Monday, March 29, 2010

Counting Is For The Birds

According to February 2010, issue of Teaching Children Mathematics, connecting mathematical thinking to the natural world can be as simple as looking up to the sky. Volunteer bird watchers around the world help scientist gather data about bird populations. Counting all the birds in a large flock is impossible, so reasonable estimates are made using certain techniques. Scientists draw on these estimates to describe trends in the populations of certain species and identify areas for further research.

Your child's classroom can learn to count birds as a science project or you can do it as a family project. Estimation is a fundamental aspect of developing strong number sense. Your child can get the feel for a large number as he/she attempts, compares, and discuss different estimation techniques. Below are some skill your child or child's classroom will gain from estimating and counting birds:

1. Skip counting
2. Draw on visualization
3. multiplication
4. Counting by large numbers
5. Collect and organize data
6. Spatial relationships
7. A sense of more, less, or the same
8. Decision making

You or your child's classroom teacher might want to collect bird data and send it to scientist as a part of the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology Project Feeder Watch ( The website for the great backyard bird count has general information about birding and is accessible resource for teachers, parents, and students (


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