Friday, August 29, 2014

Estimation 180: The Game

Last year after seeing (what seemed like) everyone raving about, I jumped on the bandwagon. The first couple ones we did randomly, just when we had a couple extra minutes at the end of the period here or there. Well the kids absolutely loved it. They would ask me fairly often if we could play "that game" and when I didn't know what that meant, it was "that game with how tall that guy is"

Somewhere around the same time I picked up the game Wits and Wages thinking it would be a great game to play in class. So one day I had the intentions to play the game in class but then of course I forgot it at home.

Thus, the Estimation180 Game was born. It occurred to me that I didn't actually need the game, I just needed some facts for them to estimate. And instead of looking up a list of facts to estimate, why not just pull up

It turned into a fan favorite in my room. In case you are unfamiliar with the rules of Wits and Wagers, I'll explain how we play. If you do know how to play then you probably already have the idea.

I take my desks and turn them into long rows. I teach small classes (like 10 kids) so they all fit at 1 table but you could just as easily make numerous groups.

Each kid gets some number of betting chips (I use foam counters that I have). Depending on the day I'll give them like 10-15 or so to start, each kid gets the same number. I also put out a couple buckets of extra chips along the table. Each kid also gets their own whiteboard.

To play I put up an day and each kid makes their own estimate. They'll usually talk out their reasoning out loud as they think. Sometimes they disagree with each other and they'll argue about it for a bit (good arguing though!). Sometimes they run up to the board and try to measure something, or count how many candy corn are in the measuring cup or whatever. Eventually each kid settles in on their own estimate and writes it on their own board.

Once they're done, the line up the boards in the middle of the table (I don't have them put the boards in numerical order, but maybe I should). Now the betting the starts. They really like the gambling part! I tell them that they can wager anywhere from 1-3 chips. (I'm considering letting them bet up to 5..I don't know though.) They need to do at least 1, but can't do more than 3. They are betting on which answer they think is closest. They can split their chips or not. At first they'll usually put 3 on their own and say they all think theirs is the best answer. Soon they start to get some better strategy going on. Sometimes they'll write their initials next to their chips so that they know which chips are their own. If I had different color chips that would be ideal.

Once they are all done betting I show them the answer. Whichever estimate was the closest is the winning board. I don't use the rule that says they can't go over. It's just the closest. Occasionally we'll have two different answers that are both the winner, like if one was 3 under and another was 3 over. If two kids happened to estimate the same number they are both winning boards.

So for the returns, I do:

  • 3 chips if you wrote an estimate that was exact
  • 2 chips if you wrote the closest estimate
  • 2 to 1 return on anyone that put one of their chips on a winning board
Whoever has the most chips at the end is the winner. They have such a great time. Every time we play it's different how many rounds we get through. I love it because there's always great conversations going on. It sometimes makes me laugh when they get into heated debates with each other because everyone gets their own guess, so there's no real reason for them to have a problem with someone else's answer. I let them go though because it's good conversation.

Anyone else do this? Or play Wits and Wages in the classroom? I did never actually end up playing it since this has been such a hit. Maybe I will eventually when we run out of days.


  1. This idea is so inspiring!
    So far I had my Geometry students keep a running total of 10 days worth of estimates and then the person with the lowest total percentage error won a prize.
    Excited to try with groups of three students (I have 30 per class) and the gambling 3-2-1 chips.
    And your room looks amazing.

  2. Hi... I love this idea and I can't wait to try it with my students. I just have a quick question. Why do you give the students 10-15 chips to start if they are only going to wager 1-3? Do you do more than one round and so they use all of their chips in multiple rounds? Or is it 1-3 chips per estimate until they use all of their chips in one round? Thanks.


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