If you point at a tree and ask your child how many leaves they think are on the tree, you’re likely to get a number that’s anywhere between one and a ‘bazillion’.

Click start to play today’s Spell It, where we help kids ‘lock’ in much closer estimates.

When it comes to estimating something, it involves much more than guesswork. According to a September 2022 report in National Geographic, it’s a conclusion you reach after a methodical thought process using facts and information that’s available to you.

For children, the skill of estimation is a huge brain booster. It helps them exercise their critical thinking, imagination, visualisation, organisation and communication. It’s also a great way to introduce maths to young children – even toddlers. A May 2013 study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that preschool kids who were unable to estimate the number of objects in a group were more likely to experience difficulties in understanding maths at a later age.

So, just how does one teach the elusive science of estimation? Here are a few strategies that parents can use with their kids, according to the National Geographic report:

## 1. Counting leaves

When you ask a child to analyse how many leaves there are on a tree, you’re getting them to improve their counting and multiplication skills. Forestry researchers analyse this by measuring the area beneath the crown of a tree, or counting fallen leaves and using that number to estimate the percentage of remaining leaves. Here’s how you can guide a child to get a better estimate:

• Help them count the number of leaves on one tree twig.
• Get them to find a branch and count how many twigs it has.
• Ask them to count the number of branches on the tree.
• Now, it’s time to multiply. Multiply the number of leaves on the twig by the number of twigs on the branch, then multiply that number by the branches on the tree.

## 2. Counting jelly beans in a jar

This popular counting game involves counting and multiplication skills, when done right. One way to make an estimation is:

• Ask your child to look at the underside of the jar – how many jelly beans are on the bottom?
• Next, have them count the number of layers of jelly beans in the jar.
• Multiply those two numbers to get an estimation. If the jar isn’t a cylinder, you can even add a few more jellybeans for a more accurate result.

## 3. Estimating sunset

If you’re hiking or camping with your child, there’s a quick way of figuring out what time the sun will set – without any clocks or the help of the internet.

• First, on a clear afternoon, find a view of the horizon that’s unobstructed by trees or buildings.