Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Guest Blog Posts at Estimation 180

Today, at Estimation 180, I posted some guest blog posts I collected from the beginning part of this year. I'm grateful, honored, and inspired by the stories they (or their students) shared. I hope you have time to check them out and share your story too.

Read their stories here. 


  1. I definitely want to do the estimation 180 with my students this year. My concern is the earlier classes spoiling it for the later classes. Did any of you have this issue? Or how did you prevent the problem. I figured I would address the fun of doing the estimation and talk to the students about not spoiling the fun for other classes. Hopefully that will work.

    1. Hi Mary,

      Great question. This is definitely a valid concern. I'll share a few thoughts and then ask Fawn, Michael, Chris, and John for any additional insight.
      There's always the threat of a spoiler in class, the movies, on TV, the internet, etc. I ran into this last year with students who found my site and would sometimes know the answers ahead of time. There were only a few. I also had a suspicion that some students in early periods would tell others in later periods, but again they were in the minority; we're talking a small percentage of students. Here's a few things I learned.
      I was barely able to prepare these estimation challenges a day or two ahead of when we'd do them in class, so I had that slight advantage. This year, I don't plan on starting at Day 1 and going in sequential order. I will be sharing this year's plans in a comprehensive post soon. This quick turn around regarding the estimation challenges was an advantage, but I still had spoiler kids. Inside, it was a little disappointing at first, but I quickly realized I can't control that. The only thing I did was express my appreciation to my classes for keeping the answers to themselves and not telling their friends. I was sincere, saying many students in my later classes really enjoy the challenges and I'd like them to have a fair opportunity at the estimation challenge for the day without it being spoiled by someone else. When kids were consistently getting them "right" or only off by a small margin, I also had my suspicions. I made the mistake of giving those kids a hard time while pressing them to share their reasoning. It was immediately obvious they had no idea how to explain/justify their answer. That was good enough for me. After that, if they continued to get the "right" answer, I just acted like it was no big thing. Good for them. If they want to cheat, so be it. It's their integrity, not mine. I have bigger things to be concerned about and spent my time and energy on students who shared genuine interest.
      On the plus, now that you ask and I think about it, it's kind of cool that kids are actually talking about math (or these estimation challenges) outside of class time. Regardless of their intentions, that's cool. If they're trying to spoil things to get under our skin, I found the best way is to not let it get under my skin or let them see that. Then they've won. It's a game for them, that's all. It will eventually phase itself out after awhile once the spoilers see it's not bothering you and there's no benefit for them anymore. I believe that most students will understand your sincerity when asking them to keep the answers to themselves. Most importantly, I wouldn't make it an issue until it actually occurs. in other words, don't give students the idea to spoil it for others.
      It would make my day when I heard students talk about the daily challenge without spoiling it. For example:
      First student, "We estimated the height of a bus today."
      Second student, "What is it?"
      First student, "I'm not telling." or "I'm not saying, but what do you think it is?"
      I love the last response because they started having a mathematical conversation without knowing it. This is an ideal situation and happened only a few times, but it was a cool feeling and that's what I would encourage my students to do in a sincere way. Let me know if that helps.

    2. Hi Mary. I just ask the kids not to tell as it spoils the fun. I've never had a problem. Kids are competitive, and the next day they want to know if someone in the other class had had a correct estimate.

    3. Mary,

      I never had a problem with kids spoiling it for the later classes. The only problem that I ran into was student looking up the solutions on their devices since we were a BYOD pilot class. The problem was quickly solved when I told them to keep devices away until we finished our estimation.

      Maybe the big reason why is that there was no grade, no prize, other than a solid high five or fist bump. The kids never felt like they were dumb for getting it wrong or royalty because they were right. The simple joy of taking an educated guess was enough motivation to not want the right answer.

      I would tell my students that my guess was too high or too low (or, very rarely, correct) and it just added to the mystique. Give it a shot... what's the worst that could happen?!

    4. What everyone else said. The only other idea that I might suggest, and it's not ideal, is to hold the answer until the next class. This won't prevent students looking it up on the site, but every class will get a chance to make their own estimate. I say it's not ideal because waiting until the next day might lose you some engagement with certain students. Whatever method you go with, just remember how much you get in terms of building number sense with your students, and place emphasis on what they used to make their estimates, i.e. the context clues.

    5. Hi Mary,

      I had the same worry as you so I did not reveal the answer until the next day. I had each class enter their estimates in a Google Form, collect the answers for each class in a spreadsheet, review the class answers and context clues the next day before showing the answer to the estimate and then doing a new estimate. It worked pretty well and I will likely use this method or something similar this upcoming school year.