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Estimation is an important skill in life and in math.  The critical question is: about how many _______ are there?

Students always want to count in order to figure out how many there are. The instinct is correct.  But, we also want to teach them to make a ballpark guess.  What does "about 2" look like?  What does "about 10" look like? What does "about 100" look like?

Point to a tree and ask young students how any leaves it has and you will get guesses everywhere from 10 to a million.  Students tend to just guess the highest number that they can think of.  A student who has learned to estimate can tell the difference between "about 10" and "about 100" and "about 1000" and, when asked "about how many," will not try to count when something is in the hundreds.