Subitizing is…

As a high school math teacher, I had never learned about subitizing. I don’t even know when the supreme education court and math wizards developed this word. It must be fairly new, but maybe not. I don’t know.

Subitizing. Is it really a thing? Spell check doesn’t think so. Google does not define it.

At, subitizing is defined as ”
 the ability to ‘see’ a small amount of objects and know how many there are without counting.”

I think some teachers/parents are critical of it. They think it is a silly word for just memorization. But, some educators really believe in the power of subitizing. The belief by some that subitizing comes before counting has also been brought to the attention of my little brain to ponder and not figure out.

Here is my opinion as a mathematics teacher who just learned about it. It is a funny word for a base step in math literacy. I think subitizing is to learning math literacy as site words are to learning reading and comprehension. These skills are fundamental, as certain things we become familiar with because we have seen them so much we don’t have to think about them.

Subitizing in math ed encourages game play where numbers and number sense is built, so I am on board with that. It is not just dice, subitizing is recognizing groupings of numbers, mostly up to just 4 items in many forms, such as the dots on a dice, fingers, simple images, five scales… There are many subitizing activities starting to emerge I found online.

Which comes first- counting or subitizing for children? Which came first the chicken or the egg? I don’t think that answer really matters for the progress of math literacy.

I have said and will say many times, we just need to provide as much context to numbers and math skills as possible. Grouping is so important as children learn to do the basic operations like adding and subtracting.

Abe and I did a little snack time activity with subitizing, I think. Let’s just keep introducing numbers and having fun with them in as many ways as we can, yeah?

Here is a little flashcard like activity with to go along with the ants on a log I did with Abe:

Ant on a Log Subitizing Flashcards

Here I have a game I also put together that Abe and I play during snack time some days. You can find the printouts for the subitizing squares and paste them to a poster board like I did, or you could just have a set of flashcards. If I were to create the board again, I would use the same size and NOT do the spiral pattern I did here. Abe had a hard time following the spiral. This would be more a parent/child game, rather than just kids.

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