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Subitising For Preschoolers To Improve Math Skills

When you’re playing a game that requires rolling the dice, does your child count the dots on it to know what number they’ve rolled, or are they able to recognise it instantly? If your answer is former, then it’s quite likely that it’s time to habituate your child to recognise the number instantly. This concept of recognising the number instantly is known as subitising.

Below, we have explained how to go about teahcing subitising in preschool in detail. We have also discussed why it’s important for your little one to understand and explore the concept of maths subitising. So, let’s start by looking at the meaning of the term subitising.

What Is Subitising?

Let’s take a look at subitising meaning for children.

The term “substituting” was first introduced by the Swiss psychologist Piaget. Subitising is the ability to look at the number of objects and instantly recognise how many of them there are without needing to count. But this only works with small groups of numbers.

Example Of Subitising

Let’s understand this with the help of subitising examples below:

  • Pips (small dots) on a die
  • Pairs of shoes
  • Cupcakes in a box
  • Tally points
  • Tricycle wheels
  • Quadruped animal feet

How Does Subitising Work?

Children have a very powerful visual memory, which makes it easier for them to remember images as compared to words or numbers. This is how they begin to subitise. In simple words, children link the visual representation of a number to the number itself and forge a lasting connection between the two.

Why Is Subitising Important For Preschoolers?

To understand the importance of learning to subitise for kids, let’s take a look at the points given below.

  • It helps them to understand what numbers mean and how many “things” a number refers to.
  • It helps them with pattern recognition.
  • It helps them to not over-rely on counting.
  • It helps save time by not having to count each individual member of the group.
  • It helps them get better equipped to handle addition and subtraction concepts.
  • It helps them become efficient thinkers when doing math.

What Are The Type Of Subitising?

Let’s take a look at subitising types.

1. Perceptual Subitising

It is the ability to recognise the number of objects without using any mathematical process. We can say that it’s instinctual.

2. Conceptual Subitising

It is when a number can be recognised by grouping it into small sets. For example, when you see 6 dots, you will automatically group these into 2 groups of 3, and then determine that there are 6 dots in total without actually counting each dot.

How To Teach Subitising To Your Preschoolers?

When it comes to teaching subitising to children, parents must start with perpetual subitising. Ask your child to recognise smaller sets before you move to larger sets of, say 6 and above.

So, a great way of going about it is teaching your little one how to subitise from 1-5 first before moving on to higher numbers.

Fun Subitising Games and Activities For Preschoolers

Let’s take a look at some fun subitising activities for the early years. These are simple games and activities that will keep your child engaged while they learn an important concept.

1. Recognise The Number

Using some dot stickers, make a set of cards with a particular number of dots on each card. Pick one card and flash it before your child for no more than five seconds. The goal for your child is to recognise the set as quickly as possible without having to actually count.

2. Make The Pattern

Show your child the cards you made above, but this time, instead of calling out the numbers, have them create the same set on paper. This way, kids will not just be learning to recognise the numbers in the set but also the pattern they are arranged in.

3. Stack It Up

Ask your child to throw a dice and note the number. Now, your child has to make a tower using the same number of blocks that appears on the dice. This activity will also be helpful in enhancing their fine motor skills as they make a tower using building blocks.

4. Colourful Ludo Tokens

Throw a small number of ludo tokens in two different colours on a table and ask your little one to say what they see.

For example, they have to say, “I see two red tokens and three yellow tokens. There are five tokens altogether”.

5. More & Less Game

Give your child a card with a set of dots. Ask them to add one more dot to it and then ask them, “How many dots are there now?”

Once they master this game, show them the card with the set of dots. This time only ask them, “What number is one more and one less dot will make?”
This activity will help your child to have a mental image of the new set that one more or one less dot will make.

6. Hunt The Number

Lay some dot cards on the floor. Say a number to your child and see how quickly they can find the set of that number. This activity will also help your child a chance to strengthen their motor skills when they run around to find the number.

Simple Tips For Teaching Subitising

If your child is still having difficulty subitising numbers, here are some tips that will be helpful in teaching them.

  1. Make sure that you start teaching subitising with small numbers first. Nothing higher than four or five.
  2. Subitising cards are an excellent way to make your child practice this concept for a few minutes daily. Just add it to their mid-morning routine, to avoid it getting overwhelming or discouraging.
  3. You can also use dice games as they are quite easy to understand and also keep the child engaged while they learn.
  4. Materials like dot cards, playing cards, tally marks, dice, five and ten frames, etc., can be used to teach kids subitising.
  5. Talks involving numbers can help engage your child, as well as help them understand subitising.

We hope this article helped your child understand how subitising works. This is a critical math concept, which is often overlooked, and is proven to be very helpful for your child as they move to higher classes.

Also Read:

Missing Numbers for Preschoolers and Children
One-To-One Correspondence for Kindergarten Kids
Teaching Before, After and In-Between Numbers to Preschoolers

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