Q&A #1154

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Front End Estimation

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From: Ganeshan

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2001102419:35:30
Subject: Front End Estimation

After many attempts with my daughters math book, her class work
and her discussions with her teacher, I got nowhere with 
this Front End estimation problems. As a concept it is clear
what it is all about and it is obvious how it can be helpful.

The confusion is, what level of accuracy (how many digits places,
extent of rounding, etc) is required and never is it mentioned
along with the problems and exercises. The real issue here is what
my daughter asks - If such problems appear in a test, to what 
accuracy (or place digits) should I do this ? - Clearly, claiming
that "estimates can never be wrong" is wrong in this context, as
only one specific value will be accepted as the right answer.

By doing exercises with such incomplete requirements, we end up
confusing the kids and discourage them from the fun of math. I 
agree very well the PTA member referred at the start of this thread,
that accurate computations are enough at the elementary level.

Only after they have mastered clear, accurate and straight methods
and exercises, with large numbers, extensively should approximation
and estimation techniques be taught (may be in middle school). Even
then specifying required level of accuracy is a must.

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