Q&A #1154

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Front End Estimation

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From: Beth

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2003112500:56:03
Subject: Front-End Estimation - is it really helpful?

	I had my first experience using front-end estimation with my third
grader this evening.  My son is currently making A's in math, but the
usual homework session ends with him throwing his pencil across the
floor, and declaring that I have no clue about how to do math.  Oh the
joys of parenthood!  His current math method gives no
instructions/examples for the parent and student to follow, and yet
many of the problems, especially those that require estimation or
front-end estimation are subject to a great deal of interpretation.  

Here is an example from tonight's homework:

Use front-end estimation to estimate each sum.
334 + 865 + 202 =

My estimate would be 1400.  My son's estimate was 1300.  After I
reviewed his other answers to the first twelve problems, and talked
with him about the problems that he completed during class, I realized
that we were adding only the digits in the first column, and replacing
the other columns with zeros.  My son is slightly frustrated that he
had to explain this to me, and we move on.  

Here comes problem #13. 
Is the sum of $4.32 +$6.90 +$7.86 greater than $17.00?  Explain.  
My son says no.  He is still using the concept of front-end estimation
that he used in the earlier problems, so he has decided that
4+6+7+=17.  After I politely disagree that the sum is greater than
$17, and try to provide an explanation on paper, his is no longer in
the mood to continue the assignment.  

I write a letter to his teacher, wishing for a math method that
provided slightly better examples.  I consider myself to be an
educated adult. 
When did third grade math become this complicated?

I decided to look up front-end estimation on-line, and I find this
website.  After reading some of the other comments that were posted, I
see several different interpretations of FEE.  Adding the first two
columns would seem to provide a more accurate answer, but this is
apparently not how it was explained to my son.  It is my feeling that
FEE would be helpful only for the young student who is trying to
achieve a very broad estimate.  If we were at the supermarket,
rounding to the closet currency would seem more appropriate.  

It's good to know that I am not the only parent who is questioning the
method behind the madness!

I agree with your concept of using a variety of methods, because I
feel that sometimes teachers limit themselves to one, and then are not
able to help the student who responds better to a different type of
approach.  I applaud your desire to help the students really
understand the math.  It appears to me, however, that in your
examples, you are combining FEE and rounding.  

Thank you all for sharing your desire to better understand the process
and provide the best education for our children.  

Happy mathing!

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