Estimation Station

Using a benchmark to make an estimate is an important skill for our second graders to develop and it's one they continue to revisit through the years. Estimation Station is a really fun way to bring that skill to life in the classroom. A teammate introduced this to me a few years ago and I loved it. For some reason it didn't make it into my routine last year, but his year it's back baby!

We start it at Open House. I put out a jar of Swedish Fish (my fave!) and this sheet asking parents to guess how many fish were in the jar. {Helpful hint: ask parents to leave their guess as mom or dad, ie: Mikey's mom. It will save LOTS of time the next day}

The next day I share their parent's guesses and then we count the fish together. This year one of our parents guessed right on the nose! Since Jordan's dad had the closest guess, Jordan got to take the jar home to fill up and return on Monday. Click {here} to download the form below that I place in the empty jar to send home as well as the sign above and a label for your jar.

Now each week the estimation jar sits out from Monday to Friday and as the kids have some extra time, they are allowed to look at the jar and decide on their estimate. On Friday, I bring the jar to each table and pass out little squares of paper to have the kids write their name and estimate.

Then each table takes their estimates and lines them up on the floor in order from least to greatest and I call a few kids at a time from the other tables to add their estimates to the line-up. In the end we'll have everyone's estimates in order from least to greatest. Duplicate guesses are placed above the original.

Then we name the least guess, the greatest guess and figure out the difference between the least and greatest guesses. Finally, we count the contents of the jar together. Depending on the size of the items we'll skip count by 2's, 5's, 10's...whatever seems appropriate. Today we had a tie! Two kids estimated 100 and the actual number was 101. We did the ol' choose a number from 1-100 as a tie-breaker. So, Diego was the big winner today! He got to help pass out 3 kisses to each classmate and then he got to keep the rest and take the jar home with the responsibility to bring it back on Monday.

This becomes a much anticipated Friday morning ritual and as the year progresses it's amazing to see how much closer their guesses become.

To help the kids understand the concept of using a benchmark to estimate, I have these great books available in the math center and the kids REALLY dig them.

Happy Estimating!


  1. I love this idea! Thanks for sharing! :)
    Crayons and Curls

  2. I love it! I have my "estimation station" that the student of the week fills up and brings back on Fridays, but you just gave me a TON more ideas of how to make it BETTER! Thanks! :)

    Jenn @ The Kinder Life

  3. Thanks for sharing how you line up the estimations. I'm going to do this with mine.

    2B Honey Bunch

  4. What do you do about low income students? Have you had anyone not return the jar or say they are unable to fill it? I love this idea, and I think my third graders would love it too!


    Third Grade's A Charm

  5. I love this idea, but I have a question. What do you do if the same student wins more than once? Do you still have them re-fill it again or give someone else a chance?

  6. @ Jackie - With low income students, you could alter this and just use the same items every week (like inexpensive pasta, for example) then the students wouldn't take it home to re-fill it, but you could still do the activity and practice the skill. Maybe you could send home a note asking for volunteers who would be willing to do it - even if you could get a volunteer for once a month instead of once a week that would be great.

    @Dana - If a student has already won, we usually go to the next closest guess until everyone has had a chance, after that if you win twice you get to take it home twice :)

    Hope that helps!

  7. @ Jackie - another idea might be to enlist the help of a local store - maybe a grocery store can donate enough items for once a month. I know Home Depot and Lowes are very generous to schools. I'm sure you can find lots of things there to fill the jar! :)

  8. Great idea. Estimation can be hard for all of us! Thanks for sharing. Came over from Math Monday.


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