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Everyday Estimation

Collage of space view of earth, areal view of farmland, swimming pool, and close-up view of a nickel
Credit: Pixabay/Pexels

Estimation is more than taking a guess!  The ability to interpret measurement scales and approximate a quantity are essential Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) competencies. This important approximation tool helps interpret the world around us:

  • Comparisons – relative size or quantity
  • Magnitude of small and large numbers
  • Ordering
  • Spatial reasoning
  • Sensemaking
  • Checking for reasonableness

Estimation is used when it’s not important to find an exact measurement. Estimations are also valuable when developing a hypothesis and evaluating if experimental data results are reasonable. Refining estimation skills through practice improves proficiency (and accuracy)!

Educators are invited to attend the free Metric Estimation professional development webinar, which presents the Metric Estimation Game as a model learning activity designed to develop and reinforce estimation skills, select and use appropriate measurement tools, and determine measurement unit quantity, scale, and magnitude. Explore these tables to learn more about approximate measurements and develop reference points.
 

Mass

1300 kg Small Automobile
70 kg Large Dog (Great Dane)
10 kg Bicycle
5 kg Cat
850 g Baseball Bat
270 g NCAA Volleyball
150 g Cell Phone
46 g Golf Ball
5 g Nickel Coin ($0.05)
2.5 g Penny Coin ($0.01)
1 g Currency Note (regardless of denomination)
600 mg Cotton Ball

 

Length

43 km NIST to The Whitehouse
11 km Mariana Trench
90 m Football Field (Length)
3.7 m Interstate Highway Lane (Width)
1 m NCAA Volleyball Net (Width)
153 mm Currency ($5 Bill)
66 cm NCAA Volleyball (Circumference)
19 cm Pencil
1 mm Thickness of a Dime
7 µm Average Human Hair

 

Area

162 m²
(9 m) x (18 m)
NCAA Volleyball Court
616 cm²
(22 cm) x (28 cm)
Office Paper
550 mm2
(25 mm x 22 mm)
First Class U.S. Postage Stamp

 

Volume

1 ML Olympic Swimming Pool
235 L Bathtub
5 L Blood in Human Body
4L Full Human Stomach
3.79 L Gallon of Milk
355 mL Soda Pop Can
200 mL Juice Box
80 mL Empty Human Stomach
15 mL Eye Drop Bottle

 

Temperature

5500 °C Surface of the Sun
100 °C Water Boils
37 °C Human Body Temperature
20 °C Room Temperature
0 °C Water Freezes

Resources

Contacts

Created February 4, 2010, Updated August 29, 2022