Questimate! Makes Learning Estimation Skills Fun

by Jacob Klein
August 1, 2013

Back in 2010, Motion Math was a finalist in the first Cooney Center Prizes for Mobile Learning. They’ve continued to make some amazing apps since then, including Motion Math Zoom, Motion Math: Hungry Fish, and more.  CEO and co-founder Jacob Klein shares some of the inspiration behind the creation of their latest app, Questimate!, a game that makes estimation fun.


Our new estimation game Questimate! came out a couple weeks ago. It’s the first game where players make their own questions. Critics dig it so far, and some have asked us how exactly we developed the game. Where did it come from? Here are four main inspirations:

1. Parents and teachers repeatedly told us that their kids struggle with estimation, measurement, and real world math. There’s often a disconnect between abstract math over here on the chalkboard, and all the real-world math that kids do (even if they don’t know they’re doing it) over there. (Shelley Goldman’s Family Math Project at Stanford highlights just how many ways families do math without realizing it.) So we wanted a game to build estimation skills.

2. The Maker movement. EdSurge invited us last year to the first EdTech tent at MakerFaire and the enthusiasm we saw from kids blew us away — they’re so inspired and energized when put in control! So we wondered: what would it mean for kids to be in control of a learning game? That question lead us to the central game mechanic of Questimate! — making your own questions.

3. The wild comparisons and facts from Wikipedia and the web and Guinness Book of World Records that people share in person, on Reddit’s “Today I Learned“, and other places. Often, in conversation, people will ask the other person to guess (“Guess how many Earths away from Earth the moon is?”) It’s a social way to heighten the wow-factor, more than simply telling the other person a fact.

4. Dan Meyer’s work on Perplexity and research findings such as the recent one that hands-on interactive activities work best at the beginning of a lesson. Most math textbooks “pre-chew” away the mystery from real-world math problems by presenting total, perfect information. We wanted a game that confronts the player with rough, challenging, visceral questions. If there’s continuing interest, players can dig into the web source for the information and the precise math behind the answer. But we don’t start with information: we start with an interesting question; in the case of Questimate!, it’s a question the player has created.


Jacob KleinCEO and co-founder Jacob Klein is a media producer, educator, and software developer. He’s earned several Stanford degrees: a B.S. in Symbolic Systems, a Master’s in Learning, Design, and Technology, and a hearty pat on the back from the Summer Institute for Entrepreneurship. Jacob won a Loeb (business journalism’s highest award) for a seven-part Lehrer NewsHour series he co-produced and edited; as an educator, Jacob tutored students in math and writing, and taught at a KIPP charter school. He’s excited to build Motion Math into a company that can provide many playful, rigorous learning experiences.