The power of estimation

Sandhya Singh

What is measurement? What is measurement for children?
If you ask children to measure an empty bucket, the first thing they will need to know is what about the bucket is to be measured. Children need opportunities to explore how an object can have many different measurable attributes. For example, let’s take an ice cream cone. What questions are children likely to ask?
1. How long will it take me to eat the ice cream cone?
2. How much ice cream will I need to fill the cone?
3. How high can I pile the ice cream before it falls over?
4. Will my hand fit around the cone?

pp-1 Children construct the meaning of measurement in terms of length, weight, volume, capacity, time and money. According to the constructivist approach children construct knowledge using their immediate environment. So to help children understand a concept we must build their knowledge of the concept using familiar contexts and objects. For example, to measure length (approximately) they can use hand or foot span, duster, books, sticks, etc. For weight, they can use food packets, vegetables, fruits, etc.

While teaching measurement we generally focus on the units of measurement and their relationship with each other. It is important to understand the need for standard units and their application in daily life. But before children actually learn to measure objects accurately it is important to teach them how to estimate measurement. It is not always that you have the proper tools with you to measure exactly. In fact, more often than not we depend on estimation to carry out activities in our daily lives.

The author holds B.El.Ed and M.Ed from the University of Delhi and M.A. Mathematics from SHIATS, Allahabad. She has worked with ‘Currimakers’ as a mathematics content developer and teacher educator. She has conducted workshops in various B.El.Ed colleges to give exposure on ‘Facets of curriculum’. Her areas of expertise are writing elementary mathematics curriculum, teacher training, research on pedagogy of mathematics and development of assessment tools. She can be contacted at

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