The Counting Jar


Do you have a counting jar in your homeschool classroom?  Public school classroom?  Back in my teaching days, some very wise teachers shared this Math Center activity with me and today, I introduced it to my boys 🙂  There were so excited!  (Perhaps, we don’t get out enough?! ;0)

What is this counting jar I speak of?

Just a jar or container that is clear.  Mine is a container that held Halloween themed pretzels from Costco.  I bought those 150 count pretzels JUST for this darn jar (2 YEARS AGO…I think we’re still eating those pretzels!).  Can you believe that?  If you’re a teacher, you get it!  We {heart} containers!

How does it work? 

Each Monday, I place items in the jar.  Usually themed.  In this case, apples for the start of the year.  You could use pencils, pumpkins, stockings, Christmas ornaments, feathers at Thanksgiving…you get the picture.

When I present The Jar, I remind them that they shouldn’t count the items, but ESTIMATE how many they believe are in the jar.  I only give them a few seconds to make their prediction.  Use those words, estimate…prediction….educated guess.  So, for example, today introducing this activity, I asked:

“Do you think there could be a million apples in this jar?”

“NOOOOOOOO mommy!”  They said.

“Do you think there could be a hundred apples in this jar?”

“NOOOOOOOOO mommy!”  Replied the boys.

“Do you think there is ONE apple in this jar?”

“NAWWWW mom!”  shouted the students.

Next, they each write their name and  guess onto a post-it and stick it to the jar.  I also guessed.



The *educated* guess!


22. Good guess for his first time.  This was the afternoon after SEVERAL sick days.  He was itching to do something.  About 30 minutes after this picture the fever came back and he was down for a while again.  So, forgive the pj’s and overall puny looking kid :)


Here’s me guessing. Noah took the picture…seeing as how we’re battling through a virus in our home, my face and/or hair being left off was also an *educated* decision on his part :)


My post-it!


Brody, our 3 year-old’s post-it. I wrote his guess down for him. Hudson, the toddler, guessed “Dada!”. :)

Then, on Friday, you take the items out and you actually count the items with your kiddos.  There is trepidation and excitement as we slowly count the items and we see who’s post-its are still in the running!  (Again, perhaps we should get out more ;))??

We were ALLLLLL wrong! There were 16!

This is a great activity for boosting estimation skills!  And so easy and cheap to implement!  Hope you can use this idea in your homeschool classroom!

The number of items you’ll choose depends greatly on the age and ability level of your kiddos.  To make this activity more difficult, I’d ask my oldest to guess how many green v. red, etc.

For older children, even rounding to the nearest 5 or 10 would be a challenging exercise as well!  Make sure YOU guess as well!  My son was very impressed that “not even mom got it right” today 🙂  I always try to just place the items in without counting so that it’s an honest game.

Have fun counting y’all!

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