appears that students have become better mathematicians. At the very least, we are sharpening their deductive reasoning skills.We will continue estimating because that’s what human beings do.

Submitted: May 6, 2013

## Thanks John for sharing.

I enjoyed hearing how students are making good estimates instead of blind guesses. Great stuff!

~ Andrew

~ Andrew