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Using Subitizing Cards in Preschool

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. We can help our children practice subtizing by using subitizing cards in preschool. But, before we talk about the how, let’s talk a little more about subitizing.

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.

Subitizing is one of the math skills that we assess throughout the year. Seeing if children have the ability (or have growth in the ability) to subitize can give me another data point in observing the goal of beginning to develop mathematical fluency.

Young children will start with perceuptual subitizing. Subitizing is a skill we want our students to gain.  But, how do we help young children learn to subitize? That is where subitizing cards come in!


 Ways to Use these Subitizing Cards

  1. Memory: Print 2 copies of one set of subitizing cards. Place the 12 cards facedown, spread out on the table. Partners take turns flipping over one card. Then, they flip over another card while trying to find a match to the first card. If a match is found, the player who found the match keeps the cards.  If a match is not found, flip the cards back over and it is the next player’s turn. Play until all matches have been found.
  2. Matching: Use two different sets of subitizing cards (example: the domino set and the dot die set). Work to match the cards of the two different sets by the same number of dots.                                                                                                                                                 
  3. Which Doesn’t Belong?: Use multiple sets of the subitizing cards. Lay out 4 cards – 3 that reflect that same numeral and 1 card that does not. Challenge children to find the card that doesn’t belong with the others.  
  4. Flash: Tell children that this is a fast game! Show students one subitizing card at a time and show it quick, then hide it. Can they identify how many were on the card without counting? Make this game easier by using low numbers or harder with higher numbers. Try using the different sets of cards for a variation.
  5. Copy the Card: Provide children with a dry erase board, chalkboard or piece of paper. Show a subitizing card and have them name the quantity without counting. Then, can they copy what is on the card onto their dry erase board? 

Grab these subitizing cards and go use them in your classroom!

You can find the subitizing cards here!

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