We created an exciting way to practice estimating skills. It’s called The Estimation Station. The station can be set up on an empty desk, a TV tray, a table corner, or even on top of a low bookshelf.
You will need a clear jar, like a small jelly, relish or pickle jar, or a large baby food jar with the lid. If you prefer plastic, try a small mayonnaise jar. Then fill the jar with candy but not in front of your students. Count the candy as you put it in. Write your total down somewhere so you won’t forget! Here are a few kinds of candies we have used: Starbursts, sweet tarts, candy corn, M&Ms or jellybeans.
Next, put out small pieces of paper so the students can record their guesses. We print out a sheet with our students’ names on them already. (First graders are famous for forgetting to write their names!) Lastly, we add a plastic container or covered shoebox with a slot in the top. You might already have a voting box from class elections you can use. The students will put their guesses inside. We also put out a sign. One at a time, the students visit the station. You can have this as an organized activity, using a class list, calling one student at a time, or you can leave the station out all day and encourage students to visit whenever they’d like. They will look at the jar, turn it around, pick it up and even shake it. Then they will make their guess on the slip of paper and drop it in your slotted container.
After all the guesses are in, we sit as a class and count the candy in the jar. There are always lots of rumblings and gasps as students remember their guesses and exclaim how close they’ve come (or not). We look through each guess and set aside the close or exact ones. The winner (and sometimes winners) gets to keep the contents. (Just transfer them to a Ziplock bag.) 99% of the time the winner wants to share with the whole class (believe it or not)!
We usually do The Estimation Station every day during our magnitude unit for about two or three weeks (depending on our candy supply)! If you’d like for the station to last longer, you can set it up for one day of the week. We’ve done both and they are equally as fun. Start estimating!