Computational Estimation and Mathematics Education: A Narrative Literature Review

Paul Andrews, Pernille Bødtker Sunde, Mona Nosrati, Jöran Petersson, Eva Rosenqvist, Judy Sayers, Constantinos Xenofontos

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Computational estimation, typically construed as an approximate mental calculation of an arithmetical problem, is an important skill in everyday life and a wide range of professional contexts. Despite its importance, textbooks and curricula address it inadequately, with the consequence that many teachers are uncertain as to why and how they should teach it. In this paper, we present a narrative literature review that brings together the extensive research of the cognitive psychologists and the limited research of the mathematics educators to clarify the nature of computational estimation and its development. Focused initially on the strategies used in computational estimation before turning to children’s and adults’ computational estimation competence, the review shows that computational estimation, which develops over time, draws on a wide range of strategies reciprocally dependent on a secure understanding of numbers and arithmetic. It shows that the poor estimation competence of children and adults’ is susceptible to interventions, particularly with respect to addressing a common misconception that the purpose of computational estimation is the mental calculation of exact solutions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Mathematics Education
Pages (from-to)6-27
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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