Kids aren’t born knowing how to estimate. It’s a skill that needs to be taught. It involves:
Understanding quantity. Babies are born with a basic sense of quantity. Young kids can typically sense when some quantity is more than another, but they don’t automatically know how to say it in words.
Representing quantities. Kids need to match a number word to a quantity, like saying “five” to represent five dots. They also need to know that the numeral 5 is the same as the word five, and that both represent a group of five objects.
Understanding that quantities don’t have to be fixed. Kids need to grasp the idea that “around 10 dots” might be more or less than exactly 10.
Counting and calculating. Kids’ ability to estimate improves as they get better at counting and calculating exact numbers. For example, knowing that 20 + 20 = 40 makes it a lot easier to estimate what 23 + 25 is.
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number sense skills