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Subitising refers to being instantly and automatically able to recognise small numerosities without having to count (Clements, 1999; Jung et al., 2013; Moeller et al., 2009; Clements & Sarama, 2009).
‘Some suggest that subitising may well be the developmental prerequisite skill necessary to learn counting. If so, we should examine subitising more closely and determine if reinforcing this skill in children will help them learn counting easier’ (Sousa, 2008). There are also ‘strong suggestions that all later mathematics is built on the ability to subitise (Baker, 2015).
Clements (1999) describes two types of subitising: perceptual and conceptual.

Perceptual Subitising

Perceptual subitising involves recognising a number without using other mathematical processes. It assists children to separate collections of objects into single units and connect each unit with only one number word, thus developing the process of counting.

Conceptual Subitising

Conceptual subitising allows one to know the number of a collection be recognising a familiar pattern, such as the spatial arrangement of dots on the faces of dice or on domino tiles. Other patterns may be kinesthetic, such as using finger patterns to figure out addition problems, or rhythmic patterns, such as gesturing out one “beat” with each count.

What Does Research Tell Us?

Subitizing: What Is It? Why Teach It? Douglas H. Clements (1999)

A seminal article which is often referred to!!

Subitizing: A Critical Early Math Skill Subitizing Paula Hartman, Myoungwhon Jung and Greg Conderman, Northern Illinois University (2012)
An easy to read article that contains activities and apps.
Again, an easy to read article that contains activities to support children in learning to subitize.

Activities to Support Perceptual Subitising

Dice games – simply playing board games with a 6-sided subitised die will assist children in developing perceptual subitising.

Making Patterns – show a quick image or flash card of a subitised pattern. Children then use counters or coloured glass stones to replicate the pattern. This activity assists children to visualise patterns and embed the image in their minds.

PowerPoint of Quick Images

Display each dot pattern for only 3 seconds. Click ‘enter’ to go to a blue screen then click again to reveal the answer.

Domino: Games with Dots from Lessons Learnt Journal

Printable Dominoes from First-School.ws

Printable Dominoes from Helping With Math

Subitizing with Dot Plates from Mathematics for the Curious Pre-K-K  Click on the owl to download

Flower and Flower Pot Match from Lovely Commotion

1-6 Playing Cards for Go Fish and Concentration

Monster Dice Match from The Measured Mom

Ladybug, Ladybug Roll and Cover from Oceans of First Grade Fun

Ice Cream Count and Match from The Measured Mom

Subitizing – Laying the foundations for number sense – yes, there is a cost involved but this book by Ann and Johnny Baker provides activities and games, problematized situations and mental routines. The mental routine includes closed, open and flipped questions, that encourage a deeper level of thinking.  great resource!!


Until next time,