A penguin estimation game is an awesome way to practice early math skills. This activity helps kids build number sense, practice counting, and work on subitizing. How many penguins will land on the iceberg? Don’t you want to find out?
Penguin Estimation Game
I created this estimation game as an after school activity for my first grader, Aiden. We used the penguin mini erasers from Target’s dollar spot. If you don’t happen to collect mini erasers, than you could use small black rocks and paint them to look like penguins. Check out our penguin painted rocks here. You could also use black pom poms or something similar to represent penguins.
Set up the ocean with a few icebergs. A blue piece of cardstock with white paper cutouts works perfectly for the backdrop of this game.
Have your child take a handful of penguins and drop them above the icebergs. Estimate how many penguins are on an iceberg. Discuss what estimation is first. Estimation is getting a number that is close enough to the right answer. It’s not necessarily the right answer but it gives you a rough idea of how many there are. It’s a pretty good guess.
Ask your child to estimate how many penguins are on the smallest iceberg. Have him go with his gut. What does he quickly think the answer is without counting? Aiden estimated there were 5 penguins on the smallest iceberg. He was correct. I asked him if he just knew that there were 5, if he counted, or if he guessed. Small groups like in this case don’t really need to be estimated. We should be able to subitize them – to know how many there are without counting. This takes practice, too. If you know what a group of 5 penguins looks like, you’ll be able to better estimate larger group sizes.
Estimate how many penguins are on the other icebergs. Take a quick guess and then count to see how many are actually there. Use this opportunity to talk about more than and less than. You estimated that 11 penguins are on the iceberg. There are actually 10 penguins. Are there more or less penguins than you estimated?
Continue playing the estimation game by dropping penguins, estimating, counting, and discussing more than or less than.
My son really enjoyed this activity. His little sister wanted to play, too. (She’s almost 3.) For her, we just dropped the penguins and then practiced counting them.
More Math Activities for Kids
- Play a Car Parking Math Game to practice counting by 5s (free printable)
- Download the free Flowers and Frogs Counting Placemats to work on number recognition, one to one correspondence, and counting (sponsored post)
- LEGO Bowling and Graphing – an awesome way to combine LEGO and math
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