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The Importance of Subitizing


Subitizing is the ability to determine how many are in a set of objects without actually counting, and it is a component of the big umbrella term “number sense.” Automatically knowing the amount in a set without stopping to count them (subitizing) is important for a few reasons. One reason is it eliminates errors in using fingers to count and other methods for counting. But subitizing, most importantly, sets a strong foundation for future math skills such as decomposition and composition of specific quantities. For example, visualizing a set of 5 dots automatically will help them in the future realize that it can be decomposed into 3 dots and 2 dots.

How can subitizing be taught?

Subitizing, much like the other number sense skills, can definitely be taught. When teaching preschool kids to subitize we need to keep in mind the ease in which they are able to see the arrangements of objects.

Subitizing Tips

1. Kids can see arrangements the easiest in a straight line, followed by arrangements in a rectangular fashion, followed by sporadic arrangements.

2. Typically young preschoolers (3 year olds) have a tough time with more than two (sometimes three) objects in a set. Start with arrangements with one and two objects and then progress to three objects.

3. Most four year olds can handle subitizing four objects.

**Keep in mind all kids are different and you will have to see what works for your child.

Subitizing Activities

We know some what kind of arrangements kids see easiest (straight lines!) and how many objects they can handle subitizing at specific ages. Now it’s time to help them master subitizing with fun activities.

Dominoes & Dice

Dominoes : When you first introduce dominoes to your child they will have to count the dots on the blocks every time. But the more that they play with dominoes the less they will have to count each dot to know how many dots are on each block. That’s right! They will be subitizing the dots on dominoes! To avoid your child becoming overwhelmed you may want to take out dominoes with larger groups of numbers.

Dice : Any game that involves a dice is indirectly working on subitizing. You could play a board game or make up your own game. “Animal Action Dice” is a quick, easy game that we play at our house. Each number on the dice represents an animal action. You can either write these down on a paper with a picture of an animal next to each number, or you can help them remember out loud. Your child will roll the dice and do the animal action/sound for whatever number they roll. You can also make this into a simple action game (run, jump, crawl, skip, hop, crab walk, etc).

Subitizing is a very important number sense skill that can be taught through playing games.
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Cardinality and Counting
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Content copyright © 2014 by Amy Tradewell. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Amy Tradewell. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Amy Tradewell for details.

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How to Teach Your Child Cardinality & Counting

Number Sense Development

Number Sense : The Foundation of Math

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