Best Activities To Teach Subitizing: The art of grasping numbers with a glance

Last Updated on October 11, 2023 by Editorial Team

Subitizing is a new-age learning methodology that is moving away from the era of rote learning. It is derived from the Latin word subitus, which roughly translated in English means ‘sudden’.

It refers to a learning strategy around recognizing numbers with a glance and without actually counting them individually. The ‘sudden’ glance of numbers should be enough to get a fair approximation of the numbers, and as a strategy, it is somewhat close to estimation (although different from it).

It is a learning building block, targeted at children of 3 years and above, to help them evolve their general mental ability around math and numbers.

It is also able to sharpen the tactile and auditory senses that are your judgment of touch and smell, although research on this is still in its nascent stages.

Types of subitizing

Subitizing can be broadly categorized into two categories: Perpetual Subitizing and Conceptual Subitizing.

Perpetual subitizing is the preliminary stage of the process and mostly involves recognizing up to four numbers at a glance. It is taught to children who have just started their learning phases.

Conceptual subitizing on the other hand is a more advanced level of subitizing and is taught when the child has become comfortable with the initial phase. It involves a larger value of numbers and may often be arranged in a complex pattern.

 The child needs to see a pattern in this arrangement and then add them up in pairs of two, three, and fours and come up with a total. All this, with just a glance at the arrangement.

Some helpful activities to teach subitizing

1. Get Creative

subitizing practice

 You can start subitizing to a child as young as three years. Make it a personal experience for your child and you can start by using everyday items. If your child likes to draw use his crayons or if he has a sweet tooth, call the cookie jar into action. If you have a dog, use his snacks to teach your child to compare and subitize.

Arrange a few items in different arrangements and ask your child to find groups among them that have the same number of items. You can arrange the doggie snacks in several groups of different arrangements and ask your child to feed the dog to the groups that have a similar number of treats.

At a later stage of their subitizing training, you can also take a few cookie jars with cookies in them, and ask your child to pick two jars that have the maximum number of cookies in them. Make sure the child does not count the numbers individually. You can ensure this by giving them just enough time to glance through and then asking them to write the number on a piece of paper.

2. Printable Worksheets

Once your child gets a basic understanding of this concept, you can download the printable worksheets that are available to help in teaching the child subitizing.

It contains various activities in the form of questions based on dice, dominoes, and dot charts. This helps the child in strengthening their understanding of numbers based on quick approximation with a glance. It also helps you assess your child’s performance and any further improvements that he makes in the process.

3. Subitizing Cards

Subitizing activity cards by didax
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Subitizing cards are an excellent way to get your child involved in an activity to improve their subitizing. They use dot patterns to help your children a sense of numbers.

You can these cards in front of your child showing the dots and then hide them. The child thus has to identify the number of dots on the card in a second. Use can also use the write on\wipe off type of cards. You can make your own dots and start playing the guessing game.

4. Maths Activity Dice Set

Ten frame activity dice set by hand2mind
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The Maths activity dice set is also an excellent tool to encourage your child into subitizing activities. It comes with ten-frame maths activity dice and an activity book to help you engage your child in a productive manner.

It allows your child to develop an understanding of the composition and decomposition of numbers, and the unification of different number frames to come to a single numerical answer.

5. Go Online

The Millennial generation is born with a tab in their hands. Use it to their advantage. There are a number of online games available online targeted at teaching the kids subitizing.

Some of them are ‘Tug Team Multiplication’, where the numbers are represented by tractors, or ‘Counting in the kitchen’, where the child has to pick the plate with the food items similar in number to what is displayed on the screen. Then we have games like ‘How many much’ and ‘Gracie and Friend’s Birthday Café’ and many, many more.

Sometimes we wish we were born in the generation, eh?

Summing up,

The response time for subitizing numbers above four increases by 250-350 ms on average per each additional item. Hence, it is still an important fundamental skill on which a strong structure for mathematics and analytical science can be built. It is also a building block for the overall intellectual development of the child.

Subitizing today is increasingly getting the attention and niche it deserves in our educational system with respect to early intellectual development and teaching techniques for the children that will build the tomorrow.

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