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Subitising - FREE resources

Updated: Sep 14

Subitising is the ability to look at a small group of objects and instantly know how many there are, without counting. It is a foundational math skill that is essential for success in later maths learning. When secure and mastered, it can reduce cognitive load.

Subitising with dots

There are a few reasons why subitising is so important. First, it helps children develop a strong understanding of number sense. When children can subitise, they are able to see the relationships between different numbers and groups of objects. This helps them to make sense of math problems and to solve them more easily.

Second, subitising helps children to develop efficient counting skills. When children can subitise small groups of objects, they can count larger groups more quickly and accurately. This is because they can use their subitising skills to help them to keep track of where they are in the counting process.

Third, subitising is a skill that is used in many different areas of mathematics. For example, subitising is used in addition and subtraction problems, in multiplication and division problems and in geometry problems.

So how can we help children to develop their subitising skills? Here are a few tips:

  • Start small. When first teaching subitising, focus on small groups of objects, such as 1, 2, 3, and 4.

  • Use different materials. There are many different materials that can be used to teach subitising, such as dots, blocks, and fingers.

  • Make it fun. Subitising should be a fun and engaging activity for children. Use games, songs, and other activities to make it enjoyable.

  • Provide feedback. When children are subitising, be sure to provide them with feedback. This will help them to learn from their mistakes and to improve their skills.

The slides below offer some support with subitising. They are ready to use in classrooms or as part of a staff meeting.

Subitising to 3

Subitising to 3

Subitising to 3

Subitising to 3

Subitising to 3

Here are some examples of pedagogical decisions that can be made around subitising:

  • When to introduce subitising: Subitising can be introduced to children as early as preschool. However, it is important to start with small groups of objects and to gradually increase the difficulty as children progress.

  • How much time to spend on subitising: The amount of time spent on subitising will vary depending on the needs of the children. However, it is important to make sure that children have ample opportunity to practice subitising skills.

  • What materials to use: There are many different materials that can be used to teach subitising. The best materials to use will depend on the age and interests of the children.

  • How to assess subitising skills: There are a variety of ways to assess subitising skills. One way is to simply ask children to subitise different groups of objects. Another way is to give children a worksheet or game that requires them to subitise.

As children develop mastery of subitising, it may be varied to numbers to 10. Using these images can also develop children's reasoning. Asking children: "How do you see it?" as in the image below:

Subitising and reasoning

Subitising and reasoning

Subitising and reasoning
Subitising and reasoning

Subitising and reasoning

Subitising is an important math skill that can be taught to children of all ages. By following the tips and suggestions in this blog post, you can help your children to develop strong subitising skills that will benefit them in their early math learning and beyond.

Downloadable resource to use in classrooms / staff meeting / professional development below:

Download PPTX • 1.39MB

Download PDF • 948KB

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