What is Subitizing in Preschool?

Subitizing in preschool - 5 easy activities + printables.
Subitizing in preschool - 5 easy activities + printables.

Subitizing sounds like a big skill for preschool, but simply put subitizing is the ability to quickly identify the number of items in a small set without counting.  For example, in the picture below you see 4 items.  Did you have to count them or could you subitize?

Research has lead to the conclusion that the relationship between subitizing and math achievement is strong.  There are two types of subitizing.  Perceptual: Instantly knowing how many are in a set, usually up to 4 or 5.  Conceptual: You see parts of a set and put them together.  For example, you might see a group of 3 stars and 3 stars.  You know that 3 and 3 is 6, so you can figure out how many are in the set without counting.

Obviously, subitizing is a skill we want our students to gain.  But, how do we help young children learn to subitize?  Here are some great activities (and free resources) to help you get the ball rolling!

10 Frames

Ten frames are awesome because they break up the number ten in an easy to understand way.  Ten frames can be used for counting, addition and subtraction.  We use them with a die and counters.  Students roll the die (or dice) and place that many counters on the ten frame in a left to right, up to down progression.

Ten frame game for the early childhood classroom.
Ten frame game for the early childhood classroom.
10 frame printable
10 frame printable

 Dot Cards & Numerals

The dot cards help children learn to subitize, while the numeral cards help with number recognition.  Students match the dot card to the correct numeral.

Dot cards and numeral matching.
Dot cards and numeral matching.
Dot cards and numeral cards- free!
Dot cards and numeral cards- free!

Roll & Stamp

Using a dot die (or dice), roll, find the number on the board and stamp it!  You could use a dot marker, stickers or counters (such as beans, poker chips or pennies) to cover the number.  This game also helps children subitize with the dice and recognize numerals on the board.

Roll and stamp numeral recognition game for preschool and kindergarten.
Roll and stamp numeral recognition game for preschool and kindergarten.
Free roll and stamp board for learning numerals.
Free roll and stamp board for learning numerals.

All Gone Game

This is a fun two player game.  Each player starts with 10 counters on their side of the board. Roll the die and take that many from the other player's side.  Continue until only one person has counters on their side.  This game is great for subitizing with the dice, counting with 1-1 correspondence and beginning to understand subtraction.

All Gone Math Game for preschool and kindergarten.
All Gone Math Game for preschool and kindergarten.

SUBITIZING CARDS FOR CIRCLE TIME

One way we work on subitizing as a group is during circle time using our subitizing cards.  I have 3 cards for each month of the year.  During circle time we look at the pictures and I ask students to help me group the objects into smaller groups for working on subitizing.  For example, with 4 objects we might circle a set of 2 and a set of 2 because it is easier to combine.  We talk about 2 and 2 is 4 all together.  So, not only are we subitizing, we are also working on addition and math vocab.

Free subitizing cards for preschool circle time.
Free subitizing cards for preschool circle time.

Get these subitizing cards free by clicking the picture above.