Series: Focus on Play
Quantity Cards for Subitizing
Quantity is a particular amount of something, expressed as a number. Our playing cards represent numbers, not with written numerals, but with visual models of the quantities. Children can see how many with these subitizing cards.
Subitizing is the ability to instantly recognize small quantities, without counting. The first stage of subitizing is perceptual subitizing. We see a small set such as 3 fingers simultaneously and “just know” that it is three. This ability is innate to human cognition and does not require learning other mathematical processes such as counting. The second stage of subitizing is conceptual subitizing when we see small quantities within larger quantities and use number relationships to perceive the whole. For example, 7 on a ten frame can be seen as five and two simultaneously. The whole is instantly recognized as a composite of its parts.
Our subitizing cards for young children use the visual models of traditional dots, but also include finger patterns, lines, and 5- or 10- frames. There are a variety of pictures or “suits,” since matching quantities such as fingers and dots can help develop ideas about equivalence. Experience recognizing how amounts that look different can be equivalent helps children abstract, for instance, the “four-ness” of four when playing card games.
1-5 in Six Suits
These subtizing cards use dots, 5-frames, lines, and fingers for the quantities 1-5. Use this deck of cards for younger children and to emphasize perceptual subitizing, the ability to tell the number of objects in a set quickly, without counting.
1-10 in Four Suits
These subitizing cards use different sets for the quantities 1-10, starting with a traditional dot arrangements and then also using lines, ten-frames, and hands. Use this deck of cards for older children and to emphasize conceptual subitizing, when children see small quantities within larger quantities and use number relationships to perceive the whole.
A New Focus for Familiar Card Games
Here you can learn much more about Quantity Cards and how they build an understanding of early math concepts such as cardinality and composing and comparing numbers.
How to Adapt Math Card Games to Children’s Skill Level
This article and accompanying downloadable instructions explore common card games that can be played and revisited as well as adapted to children’s own math skills as they develop over time.