Research, Reflection, Practice: Comparison helps students learn to be better estimators

The ability to estimate is not only a valuable math skill but also an essential life skill. Many adults use estimation daily: when tipping a waitress, determining the cost of a sale item, or converting units. Within mathematics, the ability to estimate is linked to deep understanding of place value, mathematical operations, and general number sense (Beishuizen, van Putten, and van Mulken 1997) and allows students to check the reasonableness of their answers to mathematics problems in a variety of contexts.

Contributor Notes

Jon R. Star,, is a former middle school and high school mathematics teacher and is currently an assistant professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is interested in the learning and teaching of mathematics at all grade levels.

Martina Kenyon,, teaches high school math at Ayer Middle-High School in Ayer, Massachusetts, and is interested in helping students build problem-solving skills in first- and second-year algebra and geometry.

Rebecca M. Joiner,, who has taught middle school mathematics for several years, is interested in the development of meaningful learning experiences through comparison, prior experiences, and peer interactions.

Bethany Rittle-Johnson,, an assistant professor in the psychology and human development department of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, studies how children learn math and ways to improve mathematics teaching. Edited by Dorothy White,, an associate professor in the department of mathematics and science education at the University of Georgia in Athens. Articles in TCM's “research, reflection, practice” department describe research and demonstrate its importance to practicing classroom teachers. Submit appropriate manuscripts of between 2000 and 2500 words by accessing See detailed submission guidelines at

(Corresponding author is Star author is Kenyon author is Joiner author is Rittle-Johnson author is White
Teaching Children Mathematics


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