Math Mondays::Estimate This!

It’s already been determined by me that if my kids aren’t having fun, they aren’t learning. This runs counter to the public school theory that, to the best of my knowlege, felt that if my kids were having fun, they weren’t learning. And, truth to tell, because I am a product of that same public education, sometimes I look around and think, “Hey! There’s too much fun going on in here! Where’s the learning at?!”

There is a precedent for the role of play and fun in learning, at least in Athenian Greece:

Ancient Greeks have not only inspired countless generations that followed them to match or surpass their learning, but also instituted a sophisticated system of education through play, from the cradle to the grave. Given the heroic or “aristocratic” spirit of ancient Greece, the young were not only encouraged “always to excel”, but provided with corresponding play opportunities to do so. This explains why in ancient Greece, there were rarely any young social ‘dropouts’. Since there was so much for them to do inside a playful world, they did not wish to leave it. On the contrary, we have the opposite phenomenon of the young in ancient Greece knocking ‘down’ on adult doors, so they may be allowed to play in their games, too

I’ve found that even the most boring tasks around the house get a little ‘pep’ by making them into games. At first, I started making games out of ‘chores’ to stop the whining about doing them. But then, since most of the games incorporate estimating into the play, I discovered that my kid’s time and estimation skills improved a LOT.

This is a big deal over here, because at least two of us have dyscalculia (*ahem* Naturalist and me *ahem*) and at least one of us tends to become overwhelmed at daunting tasks and falls apart at the seams (*ahem* Golfer *ahem*). Dyscalculics have legendary poor time estimation skills, and keeping track of time, telling time, and our internal clocks seem to be completely unreliable and wacky.

HOWEVER, estimation is a valuable tool to have, in life AND in math. And here are some fun ‘life games’ that make math a little bit more…well…fun!

Estimating Length of Time:
*How long is a minute–While they are doing different activities, start a stopwatch and then ask the kids to tell you when a minute has passed. Do this at the dinner table, when they are washing dishes, when they are watching TV, doing the laundry, getting ready for bed, etc. etc. Anytime is a good time to estimate a minute. This is a GREAT way to introduce the theory of relativity, lol. My kids quickly realized that a minute watching TV went by much faster than a minute doing the dishes. An ice cream eating minute felt speedy while a folding laundry minute was super sloooow.

*How long do activities take–Once they got a minute down, we moved on to 5 minutes and then to 10. Then we started timing different activities. Golfer used to freak out when he’d face a mountain full of dirty dishes in the sink, because he figured he’d have to wash them for HOURS. Now he knows that it may feel like an hour, but the most he’s ever spent at the sink is 12 minutes. Same with a 10 minute clean up of their rooms. It’s even fun to make a chart with spaces for activities that take about 1 minute, about 5 minutes, about 15 minutes, about 1/2 hour, and about 1 hour. They can fill in what they think will take that long, and then time it. Most of the chore items they reported would take an HOUR to complete, but when we timed it, it was mostly 15 minutes or under. This amazed them, and helped develop a more accurate inner clock.

I have to say, nothing annoyed me more than being told, “One more minute, Mom!” and then a half hour would go by. Or, I’d say, “5 more minutes and then we’re turning the TV off!” and they’d go, “OK!” and then I’d turn it off after 5 minutes and be met with wailing and gnashing of teeth. Or the whining when it was time to do the dishes or fold laundry because it was going to ‘take FOREVER!!!!’.

Since doing these estimation drills, all that has decreased. They’ve gotten a good grip on how time ‘feels’ in their day. And if they ever relapse and say, “I don’t have TIME to shower/do the dishes/clean my closet!” then I say, “Wanna bet? I bet you can do it in under 15 minutes!” and they fall for it every time.

Who knew estimation could be such a strong ally in my mommy arsenal?!

(PS, many of these examples are gleaned from 50 Fabulous Measurement Activities but I see as I link to it that some kind of crazy is going on in the world of Amazon. There is one available for $17.00, and the rest are available for the reasonable price of $50-90!!! For this book!!!! Which I should offer to sell!!!!! Because I bet I could get, like, a billion dollars for it!!!! But I love it too much, I’m not even tempted to put it up there. But what the heck is going on? Are they out of print? Does everyone love their copy so much, no one is selling theirs, leading to a shortage? Someone with an econ background, tell me why this is so?!)

Math Monday Fever on other blogs:
Math Bingo!!! Yay!!! Over at Ordinary Life Magic.