Predictions & Guesses & Estimates, Oh My!

In second grade we do a great deal of predicting and estimating and maybe even some guessing.  As we work with our students, I believe it’s important that we help them to see the distinctions among these vocabulary words and to point out that they are not interchangeable.

Let’s start by defining what it means to make a guess. In our class, we’ve discussed that a guess is when you have an opinion about what will happen in the future without any data to support your statement. 


Next up is the all-important prediction. We use the term predict all of the time in Number Corner when we ask our students to look for patterns. Reviewing and assessing pattern data to form a supportable opinion about what is likely to happen next is a fantastic way to think about prediction. 

There is, however, an important aspect to predicting that we often overlook. A prediction is based on a pattern and not a specific value or measurement. We can predict, for instance, what type of leaf will come next on our Calendar Collector cards, but if the students are asked to form an opinion about the height in inches of the top of their desk, would that also be a prediction?

While we often use predict and estimate as synonyms, mathematically, they have separate purposes. While a prediction can assess and utilize patterns to form an opinion about what’s next, an estimate uses a defined set of values or measurements to formulate a probable answer to questions such as “how many miles” or “how much time.”

As we work with our students to develop their ability to use data in a meaningful way, let’s be purposeful about giving them the proper vocabulary to explain their thinking.

~Submitted by Grade 2 Bridges Teacher Justin Brown