All children are born with an innate ability to perceive the difference between 1 and 2 objects. With support and experience, they can quickly perceive and name “how many” for collections of 3, 4, and 5 objects. This mathematical ability is called subitizing. Here is a subitize definition: from the Latin word meaning suddenly, the term subitize refers to the ability to "see" a small amount of objects and know “how many” there are instantly without counting.
Not all arrangements of the same number are equally easy to subitize — preschoolers will recognize that there are 5 dots quickly if they are arranged like the corners of a square with a dot in the middle, but may be slower or less sure if the 5 dots are in a straight line, particularly if they are very close together. Understanding what it means to subitize definition and all is a good start, but more fully understanding how it works in the mind of young children means exploration of the concept.
While it’s important that adults get to hear children count out loud, it’s also important that they acknowledge when children correctly identify a small amount without counting it at all.
The above are excerpts from the Collaborative's book Big Ideas of Early Mathematics: What Teachers of Young Children Need to Know (2014).
Browse our collection of resources tagged SUBITIZING.
April 29, 2019
Here you can download cards and simple-to-learn game ideas to help young children build their understanding of early math concepts such as cardinality and composing and comparing numbers.
Regardless of how high a preschooler can rote count, a child’s sense of what those numbers actually mean develops gradually. We call this understanding number sense, and it requires relating numbers to real quantities.
This bingo-like game allows children to think about numbers in different ways. It focuses children on the attribute of quantity of small sets and helps them build a more robust number sense.
This game played with a hula hoop and bean bags demonstrates all the math that can be explored with a simple tossing game. Each round gives children practice seeing and naming smaller parts of a total number in a variety of ways.
Moving from one activity to another just got a lot more mathematical with this simple routine that builds early number sense with preschoolers.
Transition time is a great time for mathematizing a daily routine. This dot card transition is a relatively simple routine that builds number sense in a concrete way.
Creating grid games from classroom materials can be a great opportunity for fun and mathematical discussions involving small sets.
Grid games can be some of the earliest experiences children have with board games. And they can be both fun and mathematical.
This book is a delightful way to start a discussion about estimation in the early grades. Is it reasonable that Hugh Thomas caught a million fish?